TWINBEE / Konami / NES

Aside from being one of the first "cute 'em ups", Twinbee was one of the first two-player simultaneous arcade shooters and also one of the first NES ports to pull that off. It uses Xevious as an obvious base of inspiration, but makes everything more colorful and lively as well as incorporating some major gameplay tweaks.

The game begins as a fairly standard and sedated Xevious clone, initially looking like it isn't going to have much to distinguish itself beyond the cutesy presentation. Bombing ground targets is a little different; you don't have the omnipresent crosshair, instead being expected to just eyeball it (as long as you're relatively close, the bomb is auto-guided to the enemy). The major change is the addition of a power-up system that has you shoot clouds to release bells, then shoot the bells repeatedly to cycle through different colors that grant different abilities similar to those of Gradius. There's a gradual speed-up, a more powerful cannon, a shield and "option" ships. Some ground targets also release their own unique power-ups including a spread shot.

The first level provides a gentle introduction, creeping along with very few enemies and culminating in a not-particularly-hard boss battle. Hang in there for the second level, however, and all of the sudden the pace gets cranked up to 10 in a big hurry.

An interesting side note is that this game went on to become an absolute cultural phenomenon in Japan during the '90s and early 2000s, with all sorts of sequels and tie-in products, but to this day it remains virtually unknown in other countries.

It's a very decent little shooter, particularly considering it's a 1986 release. It's really meant to be played with two people, however. The enemies come on fast and furious beginning with the second level, and one of the main tools for dealing with that is the "linked shots" that the two ships can do by getting next to each other horizontally or vertically (with a different type of powered-up shot for each position). It's rough without those. It's also a pretty short game at 15 minutes tops to clear; the difficulty comes from being kicked all the way back to the beginning when your lives run out.

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