3D Classics: TwinBee (3DS) review
"If the name rings a bell, you'll probably like this 3D take on Twinbee more than you would otherwise."
3D Classics Twinbee represents the first time I can recall that I've played Twinbee, an old vertical shooter from Konami. Thus, I bring no historical perspective to my discussion at all, beyond what you can easily learn yourself on Wikipedia. I can only tell you how much fun it is to play in 2021, which is... a bit fun.
In 3D Classics Twinbee, which I shall efficiently refer to as only Twinbee for the bulk of this review's remainder, you fly a cartoony pod of a ship over a cartoony landscape, as you dodge and weave to avoid a cartoony fleet of enemy vessels that attack from the top reaches of the screen. It's all very cartoony.
As you fly, you're able to drop bombs on targets on the ground, and your cursor moves around a bit as you get near so that the targeting mostly happens by default as long as you are within reasonable range and still capable of dropping bombs. Which you won't be, if you've taken damage from the side and lost that capability. Unless, of course, you get that ability restored by a friendly pod. But that only happens if you are able to dock with your benefactor during a limited window of opportunity, all while dealing with more foes and shrapnel.
Your main weapon is a forward shot that fires at a pretty good clip if you hold down the button, and which deals enough damage to drop enemies out of the sky in a single hit. There are a lot of enemies, though, so you'll want to power up a bit to stand a lasting chance. This you accomplish by firing at bells, which themselves pop out of numerous cloud formations you encounter on your flight.
When a bell appears, you can collect it for some easy points, but what would be the fun in that? You can instead shoot a bell, which sends it flying up a bit toward the top of the screen. Repeated blasts will even cause it to vanish from sight for a bit before it falls toward you, and then you can shoot it some more if you are so inclined. Sometimes, the bell will take a hit that prompts it to change color. If you collect it while its hue is different, you earn improved shots or a clone ship or whatever else. Suddenly, you have more than just a peashooter, and it's glorious... until you take a hit and lose a ship, then reappear without any upgrades.
As you can imagine, Twinbee becomes a game that's all about chasing scores and making decisions on the fly. It also requires a surprising amount of resource management, since you want to get the most out of those precious bells. But you also have to consider risk versus reward, because sometimes zipping toward a powered up bell will put you in harm's way. Meanwhile, firing on enemies while you have a spread shot could prompt you to hit a bell that you wanted to leave blue or green or whatever.
While the shooting mechanics are solid and the bell introduces surprising depth to the proceedings, Twinbee suffers from overly long stages. It can take a few minutes just to fly through the first world while taking down the various bosses along the way. One assumes this is so you have time to really make the most of the various upgrades and start juggling a few bells for maximum tension, but it starts to feel tedious quite early on and that prevented me from wanting to retry all that often, once I lost my last ship. There's no stage select option, and you can't adjust most settings the way you can in a lot of other shooters of the approximate era.
As for the 3D effects, this is the sort of game that definitely does benefit from them if you can hold your 3DS system comfortably. The background drops away from the foreground quite nicely, and the illusion of depth is used to genuine advantage because you do indeed deal with threats on the ground. The game and its artwork may be old, but the visuals are surprisingly effective. Especially with the addition of the third dimension.
Twinbee is a product of a particular time and lacks a lot of the flare that became common in the genre over the years. In part because of its pleasant visuals, it has a tendency to feel quaint, and it is surprisingly forgiving when you crash because you're not kicked back to some checkpoint long since forgotten. Your next ship just swoops onto the screen and you get to keep going, even though you've by that point lost those spiffy upgrades. It doesn't feel quite like the end of the world the way it might in a Gradius game.
If you're looking for a good time on your 3DS and you have a thing for vertical shooters, as I do, you could definitely do worse than to play 3D Classics Twinbee. That's true even if you're not coming at it with nostalgia as fuel. However, you probably shouldn't expect it to make a lasting impression, either. The medium has come a long way over the decades, and this one is best enjoyed while you're in a certain frame of mind. Otherwise, just let it (Twin)be(e).
I saved that joke for the end because I wanted you to keep reading, but I'm done now.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 25, 2021)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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