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Page 1:
Intro
TwinBee
Moero TwinBee
TwinBee 3

Page 2:
TwinBee Da!
Detana TwinBee!
Pop'n TwinBee
Rainbow Bell Adventure

Page 3:
Taisen Puzzle Dama
TwinBee Yahho!
TwinBee RPG
Cameos

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by Carlo Savorelli and Kurt Kalata - 2004/2005

Take a moment to reflect on this fact: according to the always useful charts on Magic Box, the original TwinBee for Famicom is one of the best selling Konami games ever, even surpassing the 1 million hit Gradius. Nintendo surely considered this as TwinBee is the first Konami game in the Famicom Mini series. There is no doubt about the game's immense popularity. The funny thing is, if you live outside Japan, you might not even know TwinBee exists. There aren't many more striking examples of a classic franchise so popular in its homeland and yet so difficult to bring overseas.

But what is TwinBee? From the pics on this page it's easy to conclude that it's a vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up, but that's really just a part of it. It started as a shooting game, but in the middle of its life, the series became mostly centered on its characters, and they (or, maybe closer to truth, their voice actors) became so popular that they spawned an OVA anime, CD dramas, idols and all sorts of weird manifestations of Japanese pop culture.

It is interesting enough to see that according to Konami, even TwinBee is a generation saga, just like Castlevania. As much as this may sound pointless, there are three different generations of TwinBee pilots. The 1985 arcade game and the Game Boy episode feature the faceless Annamon (for TwinBee) and Donnamon (WinBee), both sons of Dr. Cinnamon. Their sons are the much better known Light, Pastel & Mint, that literally stole the spotlight from the rest of the family. And there's even a third generation of mostly unknown heroes, Skatch, Hoip & Merou, who would be Moero TwinBee's and TwinBee 3 protagonists.

So while the cast of the 8 bit games are mostly faceless, here are the characters that are mostly synonymous with the series, most of which are first introduced with Detana! Twinbee:

Characters

Just drawing a set of good characters isn't enough, of course. For backgrounds and overall setting - again beginning with Detana! Twinbee - the universe draws heavily from the anime culture of the 20th century. The most obvious source is Hayao Miyazaki's masterwork Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa (known as Castle in the Sky in America). Anyone who has seen it will immediately recognize its influence in many of the screenshots. Laputa might well be the single most influencing fantasy movie for Japanese games. Not just TwinBee, but countless other games borrowed from it. Chrono Trigger's lost civilization and Xenogears' Shevat are just two examples.

While Miyazaki's world is drawn upon for scenery, the characters live in a Toriyama-esque world. The whole "kids with uncle scientist and cute robot mascots" scenario is very reminiscent of Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump & Arale-Chan, one of the most successful manga/anime of the '80s (which never made to America). Again, TwinBee wasn't the only game series to use these elements: Dr. Cinnamon is almost a carbon copy of the more famous Dr. Light of Mega Man fame, and the buildings the scientists live in are classic "Capsule Corp." houses (another of Toriyama's inventions, seen in his worldwide famous Dragonball manga), just like the one seen in the intro of Bomberman.

The overall atmosphere of these series is similar and screams anime cuteness. It's is pretty distant from the nonsense wackiness of Konami's own Parodius, although superficial players tend to see both as typical "cute-'em-ups" due to their obvious distance from the seriousness of R-Type or Gradius. Twinbee succeeds where so many other video games fail. Instead of the cookie-cutter graphics and atmosphere of so many other titles, you're not simply taking off on yet another space ship shooting voyage - you're entering a fantasy world full of interesting characters, vibrant colors and fantastic landscapes. TwinBee is one of Konami's best series, and here's hoping we see more of Light, Pastel and the gang some time.

TwinBee (Arcade)

TwinBee (Famicom)

TwinBee 3 (Famicom)

Pop'n TwinBee (SNES)

Detana TwinBee (Arcade)

Detana TwinBee (PC Engine)

Rainbow Bell Adventures (SNES)

TwinBee Yahho! (Arcade)


TwinBee (ツインビー) / Rainbow Bell - Arcade, MSX, Famicom, X68000, Game Boy Advance, NDS, PSP, 3DS (1985)

Arcade Flyer

MSX Cover

X68000 Cover

Basically, TwinBee is a vertical shoot-'em-up heavily influenced by Namco's Xevious. As in Namco's classic, the ship can fire forward with a button, and drop bombs (using their tiny arms) on the ground with another. TwinBee's main distinctive features are the cute fantasy setting, where most of the enemies consist of fruit, and the two player mode. This nowadays common feature must have been one of the elements of its big success at times - Gradius and R-Type were both strictly single player experiences, and most of its competition still relied on letting the two players take turns. Twinbee and Winbee can also interact in several ways: they can unite (by holding hands) to shoot a powerful fire bullet. Perhaps more fun and effective, one ship can push the other to produce a spread bullet shot. Also, instead of getting killed outright by enemy bullets, your TwinBees will lose their limbs. When they're fully incapicitated, a little ambulance comes out from the screen, ready to resuscitate them - if you can make it. This emphasis on teamwork was undoubtedly why the title of the game is "TwinBee."

The other departure from Xevious is the power-up system introduced by the game: you must collect bells that pop out of clouds when you shoot them. Regular yellow bells will just add points to your score, but if you shoot them enough, they'll change color and become useful powerups. A blue bell means speed up, the white one powers up your weapon, the red stands for shield and the green will add mirror options that mimic your ship's fire. So playing TwinBee is often like a juggling act - in addition to shooting enemies, you're balancing bells, trying to get the weapons you want.

Like many arcade games of its time, TwinBee is no cakewalk. Playing alone is quite difficult, as the game seems to be built expressly for two players. The bell power-up system is a "love it or hate it" issue: those bells are difficult to get and have tendency to fall to the bottom of the screen very quickly. Moreover, the color change pattern can be frustrating: it requires several shots to obtain the desired color, but only a single shot more and you'll have to restart the loop. As a result, unlike the friendly Gradius bar, you'll find yourself fighting against the bells almost as much as the enemies.

The Famicom port is not so great. It loses the vertical screen ratio, the graphics don't translate too faithfully, and the mirror options are missing (while the MSX port retains them, as well as the black "evil" bell). The MSX port, like many games on the system, suffers from incredibly choppy scrolling. It's on the MSX collection discs that Konami released for the PlayStation and Saturn. So it's ironic that, being a million seller, it became part of the Famicom Mini series for Game Boy Advance. A port of the arcade game was also included in the Konami Arcade Classics pack for the NDS. Other than the reduced resolution (you can hold the DS sideways to get the closest fit, since it ran off a vertical monitor), it's a practically perfect rendition of the arcade version. It's also the first time it officially saw release in America, under the name Rainbow Bell. The PSP version, included in the TwinBee Portable collection is also an arcade port, done in a similar manner, although this was never released in the States.

The Arcade version was also refurbished for the 3DS line of "3D Classics," although the 3D effect is rather underwhelming in this case, and the game's scale really doesn't sit well with the small screen - the borders on the wide screen display are just filled with boring red curtains.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Vertical

Themes:

Cute-'em-up
Wacky


TwinBee (Famicom)

TwinBee (MSX)


Moero TwinBee: Cinnamon Hakushi wo Sukue! (もえろツインビー シナモン博士を救え!) / Stinger - NES (1986)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

The second TwinBee game - Moero Twinbee: Cinnamon Hakushi wo Sukue ("Burn, Twinbee: Rescue Dr. Cinnamon") - was originally released on the Famicom Disk System. It'll be remembered mainly for two reasons: To this day it's the only TwinBee game that ever reached the US (where it was renamed Stinger), and it's just another example of the "Weird Second Episode" theory. As with many other second installments in video game series, Stinger is quite different from the original TwinBee. It's the only game in the series that alternates between horizontal and vertical scrolling stages. A brief intro shows the abduction of Dr. Cimnamon, and it's up to you rescue him. The Japanese version also shows the third generation of TwinBee pilots: Skatch, Hoip and Merou...

The horizontal stages are much maligned but they are not that bad, and there is a weird heart shaped shot that you can fire upwards, and it does a good jobs with handling the bells. The arsenal is quite limited, though. Although you can get shields, lasers and such in the overhead stages, it seems all you can gather in the horizontal ones are speed-ups and a double shot.

It could be unfair to judge Moero TwinBee from it US counterpart, though, as its most interesting feature was taken out from Stinger. The game supported three players simultaneously, which is quite a rarity for a 1986 Famicom game. And even today the only other three player shoot-'em-up that comes to mind is Senjou no Ookami II. Japanese players must have liked Moero TwinBee, since in 1993 Konami released it again in cartridge format, just like Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania), with an added easy mode option.

Moero TwinBee (Famicom)

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Vertical

Themes:

Cute-'em-up
Wacky


Stinger (NES)

Stinger (NES)

Stinger (NES)


TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaou (ツインビー3 ポコポコ大魔王) - Famicom (1989)

Cover

TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaou ("Demon King Poko Poko") is quite an improvement in visuals compared to the previous two games. Not only are the backgrounds more lively, but the game runs smoother and faster, too. In the all-new option menu you can choose to play as either TwinBee or WinBee, and set the number of extra lives; you can also choose to start from any of the first four stages (there are five in total). Among stages are a beach shore (a TwinBee mainstay), a mine dungeon and a medieval castle.

Getting power-ups from bells is now somewhat easier, as they'll keep their color even if you deliver one or two shots too much. TwinBee goes with the usual Moero TwinBee weaponry: besides the double shot, there's a triple and a powerful laser. The mirror options return as well, but they're nowhere useful as they used to. And this time, by holding hands with WinBee, a powerful star shaped spread shot is released, which covers a good amount of screen.

However, the three player feature was taken out: the story justification is that GwinBee has been abducted this time. Also annoying is the green bar at the bottom of the screen that keeps a record of your score, lives and gained speed-ups: it's so big that it reduces the visible playing field drastically. And while the graphical upgrade is noticeable, TwinBee 3 barely sounds any better than the earlier games. The only sound improvement is a voice that tells you the name of the stages.

Before the later TwinBee games started introducing a variety of fanciful mechanized bosses, TwinBee 3 has some of the most LSD-addled creations Konami has ever devised. The angry dragon with cavities seems right out of an '80s toothpaste commercial, and that crazy rock band is just freaky. And don't even wonder what the hell is wrong with that tree thing, which is the final boss.

In the end, while this looks better than the first two, it still seems pretty cheap for a 1989 game. Stinger was an honest product of its age in 1986, but considering TwinBee 3 came out in the same year as Castlevania 3 and a year after the Famicom masterpiece that is Gradius II, suddenly it doesn't look that good by comparison.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Vertical

Themes:

Cute-'em-up
Wacky


TwinBee 3 (Famicom)

TwinBee 3 (Famicom)

TwinBee 3 (Famicom)

TwinBee 3 (Famicom)


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
TwinBee
Moero TwinBee
TwinBee 3

Page 2:
TwinBee Da!
Detana TwinBee!
Pop'n TwinBee
Rainbow Bell Adventure

Page 3:
Taisen Puzzle Dama
TwinBee Yahho!
TwinBee RPG
Cameos

Back to the Index