Stinger (NES) review
"Part of the problem is that all three horizontal stages feel the exact same, as do the four vertical ones — with the only noticeable differences being the background graphics and the ferocity of the enemy waves. Each level, regardless of viewpoint, has the TwinBee ship moving on a slowly-scrolling screen while one wave after another of flying foes come after it."
Once upon a time, there was a brief period where Konami shooter Stinger may have been my favorite game. I'm not sure exactly why, but I was obsessed with that game, beating it over and over again over the course of a handful of weeks. The American-released sequel to TwinBee, this game combined horizontal and vertical stages with a ton of quirky foes, making it a nice change-of-pace from that era's more serious Konami titles, such as Gradius and Life Force.
But the passage of time caused my love of this game to wane -- it just didn't contain enough depth to be much more than a passing fancy. While entertaining and fun, there just isn't anything particularly special about Stinger to maintain ones' interest after that initial infatuation dissipates. And, despite it being some time since I'd played the game, my most recent experience with it definitely proved to me that absence had not made the heart grow fonder.
Part of the problem is that all three horizontal stages feel the exact same, as do the four vertical ones -- with the only noticeable differences being the background graphics and the ferocity of the enemy waves. Each level, regardless of viewpoint, has the TwinBee ship moving on a slowly-scrolling screen while one wave after another of flying foes come after it. To Konami's credit, there are a number of different attack strategies used by the diverse collection of adversaries (which include bunches of grapes, shoes, clothes hangers and TVs), keeping things from getting too predictable.
Still, since there are no walls or barriers (and therefore, no need to worry about claustrophobic environments and diabolical R-Type-esque tricks and traps), there's no real strategy to Stinger other than simply shooting everything that moves while trying to bomb every square inch of the ground. In the horizontal stages, that's pretty easy, as pressing the "B" button both fires the TwinBee's main gun and sends a bomb towards the ground. In the vertical stages, one button operates the regular gun, while the other sends down bombs. Here, it's also possible for the ship to take a glancing blow, which won't destroy it, but will prevent it from utilizing bombs unless a one-time-per-life medical power-up is IMMEDIATELY snagged.
And take my word on it: you do not want to lose the ability to bomb places. Not only does this clear out a decent number of ground-based enemies, especially in those vertical stages, but those bombs also reveal a number of goodies, ranging from assorted point-giving icons to a handful of weapons, including the very useful multi-directional spread shots which make it child's play to blast through even the fastest, most aggressive enemies.
The only real problem with finding these kickass weapons by carpetbombing the crap out various stages is that it really depletes the importance of one of the few things I liked about the original TwinBee -- juggling bells. Stinger brings these devices back and they appear whenever one of the game's many clouds are shot. Picking one up when it's yellow gives a point bonus, which increases as more and more consecutive bells are nabbed. Shoot one enough times and it'll change color. Now, grabbing it can do all sorts of cool stuff (depending on the color), such as upgrade the ship's weapon to a double-shot or laser OR allowing it to move faster. However, the weapon upgrades obtained this way pale in comparison to the three-way and five-way spread shots obtained by dropping a bomb on the right spot of real estate, which makes bell juggling for goodies fairly obsolete early in the game.
Still, playing Stinger again did bring back some fond memories. Most of the boss fights are fun and whimsical, with some major opponents being a big hunk of watermelon spewing out tons of seeds and a note-firing boom box. This is a reasonable solid NES shooter -- it just hasn't aged well in my eyes over the many years since I'd last spent an evening with it. Back in the day, I loved playing this game -- nowadays, I can't see it being worth more than an hour or two of my time every few years.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 25, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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