Saturday, November 26, 2016

Final Fight 2 (SFC) Review

Received: December 10th, 2012 / Written: November 22nd-26th, 2016
Year: 1993 | Developed and Published by: Capcom | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit, and it's about damn time I got to today's game.
Image from Wikipedia
On December 1989 Capcom released onto arcades the sidescrolling beat'em up Final Fight which at one point was to be called Street Fighter '89 until the title got changed following the arrival of a little Technōs Japan-developed coin-op named Double Dragon (originally serving as a direct sequel to Street Fighter only to not actually play like the 1987 game at all, which might also attribute to the title change).  It was a huge success as it was one of the most highly played arcade games at the time thanks to the colorfully detailed backgrounds, huge character and enemy sprites, challenge value, holding as many as eight or nine enemies per screen, as well as its biggest selling point: two-player co-op.

So successful it was that Capcom started to shift their focus on brawlers when it came to arcades (for the most part)--basically if it weren't for this game there would be no The King of Dragons, no Captain Commando, no Knights of the Round, no Cadillacs and Dinosaurs adaptation, and Street Fighter would not have become a franchise starting with the highly revered Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.  Really stop and think about that for a second; not everyone is a fan of beat'em ups but pretty much everyone loves Street Fighter II, so whether you like these kinds of games or not you have to appreciate Final Fight for that at least.  =)
Image from Wikipedia; Happy 25th Anniversary, Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage
Final Fight also ended up sparking some competition, the most notable example of this being Ancient's Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist on the Sega MegaDrive in August 1991 with a PAL MegaDrive release following suit that month as Streets of Rage culminating in the American Genesis release come that September.  This beat'em up was the closest Sega gamers got to playing Final Fight on their console (before its Mega CD/Sega CD port in 1993), as Capcom ported Final Fight to the Super Famicom in 1990 (to initially mixed results), and at the time it got good praise from many as it stood the test of time well.
Image from Wikipedia least it would have if not for the direct sequel Streets of Rage 2 on December 1992 in America, arriving in Japan and Europe on March 1993 as Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle and Streets of Rage II respectively, which upon release proved to be a real game-changer in the genre with improved and expanded controls plus good sense of polish which easily managed to blow even its own predecessor out of the water (though a mere handful of gamers feel otherwise).  Even to this day gamers all over have clamored Ancient's follow-up to be one of the best (if not the best) beat'em ups during the course of the early '90s.

When Nintendo saw how greatly Streets of Rage 2 was doing they asked Capcom to create a follow-up to Final Fight on the Super Famiconsole to rival Ancient's title, even though it wasn't in their main interest to make a continuation of the 1989 coin-op, especially not after its 1990 port didn't go over smoothly with Final Fight fans; with it being one of the very earliest Nintendo 16-bit games ever made it was restricted by the console's limitations resulting in fighting three baddies per screen, an entire stage being excised, and the two-player option completely absent (and the less said of the changes contrived for the localized SNES versions, the better), but over time the port has been viewed a tad bit kindly by some.
Reluctantly Capcom agreed to craft the console-exclusive sequel Final Fight 2 which saw release in Japan on May 1993, seeing a release in American and European soil on August and December 1993 respectively.  Did it pay off in the end?  The answer: no, it didn't.  Why?  Let's find out!  =<

Well, this sepia-toned clip from the original Final Fight doesn't ring shades of The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue and Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, given the two opened the exact same way  =P
In the years following the death of the Mad Gear gang's crime lord Belger and the rescue of Mayor Mike Haggear's daughter, Metro City has long prospered in its peaceful lifestyle thanks to Haggar, Cody, and Guy.
However, amidst all this, the remaining Mad Gear members have formed together in secret exacting a revenge plot under their new crime lord, Retu.
It starts with the kidnapping of Guy's girlfriend Rena and her father Genryusai, Guy's former sensei--just like how Haggar's daughter Jessica was kidnapped in the first game.
Former street fighter turned mayor of Metro City Mike Haggar finds out about the kidnapping by phone while in his office (just like the first game), only here he's informed by Rena's concerned younger sister Maki Genryusai as Guy's currently traveling overseas.
With Guy gone and Cody off vacationing with his daughter Jessica, Haggar once again leaves his office to fly all the way to Eurasia to confront the Mad Gear gang and save Rena and Genryusai, accompanied this time by Maki and this random guy whoever the hell he is, South American swordsman Carlos Miyamoto.
As you can tell the plot shares the same beats as the first Final Fight (only with some details changed except for Haggar who's the only constant in the two games), but that won't matter if the gameplay is different, right?  ......heheheheh, would you rather I tell a lie?  <=(

"Time to give you a piece of my mi--- oh, hi Chun-Li!"
And, um... Zangief?  o_O
In Final Fight 2 you can choose to play as Haggar who's a bit on the slow side but makes up for that with his bulk and strength, Maki who's the weakest member of the trio but makes up for that with her agility and speed, and then there's Carlos who's the median member of the group (i.e. shares equal power and agility); either by yourself if you play it on your own or two-player co-op if you've got a partner beside you.  Well, Capcom managed to incorporate that feature back in this sequel, but what of the actual gameplay?

Wall-kick jumping back at you
In this beat'em up you can roam in any part you wish as you can move in all eight directions (but only at a walking speed), but the major way you'll be heading throughout is to the right; once you scroll to the right you cannot backtrack to the left where you came from.  Frequently you'll be facing countless members of the Mad Gear gang who also can move in all eight directions but have differing attack tactics they'll attempt to use against you.  With the B button you can jump and with the Y button you can do normal punch attacks, press it consecutively to perform a combo against them (if you press up as you're doing it instead of finishing the combo you'll throw the enemy in question, ahead or below you, which you can also do if you simply grabbed them), attack airborne (with either a widespread or downward attack), pick up and use a weapon (unless it's a knife which you can throw you can't disarm yourself, however, you'll only let go of it after taking damage from an enemy and if you made it to the end of a section with it in hand).

You can also perform a desperation move in the event that you're outnumbered and cornered, but at the expense of a tiny fraction of health, by pressing both the Y and B buttons at the same time; but in the options screen you can relegate it to a single button (preferably X) as when you first turn the game on the Extra Joy has been disabled (likely due the fact that the original arcade predecessor required both buttons being pressed at the same time).  Concealed inside boxes and oil drums (or in some cases, seemingly inconspicuous foregrounds) are varying foods to replenish some or all of your health (because the floor sounds like a logical place to get edible items from), items like spanners and watches for points, a Guy doll that gives you a life, and weapons (knife, tonfa, plank of wood).  If Final Fight 2 sounds like it's Final Fight all over again in this aspect, that's because it is (the gameplay is literally the same); but that won't matter none if the experience is fun and does something new, right?  Uhhh......  >_>

Composing the music this time around are Yasuaki Fujita (who also worked on the original Final Fight soundtrack as well as its Nintendo 16-bit port, Mega Man III, Mega Man IV, and did music for the original Breath of Fire), accompanied here by Mari Yamaguchi (Super Ghouls'n Ghosts, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, Mega Man V, Breath of Fire), Yuki Iwai also known as Yuki Satomura (Gargoyle's Quest II, Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken), Setsuo Yamamoto (Mighty Final Fight, Mega Man X), Yuko Kadota (Mighty Final Fight, Mega Man X, Mega Man VI), and finally there's the uncredited Breath of Fire sound provider Tatsuya Nishimura (Super Bases Loaded, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, and Nintendo 16-bit Disney's Aladdin); and honestly it's not a very memorable or standout Capcom soundtrack which is a real shame given all the talent involved.  =(

Well, if it isn't a beguiling cameo back there
The theme for the intro sequence is a slower and remixed take on the first stage's theme from the first Final Fight; all else that follows is serviceable but not really that catchy or energetic or bound to stick in your head (except for the London theme but for the very wrong reasons), although the Venice theme is actually okay to a point.  Many of the songs get reused occasionally, including the theme for China (which is also actually used for the fight against Retu in the end; talk about uneventful); my favorite song is actually the credits theme which is different from everything else as it sounds calmer which is befitting for the end (another reason it's my favorite is because it's the end).  Not terrible by any means, but Final Fight 2's music doesn't hold a candle to the unforgettable themes introduced to us by Manami Matsumae, Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (the only one credited at the time), Yasuaki Fujita, Hiromitsu Takaoka, Yoko Shimomura, Junko Tamiya, and Harumi Fujita in the first game.  Perhaps if they had more time......

London kicks
The best thing this game has got to offer are the visuals which as you'd expect from Capcom during the Nintendo 16-bit days are crisp and beautiful and pretty to look at, with a good sense of detail here and there plus the vibrant color selection.  The trio's animation is solid, especially when it comes to their combo attacks; Haggar's sprites are exactly the same as they were for the first Final Fight with the bulky arms spread out with only his legs doing the moving as he's walking (and he's still sprite-flipped any time he changes directions on account of the single strap around him) except this time he's got boots, knee pads, and workout gloves to protect his hands (and now he rotates as he does his jumping enemy dumping attack).  Carlos and Maki's animations are solid too, especially with the latter's hair as she moves.

Time to break some backs
Each country in Eurasia looks very good and differentiates themselves from the other places; an example of this is the Paris stage with the cafes and Eiffel Tower as well as its skyline which subtly yet progressively gets darker and darker as you press on (kind of like the first stage in Super Earth Defense Force) and there's a desolate look and feel to the stage that takes place in Holland what with the dead trees, ravens, and brownish yellow.  There are a couple of cameos made by two Street Fighter II characters Chun-Li and Guile (each on a separate occasion) which are quaint, and there's some occasional thunder on the way to face Retu in Japan.  The enemy roster animates solidly too, from the normal gang members to the Mohawk gang members to the musclebound ones to the female gang members to even the round enemies with those damn electric tuning forks (seriously, I hate the Elicks so much) including returning baddies André the Giant-based Andore from the first Final Fight with their towering stature; some of them being palette-swapped.

Walking in the streets of Paris
The end of each stage culminates in a fight against a boss before heading to the next country: some examples of this are Won Won who's huge, hops along, and occasionally will try to swipe at you with his butcher knife (any time you or an enemy is attacked by a sharp object there's a tiny burst of blood which I'm sure was removed in the localized editions); and there's Bratken who has a good entrance as he smashes the door that imprisoned him as he's revealed to be a hulking prisoner equivalent to Frankenstein's monster.  The cinematic visuals during the intro and ending are well-done (even the player select screen even though Maki's armlets are the same color as her skin tone outside of the main game), and before the title pops up there's fire raging from Haggar's eyes which become bigger as he and everything else fades to black to form up the number 2 until the fire turns into chrome as "Final Fight" appears beside it.  It's so pretty to look at that it's very unfair and unearned because the game as a whole doesn't live up to the quality of its visuals.  =(

Big Trouble in Little China
Final Fight 2 has got four difficulty settings--Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert--and depending on the difficulty there'll either be a differing amount of enemies or they'll each have a differing amount of health (but regardless of what difficulty you choose to play, there'll always be six continues which starts you back at the segment you lost your last life).  Be forewarned that the hardest difficulty settings will be time-consuming (more so if you play as Maki and you could argue Carlos, but less so as Haggar) because there is a timer you have to keep track of because while you'll reach the next segment before it reaches zero (thereby restarting the timer at 99) the segment before you enter the tower where you face Retu will really test that on account of the annoying amounts of Elicks and Haggars you have to fight (be thankful you only have to fight up to three enemies per screen).

Just like its predecessor there are two bonus games that give you a breather from the main experience.  In the first one that takes place after you're done with Paris you have to destroy a car in the allotted time that you're given.
Ah, that was fun once,...
...twice...  =/
What do you mean it's a spoiler?  It's only been four years!
Honestly I had more satisfaction watching Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope von Schweetz, and Ryu take the car down than actually doing it myself in Final Fight 2 because here specifically it lacks the freshness of the previous games that let you do it.  Although now that I think about it, Capcom must really hate cars.  o_O
The second and final bonus game that you'll be accessing after beating the London stage is different.  In just thirty seconds you must knock down as many oil drums as you can (I suppose it's an adequate replacement for glass pane smashing), but don't attack when the fire is sprouting big otherwise you'll be knocked back and lose a second or two of your time limit (unlike the glass pane smashing bonus from the first game, though, this one doesn't seem to want to be completed).

Widespread kicks
I first got to play the original Final Fight in 2006 when I got the PlayStation Portable compilation Capcom Classics Collection Remixed and I thought it was fun for what it was, and while to this day I don't think the 1989 game is great I do think it's solid entertainment--so much so that I was curious to try the two Nintendo 16-bit exclusive sequels when I found out about them but it wouldn't be until years later that I would get to experience them.  On May 2012 I began to import Super Famicarts after I bought a Retro Duo (now I use a Super Famiconsole) starting with Alcahest, and because I could now play Nintendo 16-bit games from Japan I opted for the original uncensored version of Final Fight 2 as the eighth Super Famicart I imported.  When I played today's game it was okay at first, but it didn't take long for my enthusiasm to fade (several replays of it on any difficulty setting attributed to that); even if I had played the localized edition, God forbid, I don't think my opinion on it would be all that different.  =|

I don't remember Venice's waters being so green  o_O
You'd think it would be odd that Rena's boyfriend Guy is absent during all this, but there is a reason for this: one of the causes for complaint over the Nintendo 16-bit port of the first Final Fight was the absence of Guy who had become a fan favorite, so Capcom tried to rectify that issue by making Final Fight Guy in 1992 (available for a cheaper price on SFC format than on the SNES format because in America and Europe it was a rent-only title while in Japan renting games is illegal--you either buy the game or you don't) with him being made available to play as; but aside from Cody being swapped for Guy and the intro and ending being slightly altered it was just Final Fight once more.  As for why he's not playable in the sequel that's because it would have been inconvenient to have two Guys in the same game, as Maki is the essentially female Guy equivalent (right down to the warm colors and wall-kick jumping ability) while Carlos despite having a sword is essentially the Cody equivalent (right down to the cold colors and ability to hold onto the knife as opposed to immediately throwing it).

Damn all you fat Elick bastards to hell!!!  >O<
Despite the fact that you're globetrotting to different parts of Eurasia as opposed to traveling in each subsequent segment of Metro City its gameplay has been liberally copied and pasted from the first game, which wouldn't be a problem in of itself if Capcom had done at least one thing new or different to warrant it or at the very least still made it fun, but they haven't.  What was once fresh gameplay in Final Fight now feels stale and repetitive in Final Fight 2 because it's going through the motions of the first game (Retu gets offed in the same way Belger did); the weapons are not worth using in this sequel on account that they take so much time to use and don't seem to be as effective as your normal punching and kicking attacks.  Regardless of the difficulty many enemies are manageable including the Haggars, although you'll have to be careful for the Eliza and Mary enemies on account that they sometimes leap at you (especially since you get a life after every 200,000 points after you hit 100,000 which seems to happen every what, seven to ten minutes?); but my least favorite enemies of the bunch are those damn Elicks.  Oh my God, these have got to be some of the most annoying enemies in a beat'em up ever as you have to consistently be on guard as occasionally they'll try to ram towards you with their tuning forks (sometimes fully charged with electricity); made all the worse if you're caught off-guard which you cannot let happen because it is just time-consuming to take these fat assholes down and they're just an overbearing presence as you end up fighting a lot of them.  I can't stand them!  >=(

Heads down
But the biggest problem with Final Fight 2 isn't that it's unplayable, it's definitely playable; the biggest problem with Final Fight 2 is that it is a slog to play through (I'm sure it's better if you're playing it with a partner, but other than that it is just too longwinded for me).  The fact that you fight up to three enemies per screen doesn't help (if there's a crate or oil drum there will be two enemies, one if there are two of the former), but the lack of a dash ability really puts a damper on things and occasionally if you've knocked people offscreen you have to wait until they reemerge again from offscreen (you could stand to the edge and punch offscreen if they're near you, but when it comes to enemies that are Elick or Andore or the two female gang members I wouldn't risk it).  Streets of Rage 2 didn't simply recycle the gameplay of its predecessor, it improved and expanded upon it; there are people who accuse Golden Axe II of being Golden Axe all over again (and okay, it is) but at least that game was more fun thanks to the controls which were more responsive than its predecessor's plus you could dash in both slash'em ups.

Those tourists sure are enjoying watching this
cat fight going on onboard, mrrrrow
I don't know the specifics exactly, but I'm pretty sure the Final Fight coin-op's development process had to have lasted longer than five months, because Final Fight 2 arrived in Japan five months after the American debut of Streets of Rage 2.  I don't blame Nintendo for Final Fight 2's existence, they just wanted something to compete with Ancient's beat'em up classic, but I do find it rather disappointing that Capcom did little to nothing new for the sequel and took the lazy route as they rushed it so that they would be done with it.  Yeah, it's pretty to look at, but if the gameplay isn't fun what difference does it make?  I played through this game several times, on all four difficulty settings with all three characters (the harder the difficulty the more complete the ending will be), and frankly I'll be a lot happier if I never play this game again--I don't say that out of bitterness, I am not bitter, but rather I say that for my own protection: I've developed a system that I find helps prolong my journey without using many continues as Maki and Carlos where I can do most of the combo but not actually finish it (have to do it fast), attack backwards, then start the process again until they're done for the count (namely for the sturdiest of enemies)... but unfortunately it's something that threatens to give my hand arthritis, something other beat'em ups I played have never done, and arthritis is something I don't want to have when I get older.  =(

After Final Fight 2 came out in Japan (but before it came out in America and Europe) the Famicom and NES received Mighty Final Fight which was a goofy and lighthearted take on the original game as a chibi'em up in the vein of SD The Great Battle II: Last Fighter Twin, afterwards Haggar would appear as a playable character in Muscle Bomber: The Body Explosion/Saturday Night Slam Masters as well as its sequel.  But it wasn't until 1995 that Final Fight got the true sequel it deserved in Final Fight 3 (Final Fight Tough in Japan) on the Nintendo 16-bit which did what today's game should've done and improved upon and expanded the controls (you could dash now and Guy was a selectable character) plus had replay value thanks to the alternate paths and possible endings; it costs a lot on eBay but is available for only $8 on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console (I downloaded it days after I got a Nintendo Wii U for Christmas in 2013, which was a hugely enjoyable step in the right direction).  That's the beat'em up you should play instead of Final Fight 2.
Or better yet, play Rushing Beat Ran — Fukusei Toshi; hugely underrated Jaleco beat'em up and tons of fun.  =)  Admittedly it too is long at an hour like Final Fight 2, but it's more bearable to play thanks to the ability to dash and perform dash attacks as well as its Ikari mode enlivened by its energetic soundtrack, plus there was no timer (hooray!), not to mention it's got replay value in terms of difficulty and which three bosses you would fight based on who you did not select and also instead of starting over from a section if you lost a continue you could resume right from the spot which I'm glad about.  Hell, even the lesser Western version Brawl Brothers (shut up) is better than Capcom's rushed and lazy Final Fight follow up; take your pick, it's less of a shameless rehash of the first game either way.

"If you're Rolento then why is your name one
letter short, huh?"
I know there are people out there who enjoy Final Fight 2 in spite of its recycled formula and creative bankruptcy, and I don't begrudge them if they do, but to me today's game just felt tired and familiar.  Although to be fair this game might work best if you never played its predecessor though it may still pale in comparison to other games in the genre (especially Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time).  Unless you want to play a game with co-op action I can't really think of a reason to recommend this beat'em up; honestly you're better off playing Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken which is a much more satisfying and enjoyable hour to play through, and that game's an action-adventure.  Capcom may have recycled Final Fight for its first sequel, but at least they would make it up to fans of the series with the new and improved Final Fight 3 in a couple years.

My Personal Score: 5.5/10
<( -_-)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(-_- )>
P.S. Screengrab of Wreck-It Ralph taken from my Region 1 Widescreen DVD of it, property of Disney.  I'm really looking forward to its sequel on March 2018, but I'm not sure how I feel about the voice of Fix-It Felix Jr., Wander, and Irving, Jack McBrayer, voicing a Smurf in the upcoming Summer's newest movie of theirs.   I like him as a voice actor, but I'm not sure if I'll watch it (maybe if it gets middling to positive reviews?).  This one's all CG and looks closer in style to Peyo's design, at least.
P.S. 2 I saw Disney's Moana on the 23rd and I loved it.  The songs were great and catchy (especially "How Far I'll Go" and "You're Welcome"), the characters were likable (Moana especially), the in-jokes were spot-on, the story was good, and it was so beautiful to look at (the colors, the water, the realistic hair texture, the CGI, wow).  =D  Ron Clements and John Musker has done their big fan proud once again, because I absolutely love their movies (as I was watching it there were a few times that it brought me back to the days I watched Disney's Aladdin and The Little Mermaid and Hercules as a kid which I appreciated very much).  Go see it and stick past the end credits, it's worth every minute!  ^~^

P.S. 3 Eight down, one left to go; Brandish, here I come!  I'll have a much more positive time with that A-RPG than I did for Final Fight 2.

P.S. 4 Chun-Li's cameo here was nice,
but I much preferred the one she made in Breath of Fire.  Much more wholesome and engrossingly fun than this game.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!
Guy will return

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pop'n TwinBee (SFC) Review

Received: August 21st, 2014 / Written: November 13th-17th, 2016
Published: November 18th, 2016
Year: 1993 | Developed and Published by: Konami | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit!  =D
With the 1991 release of Konami's Detana!! TwinBee in arcades (and eventually the Sharp X68000 and PC Engine conversions) not only did the coin-op do good enough to leave an impact on those who played it (Gamest called it the "Best Shooting Game of 1991") but it also managed to revitalize the TwinBee games to come thanks to the expanded upon play control but also the involvement of Japanese animation newcomer Shujiro Hamakawa (or "Shuzilow.HA", as he's known as) from this installment onward who contributed greatly with his design and lighthearted charm.  =)  I quite like this cute'em up, I thought it was good as the PC Engine port was my first foray to the series on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console back in 2009 (which I got to appreciate even more when I got to play the original and superior arcade version on the PlayStation Portable's TwinBee Portable compilation when I imported it almost two and a half years later).

With much of TwinBee's backlog made available on Nintendo software during the '80s and start of the '90s it was only logical that the next step would be to transition this cute'em up series onto the Super Famicom, which would turn out to be the case with the release of Pop'n TwinBee on March 1993, with a PAL SNES version following suit that November thanks to Konami's European distributor Palcom (even though Detana!! TwinBee saw a limited European arcade release as Bells & Whistles, this console-exclusive game was the first majorly wide PAL release of the series, one that kept the moniker in it).
While TwinBee made a hidden cameo in 1991's Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyūshutsu Emaki (localized in America and Europe as The Legend of the Mystical Ninja) and served as a playable character in the 1992 Super Famicom port of 1990's arcade Gradius spoof Parodius Da! -Shinwa kara Owarai e- (localized in Europe as Parodius: Non-Sense Fantasy), this would mark the anthropomorphic jet fighter's first entirely TwinBee-centric venue on the Nintendo 16-bit console.  It received really good praise in its heyday, but does it hold up after all these years, and how does it fare as a follow up to Detana!! TwinBee?

As the round sneaker-wearing jet fighter heroes TwinBee (piloted by Light) and WinBee (piloted by Pastel) are patrolling the skies of Donburi Island a sudden distress signal pops up beckoning for their help.
This plea comes from a girl named Madoka, whose once benevolent scientist grandfather Dr. Mardock (who's got distractingly disproportionate arm size compared to his body) has turned to evil because of a bump in his head (yeah, it's that simple)--who now plans on conquering the world with his Acorn Men.
Willing to help in any way they can, Light and Pastel accept the job offer and will not only try to save Donburi Island from Dr. Mardock's schemes but also try to revert him back to his former self in the process if possible.

Who knew that Donburi Island had its own
Pineapple Express?  .........err
Moving on  >_>
The basic Xevious-style controls introduced in the 1985 coin-op TwinBee are back again, where as TwinBee (first player) and/or WinBee (second player) you can shoot airborne enemies by holding down the B button and drop bombs on ground level enemies simply by pressing the Y button; but unlike Namco's 1982 arcade vertical shoot'em up you would occasionally come across clouds that you could shoot at to make bells (that change color after shooting them many times that represent a diverse power up) appear that adds a sense of variety and enjoyment.  =)  Pop'n TwinBee has got its own set of controls as this time around you cannot charge your shots like you could in Detana!! TwinBee but you can throw a punch at either an airborne enemy or a bullet by holding down the Y button and letting go when appropriate (I only recommend you use that approach when you're not overwhelmed and outnumbered).

A perfect formation
Normally the bells are gold for points, but after shooting them enough times they'll become any one of these colors in this cycle: blue to augment your speed (when you start the game you begin at a slow pace, but if you take another one when you're at your fastest you'll be reverted back to your slowest speed, so don't take more blue bells than you need); green to activate options following you (up to four at your stead, can get up to nine as shown underneath your score); silver to shoot powerfully big blasts (but only upward); purple to shoot multi-directional beams; pink to form up a barrier around you (blue is the strongest, green is the second strongest, orange is the second weakest, and pink is the barrier at its weakest); until finally there's the flashing bell that nets you a chibi bomb that for a few seconds renders you invulnerable as the chibis spread throughout the screen (can only get up to nine) after you press the A button (but only use them as a last resort).
Before you start you'll be entering your name for the high score board and you'll be given the option to choose one of three settings for your options (following you, circling around you, or spreading out and firing from to the edges of the screen); depending on whether you play as TwinBee or WinBee there is a small variation so as to make things fresh (i.e. TwinBee's options when circling around you will face upward while WinBee's will change facing position depending on what section of the circle formation they're at).

If this is taking place underwater, how are there
clouds down here?  o_O
In the preceding TwinBee cute'em ups if TwinBee and/or WinBee took a bullet to the side they would lose an arm, and if you lost both you had to reach a flying ambulance to recoup them both (once per life); not here.  This time around you have a health bar, meaning if you get hit you'll be fully operational until the bar is empty (though your abilities do become weaker in the process, which you means you'll have to get the same bell you used before to be as powerful as you were); and the only way to replenish a portion of your health is to grab a heart left behind after you bombed every eighth ground level enemy.  The basic goal of the TwinBee cute'em ups is to attack your enemies and fight a boss at the end of each stage--Pop'n TwinBee does one further, as you must attack your enemies and fight a boss at the end of each stage in one life, for if you lose all your health you must start the stage in question all over again (you start the game with eight credits, each credit serving as a life); it's similar in the way that Jaleco's Super Earth Defense Force didn't consist of lives per se but rather its shield stock and losing it all meant starting the stage from the beginning (if you had enough continues left).  This does add a layer of challenge to the proceedings, regardless of the difficulty setting you choose, but more on that later.

Yeah, go Pastel and WinBee!!!  ^-^
The post-Detana!! TwinBee trademarked Shuzilow.HA charm and design of the series is back, and on Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse the main protagonists look really good.  =)  In-game both TwinBee and WinBee animate well when they turn and when they're in the process of punching (with each jet fighter, while slightly palette-swapped, punching with a different arm), when you summon the screen-filling chibi bomb the fighter jet in question stretches its body before it amasses this big force towards its enemies, plus they bug out and flail their arms momentarily when hit.  The in-between cutscenes are back with their adorably lighthearted charm; during the title sequence both TwinBee and WinBee are running left and right until the title pops up from above in which case TwinBee stops and admires it only to be bumped off by WinBee who's still running unaware that he's stopped and it's just so cute.  <=)  Some examples of these cutscenes are Light being kissed by Madoka, Pastel making a Chinese greeting in Chinese regalia after this stage that clearly takes place in China, and Dr. Mardock shaking his fist in the air only to lower it when he discovers that one of the bosses lost to TwinBee and/or WinBee in which case he turns to the fourth wall and mopes.  There is also a brief cutscene after the credits sequence is finished, but it's only seen from the sixth difficulty setting onward, yikes.  ={

Surveying an armadillo race
In the enemy roster this time around are literal flower-shaped bullet-spewing enemies (who suspiciously share the same palette as either TwinBee or WinBee), sentient pineapples, crustaceans, fish variants, an avalanche of pandas, airship turrets, mice, and even sentient toys such as sentient playing cards and kendamas all of whom animate really well among others; there are different kinds of Acorn Men that you'll find throughout the game ranging from normal ones, ones that pilot a submarine or mech, ones that are on the verge of parachuting down, ones who are shot up by a cannon with a cape on their shoulders only to fall down and panic because they can't fly, and even janitorial Acorn Men (despite the airship being attacked) which is a cute touch and adds some charm and personality (their reactions are adorable when things go awry, after being bombed or after falling down).  The best part is that no matter how cluttered or hectic things get along the way there's nary a moment of slowdown which is highly appreciated as it doesn't disrupt the flow at all; Axelay only wishes it had little to no slowdown during its busy moments.

Now this guy knows how to make a spontaneous
entrance (the lack of shadows probably contribute
to this)
Pop'n TwinBee's bosses are big, nicely detailed, and all have good designs and animations going for them.  This time around you'll wind up confronting huge mechanical bosses like a chameleon-colored creation who suddenly drops in with no visual warning when you get to that point whose leg animations are succinct when moving fast or slow both ahead or behind (until the first phase is done), a sentient sky chopper with multiple destructible arms, and even a huge ship with turrets on all sides piloted by Acorn Men that when a part of their ship is destroyed one of them uses a fire extinguisher which is a very cute touch; and as is the case with the previous game they'll change color depending on how many shots they took from you.  The final boss is designed in an exaggerated bulky manner (with arm sockets that look like eyes before being attached by literal arms that occasionally fire at you) but is no less imposing despite that, and at the defeat of each boss you're treated to a wild explosion of (sometimes differently colored) bells.  =)

Nice of Konami to respect the series' humble beginnings:
Madoka's piloting TwinBee's original 1985 model  =)
The visuals are pure eye candy thanks to the pastel-toned flavor implemented through, with each stage having their own distinguished color and detail.  Donburi Island at the start is very colorful with a bustling town (including a church with a cross at the top) and a fountain with waterfalls that look like they were lifted from Detana!! TwinBee culminating in a port leading to the sea with some nice subtle rippling water effects.  The underwater stage has got relaxing-looking hues and shades elevated by the wavy effects, the stage that takes place above the clouds gradually begins with a silhouette of the airship until it plows right through the clouds as it remains afloat (so to speak), and the penultimate stage has got a neat-looking vertical parallax scrolling moment that almost makes it seem as if you're looking down the abyss; but my favorite stage is the third one where it basically takes place in China with the green plains and mountains and Buddha statues until you reach the Great Wall itself (with mechanical dragons guarding it) all while soaring through the clouds, I love it.  =D

It's a bigger, much evil version of you
The soundtrack of Pop'n TwinBee has got a big number of composers backing it considering that it came out in the early '90s.  First we've got Kazuhiko Uehara (some of whose credits comprise of SnatcherMetal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!) who's accompanied by Masahiro Ikariko (SD Snatcher, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, and Nintendo 16-bit Sparkster), TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaō and Yume Penguin Monogatari programmer Hideto Inoue (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, Rocket Knight Adventures, and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure) as well as Tomoya Tomita (whose musical style people will recognize from Nintendo 16-bit AnimaniacsAkumajō Dracula XX/Castlevania: Dracula X/Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss, Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius, as well as beloved Good-Feel platformers Kirby's Epic Yarn and Yoshi's Woolly World), but it doesn't end there.

Flashing Bell: "It's your birthday!"
Not until April 5th, it isn't
Also among this cute'em up's composing roster are first-timer Nobuyuki Akena (who would go on to compose music for Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shogun Magginesu, Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishi Jūrokubee no Karakuri Manji-Katame, and Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius), Masae Nakashima (previously involved in the original Detana!! TwinBee coin-op and also contributed to Nintendo 8-bit Tiny Toon Adventures as well as its sequel Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland), first-timer Saiko Miki (who would go on to contribute to Tiny Toon Adventures: Wacky Sports Challenge, TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, and Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius), and finally we have the brilliant Michiru Yamane in her second and final TwinBee venue (previously having done music for the coin-op Detana!! TwinBee, she would also do music for the arcade adaptations of Astérix and Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, Rocket Knight Adventures, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Sparkster......... pick one).  Because of the big number of composers it's hard to tell if they composed one song, more than one song, whether individually or not, or managed to do it all; but if you've got a trained ear you should be able to recognize who the composer is based on their stylings.  Regardless, Pop'n TwinBee's soundtrack is fantastic!  =)

Below you!
The introduction theme has got a rousingly triumphant cue as TwinBee and WinBee are patrolling the skies and when Light and Pastel agree to help Madoka, with a sweet number played when Madoka makes her plea, and a brief and lightheartedly sinister cue when Dr. Mardock makes an appearance.  When the game begins it starts off with a pleasantly heroic theme, the underwater theme is atmospheric and fun-sounding, the cloud theme is uplifting, and the theme for the stage filled with animals is relaxingly enjoyable.  There are two normal boss themes played during certain boss fights, the final boss theme is foreboding, the credits theme is a rewarding listen, and the theme that plays in the China stage is breathtakingly beautiful (it's my favorite song in the game).  The sound effects are aptly chosen for the jet fighters' various variations of fire, and there are vocal soundbytes once in awhile heard when you get a heart ("Lucky!"), blue bell ("Speed up!"/"Speed down!"), green bell ("TwinBee!"), a flashing bell ("It's your birthday!"), a pink bell ("Barrier!"), the other bells, when TwinBee and/or WinBee take damage and when they lose all health (both characters sound distinctive).

Hate to cut things short, but I've got to split
Readily available in the options screen are seven difficulty modes (represented by numbers), and depending on which difficulty you choose to play the enemies might come in slowly or very fast and/or their firepower might be more widespread and difficult to avoid (some enemies might not fire in the easiest difficulty setting); with each blue bell your speed will increase except for when you get one blue bell too many otherwise you'll revert back to the slowest speed which is the most inconvenient thing in a shoot'em up/cute'em up ever, especially when it comes to bullets coming in fast toward you (but even at your fastest speed you'll have to be careful when it comes to maneuvering).

Rocks aplenty
It's very wise to start from the easiest difficulty setting when it comes to these games and then make your way up from there, especially for enemy pattern memorization; if you're willing, there is a secret eighth difficulty setting which is the game at its most bonkers and most unforgiving which you can make available when pressing up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A in the options screen.  Can't handle that mode legitimately?  Fret not, for there is a code that can make you untouchable when you press A, Y, A, Y, L, R, L, R, X, B, B after pausing the game anywhere--now you can see what Pop'n TwinBee has got to offer in the most difficult setting all the way through (but if you feel you've had enough, just pause and use the same code again to revert back to your vulnerable state).  Super Play complained about its difficulty claiming that it was low, which is absolutely false; maybe in the first and second difficulty settings it's low to the point that you won't have much trouble, but with each subsequent difficulty there's higher amount of challenge to overcome (particularly the middle to higher difficulty modes).  Then again, this was the same magazine that positioned The Legend of the Mystical Ninja one spot higher than Secret of Mana in their 1996 Top 100 SFC/SNES list (this game was positioned at number 67; Ganbare Goemon's first Nintendo 16-bit endeavor was at 7 and SquareSoft's A-RPG was at 8), so what credentials exactly does it have?  -_-

Lasers a-flyin'
On October 1990 the TwinBee cute'em up series saw the first and only installment for the original Game Boy in the form of TwinBee Da!!, which was essentially a remake of sorts for the 1985 arcade game (which itself got remade for the 2007 PlayStation Portable compilation TwinBee Portable).  It would not get a European release by Palcom until 1994, with the title Pop'n TwinBee slapped on it (just like the Nintendo 16-bit game from 1993, with the same cover art attached); this was probably no big deal for those who solely owned a Game Boy, but the gamers in Europe who owned both an SNES and Game Boy were probably confused at the time as the games are not the same in terms of plot and gameplay.  Palcom probably felt that the series could've potentially been known in Europe as "Pop'n TwinBee" which I suppose is an understandable reasoning behind it but unbeknownst to them was probably enough to stir up confusion for those under the initial impression that the Game Boy game was a port of the Super Famicom game.  The 1993 Super Famicom/Super Nintendo cute'em up is the real Pop'n TwinBee, not the Game Boy iteration; case closed!  =<

After Pop'n TwinBee's release the series got some OVAs dedicated to them as well as a radio drama series which proved to be popular in Japan.  On January 1994 the Super Famicom received TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure which Palcom released in Europe later that year as Pop'n TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventures (thereby proving my point that they felt "Pop'n TwinBee" would be the European name of the series), a spinoff Konami made that deviated from the genre and turned into an action/platformer--which is perfect considering the jet fighters TwinBee, WinBee, and GwinBee have arms and legs.  It combined the speed from Sonic the Hedgehog, gadgetry from Rocket Knight Adventures, and even the look around feature from Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind all rolled into one, thereby crafting one of the best Nintendo 16-bit games America's never played.  =)
The Shuzilow.HA charm was retained and it was enjoyably lighthearted as ever, plus there was a ton of replay value with huge nonlinear areas, some areas having more than one exit thereby expanding your map, searching every nook and cranny leading to finding either differently colored keys making the same colored doors accessible as well as finding fairies, including six different endings depending on what percentage you had (with the 100% best ending culminating in a brutally difficult final boss fight) made all the more bearable thanks to the battery save.  =)  Too bad the PAL version wasn't given the same treatment and was simplified to the point of being inferior (right down to nixing the save feature in favor of a password system and cutting out much of the dialogue on the map screen) as far as I looked up; those poor, unsuspecting European souls being forced to grow up with the lesser version of the game only to realize they've been shortchanged come the internet days.  It's a pity.  =(

"Wait, I love the Kung Fu Panda trilogy!"  =O
"Kill the cynophobe!!"
"But I'm afraid of dogs, not pandas; pandas are
supposed to be the most peaceful creatures ev---"
"Pandas ARE dogs!!"
"Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!"  D=
I first found out about Pop'n TwinBee and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure back in 2007 when I saw a gameplay video of both games on Shiryu's YouTube page, both of which piqued my curiosity.  Not having owned a Nintendo 16-bit console at the time the only chance to play them I thought was on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, but that never came to pass; in 2009 Konami released the PC Engine port of Detana!! TwinBee on that downloadable service so I downloaded it thinking it would play just like what I had seen from Pop'n TwinBee, and when my expectations weren't met I was disappointed (but in retrospect it wasn't that game's fault, only mine).  Months later I decided to give Detana!! TwinBee a second chance but treat it as its own thing, and all for the better as it warmed up to me quickly, being my foray to the TwinBee cute'em up series.  In late 2011 I imported TwinBee Portable for the PlayStation Portable which was my first time experiencing Pop'n TwinBee (which has got the distinction of being the second Super Famicom game I played after DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibōken on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2008, the very game that inspired me to try games from Japan; my physical Super Famicom collecting would begin in May 2012 with the fantastic Alcahest); I loved it so much that I imported the original Super Famicart in the Summer of 2014 (to see how it looked on my TV).  =)

Chibi bomb
I was impressed from the moment I played Pop'n TwinBee for the first time, it was so charming and enthralling with the gorgeous pastel-toned visuals and lighthearted tone and atmospherically engaging soundtrack, plus its gameplay was an absolute blast.  Shoot'em ups aren't exactly my strong suit, but cute'em ups on the other hand I find to be more than enjoyable and manageable while still providing their own sets of challenge; some could argue that the fact you have to start the stage over once you lose your health is a bit unfair (depending on the difficulty) but honestly I'm grateful for the health bar in the first place since getting shot at once doesn't entail losing an arm or dying and in terms of area length it makes sense (though I'll admit continuing at the spot would've been nice, but that's what Detana!! TwinBee did so I can't complain about that).

Pouncing along in the air
I liked experimenting each difficulty setting (mostly without the invincibility code) and seeing how easy or difficult things would get in the long run.  =)  And while bells are normally attained after shooting at clouds, there is another way of making one pop up: simply punch the Acorn Man into the air and as it falls down to you punch it again a few more times and it will become a bell which is a convenient strategy, but again only reserve that for when there aren't countless bullets or enemies heading your way.  If there's one little niggle I have with Pop'n TwinBee it's a minor one: but where is GwinBee?  Why is he not here, considering he played a partial role in Detana!! TwinBee?  I know that you only summoned him to cling on to after getting his icon after a specific enemy was bombed in that game, but since the only item that appears in this cute'em up is a heart after every eighth bombed enemy he doesn't make an appearance here.  Perhaps if GwinBee was a one-off character I wouldn't mind it at all except he's appeared in subsequent TwinBee titles following this one (cute'em up or not), so the fact that the green jet fighter is absent is a tad disconcerting to say the least.  =/

Sea leeches, oh no!!!  =O
Both Pop'n TwinBee and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure skipped the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console downloadable service during its run but have seen a rerelease on the Nintendo Wii U's Virtual Console in 2014; but as was the case with the original SFC/SNES releases they only came out in Japan and Europe (with the latter once again being given their localized inferior version of the TwinBee action/platformer; I see no reason to get the European version unless you're either desperate or have little to no choice), with America once again missing out.  I understand that each continent has its own standards, cultures, and beliefs and so because of that some games might not make it over to America and/or Europe; there's a reason no Parodius game has been released in America (aside from the absurdist, boundary-pushing nature of it all), but Pop'n TwinBee (like TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure) is harmless and highly inoffensive.  =(  Two-plus decades later and Konami still doesn't seem to think that it's eligible for an American release; considering this I'm surprised they even let America try Detana!! TwinBee on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console at all--I can't really complain though, because had it not been for the gameplay vid of Shiryu's I may not have been curious enough to play any TwinBee game in the first place, thanks!  =D

The Acorn Men can't be all bad if they recognize
that their janitorial service is important  <=)
Pop'n TwinBee is a game I love so much that throughout the years has gone on to be one of my personal favorite Konami-developed Nintendo 16-bit games ever made alongside TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, Sparkster, Contra III: The Alien Wars, and most recently Mōryō Senki MADARA 2 (I only beat that turn-based RPG once and it's quickly become a favorite of mine, which will still be the case when I play through it again; it was that incredible).  =)  This cute'em up also makes good company with fellow Super Famicom cute'em ups Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% and Gokujō Parodius! ~Kako no Eikō o Motomete~ in my opinion.

Is this game my top favorite cute'em up?  It's hard to say: as far as the TwinBee series is concerned it honestly ties with TwinBee Yahho!: Fushigi no Kuni de Ōabare!! as my number one go-to game in the series--both games are different entities that I enjoy for their own qualities, with the 1995 coin-op being so colorfully immersive and detailed not to mention versatile and chockfull of replay value in terms of ship options you can apply to your jet fighter per continue (sometimes I like this game more than that one, sometimes I like TwinBee Yahho! over Pop'n TwinBee).  But in the genre as a whole there's also Star Parodier which I have fondness for since I downloaded it on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in early 2009, as I consider it to be an excellent title; it may as well be a three-way tie with those games for me.  =)

When I said I wanted to play laser tag, this wasn't
what I had in mind!  =|
I wholeheartedly recommend you play Pop'n TwinBee as it's a great game to play in the genre (if you don't own a Super Famicom I recommend you either import TwinBee Portable for the PlayStation Portable or download it on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, import the Japanese console if you live in America): if you love games with lighthearted charm, you've got it; if you want to play a cute'em up that has a good amount of challenge and more, you've got it; if you want to play a game you can enjoy alongside a partner, you've got it; if you want to play a game that's a lot of fun to boot, well you've got that too!  This cute'em up is one of Konami's finest Nintendo 16-bit endeavors, and I could not ask for a better hour's worth of arcade fun provided by them.  <=)

My Personal Score: 9.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. I've been playing so many Konami games for the past month that I almost feel Konami'ed out...  XD  Also, thank you, Magical Pop'n, for teaching me how to pronounce the word "Pop'n" properly.
P.S. 2 Today (November 17th, 2016) I did a marathon of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, and both movies are still really good PIXAR entertainment (even though the former has the edge for me, I love the story and setup and look of the sequel as well as its emotional moments thanks to Thomas Newman's soundtrack).  =)  Not to mention the PIXAR short Piper attached to the latter is absolutely beautiful.
P.S. 3 Seven down, two more to go!  Almost done!
P.S. 4 To the user(s) who +1'ed my reviews of Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% and Detana!! TwinBee, thank you.  I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I appreciate it all the same.  <=)
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!  =D