Pop’n TwinBee

Yes, yes, yes, YES! This is exactly what I was looking for in this series! This is brilliant! Detana!! TwinBee was a great way to spice the franchise up for an arcade release, but Pop’n TwinBee returns it to its console homestead. Now on the Super Nintendo, TwinBee makes bold strides to match its arcade counterpart and make this a title worthy of an international release.

The story for this game is unknown to me, as it doesn’t feature in-game storytelling like last time and I don’t have the manual. From what I can judge, it’s yet another adventure for Light and Pastel where they take on an evil scientist and his many minions.

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Spelling out the basic gameplay for this series has gotten a bit dull by now, but it bears repeating because of the ways in which Pop’n TwinBee finally changes it up and does away with old conventions. It’s the same horizontal-scrolling shmup gameplay with bells acting as power-ups. However, the game is much more lenient this time around and bells will remain the same color, even if you shoot them a few more times than you intended. Finally, after 5 games, this juggling-based power-up system works, because you can now afford to keep firing at enemies while trying to upgrade.

No more accidentally hitting a bell and missing out on a vital power-up. No more dying because you have to stop shooting to grab something. It works now. It actually works!

The game is as tough as its predecessors, featuring nifty enemy designs with interesting patterns. Dodging your way around everything is a real challenge and you have to deal with both enemies in the sky and those on the ground, the latter of which are only harmed by bombs. It’s tough, but Pop’n TwinBee makes the game-changing decision to feature a health bar this time around. Instead of getting a few lives per game and an optional extra hit if you accept losing your bombs, this time around you can just take multiple hits until your bar is entirely drained.

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Because of this change, enemies on the ground now drop hearts that restore health, finally making them more than just a nuisance worth some petty points, and it’s just more fun to play risky. You can afford to zigzag between some enemies to grab a power-up and a single tough encounter can no longer drain all your lives. Mixed with the shield bell, you can play this game very safely and fully enjoy the skillful design of the encounters and visuals. Do keep in mind that, if you do get shot down, then it’s back to the start of the level without any checkpoints.

Pop’n TwinBee does what it has to do to bring the series back into the spotlight for a console release. It’s a fun shoot ’em up with a satisfying challenge and good ideas worked into it, even if the bullet hell crowd might find it lacking. It’s a short game, but its levels are great and the boss-encounters, especially the recurring nemesis who keeps upgrading his ship, are some of the best in the TwinBee series. If you’re only going to play one of these games: make it Pop’n TwinBee.

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