TwinBee Yahho! was the last mainline TwinBee game. Pop’n spun-off into a 2D platformer and the franchise began to focus on mobile games, various spin-off projects, and collections that combined bits and pieces of the franchise. A big deal you’d say, but this swan song to the series is not without its faults.
Gameplay-wise, this is basically just the Famicon trilogy with more bells & whistles attached to it. It’s the same horizontal-scrolling shmup gameplay, but now firmly setting its feet in the territory of bullet-hell shooters. You still collect power-ups by juggling bells and defeating ground-based enemies, you still got one gun and one arm to throw bombs with, it’s familiar gameplay now with (visual) quality worthy of the arcades.
The game throws in more visual gimmicks, with levels that force you to turn in strange directions, levels that you can also scroll vertically through, and other twists that make each stage a little surprising, though sometimes also frustrating.
Pastel and Light are back, and so are the semi-animated cutscenes starring them from Detana!. This time, they are on a quest to aid the queen of a distant island who has been overthrown and imprisoned by a flamboyant archduke looking to use her powers to conquer the world. The cutscenes are a great reward after conquering the game’s grueling stages and are certainly a step up compared to the previous games.
In terms of visuals and innovation, Yahho! has enough to offer, but as I alluded to in the intro, it’s also kind of a bastard to play through. Each level is absolutely packed with an onslaught of enemies that give you close to no time figure out what they might be like. New foes are introduced as a trial by fire and might only appear once or twice throughout the game, so there isn’t much you can do to memorize patterns or prepare.
It’s often argued that games got easier over time. With pretty graphics drawing in ever more casual crowds, games fine-tuned their difficulty to make sure more players would be able to play those games to completion. Not in good, old Japan though. Konami sees prettier graphics and realizes that’s more assets on screen that can potentially murder you.
I am not exaggerating when I say that some levels killed me every few seconds on my first run through on Free Play. There is so much on screen, everything is so fast, and it never stops. If you die, you lose your power-ups and need to juggle bells again to retrieve them, but there is so much happening that you just don’t have the breathing room for something so deliberate. I was stuck for the longest time on a boss-fight with a recurring rival character, whose shield respawns faster than your basic peashooter can damage him, but you can’t get power-ups either because he launches massive attacks every few seconds.
Everything kills you so fast and affords you so little chance for recovery that Yahho! TwinBee, despite its great visuals and cute story, is just not feasible for a general audience. I don’t get why they backtracked on the fantastic innovations of the last 2 mainline games, or why it cruelly cuts the game down to a handful of levels if you decide to take the easiest difficulty mode. You either need to slowly grind your way through on free play or spend hours climbing a difficulty curve that is both steep and not that fun.