Having finally escaped the clutches of the Nintendo Famicom, Detana!! TwinBee is an arcade sequel that breathed new life into a series that had already begun to stagnate. This is the point where TwinBee turned from an alright shmup series into a proper franchise that would grow quite the following.
This is the first time players are introduced to Pastel and Light, the pilots that are controlling the titular TwinBee and its pink counterpart WinBee. They have received a distress call from the princess of another planet and must battle their way through a series of stages to rescue her from an evil villain. It’s not much of a story, but it’s more than any of the prior games had and it’s made that little bit more special by each stage having a brief cinematic at the end, featuring these young heroes.
The familiar gameplay of the series has remained the same in this arcade adaptation. Levels scroll horizontally and have you dodge an onslaught of enemies and projectiles, with your ship having both a primary gun to retaliate with, as well as an arm with which to throw bombs. You still die in one hit and still get your power-ups by shooting clouds that drop bells, which you then juggle until they change color, representing different upgrades.
The juggling mechanic was fun as a one-time novelty, but Detana!! continues to use it despite being such a flawed gimmick. There’s still too much happening to juggle these bells with any amount of tact and you still lose your power-ups when you’re shot down. Unless you’re very good at shmups or develop a lot of skill for this particular game, power-ups are just a hassle to get and the benefits are likely to be very temporary.
This frustrates me, but Detana!! does have some great ideas to compensate for this shortcoming. You can now charge up your shots to unleash a devastating and large projectile that passes through enemies and does a lot of damage, so even without power-ups you can still dish out some hurt and stay in the fight. The power-ups from the ground-based enemies are also more useful, including a support ship with which you can combine to get an extra hit and upgrade your firepower. Also, if you run out of lives and choose to continue, the game puts you back into the battle with a generous shield and a spreadshot.
These changes make it vastly more fun for casual and average players to get into the game and enjoy everything else it has to offer, without taking anything away from the skilled shmup players who want to enjoy its challenge. And Detana!! is definitely a fun game to play through, even if you aren’t planning on mastering it. Most notably the sprites and background designs are both phenomenal; some stages just had me looking on in awe at how much detail was crammed in there.
It also just feels good to shoot your way through the game’s enemies and take on its amazing bosses. The game feel is much improved and that new charge attack is so satisfying when you manage to line up enough enemies and take them all out in one burst. It’s a pleasant little game and quite fun if you don’t have to keep feeding it quarters to get those continues.