3D Classics: Twinbee
Of the four games that Nintendo has pulled out of their time vault and re-released with 3D effects on the 3DS, two of them are vertical shoot-em-ups. And for me, that’s a perfect ratio. I love these games, and the 3D treatment has only made them better.
Twinbee was a Famicom game that never got localized as an NES game until, well, now. And there’s no better time to take on a cute, challenging shoot-em-up than with this 3D classics release, which does many of the same things that the previously-released 3D version of Xevious did, only grafted onto a better game.
In every possible way, Twinbee should be treated as one of the greatest vertical shoot-em-ups released in the ’80s. Its music is among the catchiest found on the NES and its aesthetics are precise and lovely, creating a world of whimsy in a genre that isn’t exactly noted for its whimsicality. Really, though, none of that would matter if Twinbee didn’t play well, and it absolutely does.
Moreso than other examples in this genre, Twinbee utilizes a risk/reward gameplay mechanic that remains fun on your first play through your fiftieth. In addition to shooting down enemies and avoiding enemy fire, you can also shoot the clouds to release bells into the sky (it’s also a pretty surreal game, in case you haven’t noticed). You have to shoot the bells to add to a points multiplier, and shooting the bells also changes the colour of the bell, unlocking various power-ups for your ship. Juggling the bells while also firing at enemies and keeping yourself alive is challenging and rewarding, creating a sort of tactical element to the gameplay that isn’t often seen in the shoot-em-up genre, a genre that privileges twitch reflexes over any sort of calculation. The fact that Twinbee includes both makes it a triumphant example of the genre, nearly 30 years after its release.
In comparison to the myriad iPhone and Android games that have flooded the market, paying $5 for a simple 3D upgrade of an old game seems like highway robbery. But when that game is the previously unreleased (and generic masterpiece) Twinbee, it’s absolutely worth it. And portability, meaningful 3D, and silky smooth controls are just the icing on this already-delicious cake.