Stinger
Box Shot
Stinger
Platform: NES
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1987
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

Earth is in danger! The Attackons have kidnapped Professor Cinnamon, inventor of the bio-nuclear sweetener formula! They will turn the Earth into their favorite snack - a giant ball of cotton candy - unless they can be stopped! Luckily, the Professor's greatest inventions - the Stingers, a group of highly advanced jet fighters - have been deployed to stop the Attackons before their fiendish plan takes effect. . .

Still with me? Konami's Stinger is yet another of those Japanese cute/strange games. And, unlike so many of the other cute/strange games (including all of Stinger's sequels), this one actually made it across the Pacific. Stinger is the only game from Konami's Twinbee series to be released in the US. While other Twinbee games were released in Japan (on the Famicom, Super Famicom, PC Engine, Saturn and Playstation), Konami decided against releasing any other Twinbee games here. That's too bad - the others look so much better.

Stinger is a shooter along the lines of Gradius and Parodius (another of Konami's excellent shooters that has never made it here). Unlike Gradius, it's very cute and cartoony. When I first played it, I dismissed it as a "Gradius for kids". I couldn't have been more wrong. Stinger is an entirely different sort of game. There are a limited number of continues, so the game can be a challenge. As with most shooters, it's not easy.

The Stinger is a jet fighter that has a set of arms attached to it (the later games also revealed that these ships - Twinbee, Winbee, and Gwinbee - also have legs and are, in fact, alive. Of course, we never found that part out, because we never got any other Twinbee games. . .). The arms are used to drop bombs. Two players can play Stinger simultaneously.

Stinger is played from two perspectives - a sidescrolling view and an overhead view, much like Life Force. There are seven boards to traverse, from "Island in the Pacific Ocean", to "Small Country in Vast African Desert", and finally ending in "Outer Space, Where The Hostage Is Hidden". Powerups are obtained by shooting clouds, which drop Bells. Shoot the Bells to change their colors. A Yellow Bell gives you points, a Blue Bell gives you speed up power, a Red Bell gives you lasers, a White Bell gives you dual cannons, Red and White flashing Bells triple your power (this only works in one player mode) and Blue and White flashing Bells give you a Force Field. The other powerup symbols give you increased firepower - the Half Moon gives you a 3-way cannon, the Star Of Hope gives you a 5-way cannon, the R gives you a right-firing side gun, and the L gives you (surprise) a left firing side gun. Other various powerups include the Cross, which gives you an extra Stinger, and the Professor's Portrait, which lets you enter a bonus stage between levels.

Your Stinger can be damaged in battle - more often than not it's destroyed completely, but every so often your Stinger's arms get blown off. When this happens, an Ambulance will fly across the screen. Touch it, and your arms are restored. When your Stinger is destroyed, a ghost will fly out of it (only on every other life). Grab the ghost with your new ship before it flies offscreen, and you'll get all the powers had before you were killed back. And when two players are playing, bring the two ships together for a Ripple Laser (I believe this was the first appearance of the Ripple Laser in the US - Life Force didn't come out here until 1988).

The controls are simple - B fires your main gun, and A drops bombs (in the overhead scenes) and shoots hearts into the air (in the sidescrolling scenes). The hearts turn enemy ships into Bells. The enemy ships are certainly a strange bunch. There are flying popsicles, starfish and all sorts of other oddities. The bosses are just as wierd - you fight bosses like Willy The Watermelon Head and Sigmund Squidmund. Then, of course, is the Attackon Emperor himself. . .

The graphics are okay - they're nothing incredible. The bosses look very good, and each level is certainly distinctive. Stinger even featured a cameo from that elusive superhero, Konamiman! Yes, the very same Konamiman that popped up in The Goonies II and was the star of his own game, Konami World, in Japan. All he does in Stinger is fly across the top of screen in the last level and drop you items. The music is only average - most of Konami's NES games had great music, but there were the exceptions. . .

Stinger is a decent game if you can find it for next to nothing. It's fun to play for a while - this is one of those games you'll play for a while, and then forget about for a few months. It would have been nice to see the later games here. . .