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3D Classics: TwinBee (3DS eShop)

Game Review

3D Classics: TwinBee Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Bee very grateful for this one

Most of our readers could be forgiven for never having played TwinBee: after all, it began life in 1985 as an arcade game that never left Japan. It was later ported to the Famicom, and though some reports state that an NES localisation project was actually completed, for some reason it was never released. In fact, arcade TwinBee never saw release outside of Japan until 2007, when it was at last featured on the Konami Classic Series: Arcade Hits compilation for the DS... only it was inexplicably rechristened RainbowBell.

It’s not a particularly auspicious history for the game, and you’d be forgiven for assuming that Konami was alternately trying to hide it away and misidentify it deliberately, which is not the way developers tend to treat their better games. In fact, that tends to be the way they treat their worst games. So is this “3D Classic” a classic in the same critical sense as Excitebike? Or is it a default classic due to age alone like Urban Champion?

Fortunately, it’s the former. 3D Classics: TwinBee is an enormous deal of colourful, chaotic fun, and its unfortunate release history only serves to increase the value of this release; for many gamers, this will be their first opportunity to experience a legitimate lost classic.

TwinBee is a vertically scrolling shooter with extremely tight controls and a visual design that should be studied by any developer interesting in creating a vivid, colourful universe without crossing the line into offensive cuteness or overbearing quirk.

The visuals are crisp, pleasant and easily distinguishable. While the stages all have a great deal of enemies and projectiles to contend with, it’s always very easy to see what’s coming your way, and you’ll never get to use “how was I supposed to see that?” as an excuse for death. TwinBee’s challenge can sometimes be steep, but it’s never unfair.

You’ll fly forward over land and sea, battling enemies as diverse as frogs, paper plates, knives, Mickey Mouse-style gloves and stone heads that spit pink balls at you. Let it be said here that the world of Twinbee is never a dull one.

You fight back with two main attacks: a gun to take down skybound enemies and a bomb attack (which is adorably tossed down by the little arms on your ship) that takes out installations on the ground. The gun can be upgraded by way of power-ups, but your bombs will be downgraded to the point of inoperability if your ship takes damage. It’s an interesting dynamic that can lead to you being able to clear the sky of enemies with a simple barrage of rapid fire, and yet totally defenceless to even the weakest ground-based attack. Twists like this prevent you from resting for even a moment, even when you’re a totally powered-up flying murder machine.

Bombed installations on the ground can leave power-ups behind, such as a three-way splitter for your gun, an immediate screen clearance item or a 1-up, but the most notable powerup in TwinBee takes the form of a bell.

By shooting certain clouds, you can cause a yellow bell to appear. If you collect it, you'll get bonus points (which increase depending upon how many you collect in quick succession). But if you shoot it, you have a chance of changing its colour: depending upon the colour it can give you a doubled gun, a shield, a speed boost or an intangible reflection of your ship that follows you around and fires along with you. Shoot it again, however, and it turns back to yellow.

The juggling of these bells lends TwinBee a great deal of its identity, and its strategy. You need to be careful about spraying the air with bullets, lest you hit a bell containing a particularly sought-after power-up and reducing it to a mere score boost. The fact that these bells have a nasty habit of falling through streams of strafing enemies also means that this “choose your own power-up” mechanic is never too easily exploitable, and only adds to the game's challenge.

If we had any serious misgivings about the game — and do take note of the word “if” — they would be due to the bosses, nearly all of which require a simple, repetitive buffeting with projectiles to bring down, without really requiring much strategy or forethought. If anything, the bosses can sometimes seem like breathers at the end of their much-more-chaotic stages, but with stages as chaotic as these, that may not be such a bad thing after all.

As far as the changes made to TwinBee for the 3D Classics release, they’re actually very subtle. The 3D effect adds depth to flight, and it’s quite nice, but playing the game with that effect disabled isn’t likely to detract much from the experience at all. The quick save feature is certainly nice, but again, not entirely necessary. The control configuration menu, on the other hand, is worth its weight in gold, as it allows you to set multiple buttons for firing the different types of projectiles, assigning a separate rate of fire to each one if you so choose.

Why would you ever choose to have anything other than a steady stream of rapid bullets? Well, because that steady stream of rapid bullets will very quickly destroy those bells that would have given you helpful power-ups if you had shot them more carefully. Mapping different rates of fire to different buttons — and training yourself to switch between them correctly in the heat of battle — is essential to getting the most out of this 3D Classic, and we love that such passive depth was added to the gameplay as a result.

Conclusion

3D Classics: Twinbee takes an overlooked — but excellent — game and gives it both a fresh coat of paint and a new chance to shine, which is exactly what the 3D Classics series should be doing. The team responsible for the update knew that TwinBee was a game that didn't need much tinkering, and as such the 3D effects are satisfyingly subtle and the tweaks largely unobtrusive. 3D Classics: Twinbee is colourful, challenging and most importantly a great deal of fun. You may well have missed it the first time around, but the game's second chance is also yours. Don't miss it.

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User Comments (59)

Blaze

#3

Blaze said:

I still won't be getting it - I just hate these kind of games.

skywake

#4

skywake said:

I clicked on this review to try and justify not getting it after being on the fence........ but I guess I'll probably be getting it now. :)

Tony3DS

#5

Tony3DS said:

Nice review Phil and I can't say that Corbie didn't warn me but with the 7/10 score on Xevious, but I got that anyway and want my points back for this. It looks way more fun, can anyone who owns both concur with that?

Link79

#6

Link79 said:

I definitely enjoyed this much more than Xevious.
The difficulty is much more forgiving and the music is actually catchy.
I end up turning down the volume on Xevious because it really starts to grate.
If you're not into hardcore shooters and want something easy to get into go with Twinbee.

Link79

#8

Link79 said:

@ Shoopdawoop70
The curtains aren't that distracting are they?
The original arcade game wasn't widescreen so that's probably got something to do with it.

Collinhall

#9

Collinhall said:

I picked this up, and its great pick up and play fun! The curtains rant that a big of a deal for me, but it does feel lazy.

ToneDeath

#10

ToneDeath said:

Something similar to the 'Disney view' option on the Blu-rays of non-widescreen Disney films would have been better. Basically filling the borders with artwork which alternates to fit the scene.

But never mind; you'll forget about the curtains as soon as you start blasting away.

Thwiidscube

#11

Thwiidscube said:

Not getting this one. Even though it has a great review and score, like Miracle Blaze said (comment #3), I don't enjoy games like these.

Even though 3D Classics: Urban Champion didn't get a great review like this 3D Classics game, it's probably the next 3D Classics game I'm getting (unless another 3D Classics game I like better is released before I get my next prepaid card).

Adamant

#12

Adamant said:

"it was at last featured on the Konami Classic Series: Arcade Hits compilation for the DS... only it was inexplicably rechristened RainbowBell."

Only in North America. It kept the TwinBee name in Europe.

FonistofCruxis

#13

FonistofCruxis said:

I was on the fence on this one and I wasn't expecting it to score this high! The impressions in the thread for this are pretty good too so I'll definitely pick this up now.

BenAV

#14

BenAV said:

I like TwinBee more than Xevious, and it's cheaper too... But I don't regret buying Xevious too - I've had plenty of fun with that and so far I have all the 3D Classics.

Karakato

#16

Karakato said:

@15 Twinbee definitely is the more approachable game, even for newcomers. More appeal, better gameplay, better 3D, has actual powerups, cheaper price, and it is more forgiving in terms of difficulty. Thats not to say I didn't enjoy Xevious(a solid 8 for me), if you have the extra money, you could bite into xevious if you don't mind the dated gameplay.

TKOWL

#17

TKOWL said:

Darnit, I should've waited for this one instead of instantly getting Xevious :'(

Monsti

#18

Monsti said:

Downloaded it the day it came out and was more than surprised. Glad you also see the awesomeness of that game. ^^

Slapshot

#22

Slapshot said:

Great review Phil!

This is indeed a fantastic title, and I'm glad to finally see a 3D Classic be worth it's price in gold. :)

Supremeist

#23

Supremeist said:

I have all the 3D Classics so far! But I have to say that this one is my favorite. Xevious is a good game, but It's just so hard. TwinBee has a fair difficulty, so It's more fun to play.

I really didn't expect a 9! Great Review Phil! This game is awesome.

TheBaconator

#24

TheBaconator said:

I have this game on the Konami Arcade Collection on the DS. If I recall correctly, it was the game I played the most out of all the games available.

Bass_X0

#26

Bass_X0 said:

4.50 (UK) is far to expensive and a rip-off.

Not when you consider that if the original arcade game had made it to VCA on the Wii, it would probably have cost 800 points. This version is graphically enhanced and cheaper.

cheapogamer4life

#27

cheapogamer4life said:

great game with and outstanding price tag! one can only wish the rest of the 3d classics (to be release) would keep that up.

LucinaSmash

#29

LucinaSmash said:

I don't mind that the game is not widescreen but can I at least be able to change the curtain border to traditional black?

WanderFan91

#30

WanderFan91 said:

Good review, Phil. I played the original TwinBee on TwinBee Portable for the PSP (which I imported from Japan weeks ago), and I think it's a good game. Having read how it got the 3D treatment on the 3DS (I don't own one yet) based on your review, it sounds interesting.

OptometristLime

#32

OptometristLime said:

Well written review, and definitely a game on my radar now.
I just noticed one tiny typo:

"TwinBee — should be studied by any developer interesting in creating --"

StephenYap3

#33

StephenYap3 said:

This is an excellent review of TwinBee, compared to IGN's review, which they gave this game a 6/10, with the only reason being that its not as visual as Xevious. How absurd. Next time when I go to eshop, I'll keep this in mind (or wishlist) :)

Ren

#40

Ren said:

too bad the best 3D games on this 2011 3d, motion sensing, stereo sound, miniature, touch screen, gaming powerhouse system were all designed over 20 years ago. Be nice if we had some good new stuff too.

grumblegrumble

#41

grumblegrumble said:

Ren... Just goes to show that they don't make great games the way they used to. Most of the junk nowadays is too RPG based and doesn't have enough replay value and is too expensive. Who wants to sit through hours of dialogue when you can get right down to arcade shootin' action? I hope this trend is a sign of things to come, hopefully video games will start to go back to their roots and bring us more of the quality gaming we used to get.

Steviis_Father

#42

Steviis_Father said:

Great game! Music in this particular TwinBee (NES) offers some of the better offerings - if not the best in the series - with a perfect mix of upbeat tunes to match the hectic gameplay, as well as particularly melodic anthems to get your head bopping along. The sprite work here, though simplistic to the later games in the franchise, is still very well designed. The palette doesn't become too "cotton-candylike" to the point of being overly childish, and the variety of bell-power ups gives it as much depth as its side-scrolling cousins, Gradius & Life Force/Salamander. In fact, much like how Super Mario Bros. still plays well when compared to SMB 2 & 3, this NES port of the arcade original offers many of the series' distinct staples, so much so that it's easy to see this game on many "Top Games of All Time" lists, simply because of how well it holds up. ;) Hope a whole new generation gives it a try, because it's a wonderful little game with a lot to offer.

accc

#43

accc said:

This game is too unbalanced - It's extremely easy when your ship is fully powered up, but if you slip up and get hit once and lose all your powerups then you're basically a sitting duck and are probably going to lose the rest of your lives before you manage to get powered up again. I'd still give it a 7 or an 8.

Ren

#44

Ren said:

that's not 'unbalanced'. it's just the nature of a difficult shooter. get good at it and you should be able to work your way back up or keep your guns without getting hit again. Welcome to the games of an earlier time.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#45

Philip_J_Reed said:

I have to agree with Ren. If you rely on your powerups (rather than, say, developing an actual strategy for dealing/avoiding damage) then the game punishes you when those powerups are gone and you have no idea how to deal with the waves of enemies.

If you hone your strategy though, you will be better prepared to deal with things when you inevitably lose all your upgrades. It's basically trying to teach you not to rely on those wonderful upgrades, as they can vanish in the blink of an eye and then you'll be stranded and defenseless.

I wouldn't say the game is unbalanced. I'd say it's very challenging, and it just lulls you into a false sense of complacency. ;)

accc

#46

accc said:

But what you're describing is the very definition of unbalanced — under certain circumstances the game is exceptionally easy, and under other circumstances it's brutally difficult. In order for the difficulty to not be so unbalanced they would have to bridge the gap between "difficulty with powerups" and "difficulty without powerups" somehow. The Star Soldier series is a much better example of good difficulty balance; those games never let you get so powerful that taking out all of the enemies that the game sends at you becomes trivial, nor do they let you get so weak that you end up being completely overwhelmed at any point.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#47

Philip_J_Reed said:

I disagree that that's the "very definition" of unbalanced at all, but it's all in how you see it I guess. :) The challenge is uniform, and bonus items function as bonuses. When they are gone, the challenge remains just as it ever was. And I definitely didn't say the game is "exceptionally easy," with or without powerups! I personally don't see the vast gulf in difficulty that you seem to, but if you do, hey, you're welcome to your opinion. :)

Samholy

#48

Samholy said:

i had this game when i was a kid. i found it on a 52-in-1 game cart in a flee market.
glad i had a chance to play it, because i never saw it alone on a video store shelf. ill consider getting it from the virtual console.
might prove to be much better than the tedious xevious.

eviLaTtenDant

#49

eviLaTtenDant said:

Special thanks for mentioning there's a version on Konami Classic Series: Arcade Hits, CB. :D
I got this collection for cheap a long time ago and didn't put much time into it. One of these days i'll check it out again and then decide if i'll buy the 3D Classic too. As much as it deserves support i'm just trying to never again end up disappointed with something i can't sell.

@Chicken_Brutus: While it may not lend to this kind of game very well i still have to ask. Can you "suspend save" the game like in the NES Ambassador games ?

rachelthehedgehog

#52

rachelthehedgehog said:

I'm going to pick this one up right now. After that, I will need more money to buy the rest of the 3D Classics. They all look great.

Justaguest

#53

Justaguest said:

I dont really like this game. there are times when i return to it but always end up in frustration. so you collect like 10 lives with your candy power up, die and you have no chance cause swarm of enemies will get you easily with default beam. not to mention 3d effect. Its a great addition and well it must be included, but it makes you kind of switch your vision for whats going on the ground instead of air (there are enemies on ground you need to bomb) and when you do you cant be fully concentrated on air swarms(i know i can turn it off.. but who does that?). Itd be amazing if you wouldnt have to pay attention to surface. Another thing are sound effects but this is just my opinion. I guess i should be expecting lots of squeeky sounds since its technically old game but you are gonna hear that annoying high-pitched laser sound the whole time and its not enjoyable at all. I only recomment this to people who already played this(nostalgia factor) and hardcore shooter gamers who are very experienced in these. id give it 3/10 (wil never get past 1-5 and gave up on it)

Justaguest

#54

Justaguest said:

I dont really like this game. there are times when i return to it but always end up in frustration. so you collect like 10 lives with your candy power up, die and you have no chance cause swarm of enemies will get you easily with default beam. not to mention 3d effect. Its a great addition and well it must be included, but it makes you kind of switch your vision for whats going on the ground instead of air (there are enemies on ground you need to bomb) and when you do you cant be fully concentrated on air swarms(i know i can turn it off.. but who does that?). Itd be amazing if you wouldnt have to pay attention to surface. Another thing are sound effects but this is just my opinion. I guess i should be expecting lots of squeeky sounds since its technically old game but you are gonna hear that annoying high-pitched laser sound the whole time and its not enjoyable at all. I only recomment this to people who already played this(nostalgia factor) and hardcore shooter gamers who are very experienced in these. id give it 3/10 (wil never get past 1-5 and gave up on it)

Justaguest

#55

Justaguest said:

I dont really like this game. there are times when i return to it but always end up in frustration. so you collect like 10 lives with your candy power up, die and you have no chance cause swarm of enemies will get you easily with default beam. not to mention 3d effect. Its a great addition and well it must be included, but it makes you kind of switch your vision for whats going on the ground instead of air (there are enemies on ground you need to bomb) and when you do you cant be fully concentrated on air swarms(i know i can turn it off.. but who does that?). Itd be amazing if you wouldnt have to pay attention to surface. Another thing are sound effects but this is just my opinion. I guess i should be expecting lots of squeeky sounds since its technically old game but you are gonna hear that annoying high-pitched laser sound the whole time and its not enjoyable at all. I only recomment this to people who already played this(nostalgia factor) and hardcore shooter gamers who are very experienced in these. id give it 3/10 (wil never get past 1-5 and gave up on it)

Harley

#56

Harley said:

The only reason I prefer Gradius over this one is because of the recovery time. In Gradius, you can build up a hefty amount of powerups, screw up, and have the chance to gain them all back in a playthrough if you're skilled enough. That process is FAR more complicated in Twinbee, given that you have to shoot the bells a certain amount of times to get the powerup you're looking for. The gratification of being able to rack up millions of points with a powered up ship however, is pretty nice. Glad to have this on my 3DS.

NImH

#57

NImH said:

I just downloaded this game with my Club Nintendo coins... SCORE! This game is really fun! I would have loved to have had this on NES as a kid! And, yes, it is more fun the Xevious! I love you Club Nintendo!

SonicTheBluBlur

#58

SonicTheBluBlur said:

@StephenYap3 Things like that (and the fact that IGN gave the AMAZING Shadow the Hedgehog game an undeserved 4.8) made me lose faith in IGN. THIS SITE is where I go for GOOD QUALITY game reviews. Also, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is another GREAT game that IGN hated.

StephenYap3

#59

StephenYap3 said:

@SonicTheBluBlur Kirby's Return to Dream Land is an amazing installment to the Kirby series, but what did IGN have to say about it? "Way too easy"...and then they give it a 7.5...YET they gave the much-easier Epic Yarn a 9. They even gave the super awesome Mario Sports Mix a 6! Mario Party 9 got a 7, but then that's understandable, seeing as other board party video games don't receive as much praise as quality titles do.

But to be fair, I don't entirely hate IGN, but some of their reviews can be a pain in the eyes to look at, let alone read them.

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