Twinkle Star Sprites - ADK

Twinkle Star Sprites

Reviewed by Postman

Oh, boy, TSS, where do I start? This is one of the most original games I’ve even seen: the combination of a shooter and a two player vs. puzzle game. “Schmuzzle”? “Puzz-em-up (Pumps)”? “Scooter (shooter competition)”? I don’t even know what to call it. No, wait, call it FUN! TSS ranks up in the top ten most addictive lists. And this game is as wacky as it is fun. We’ve got everything from a southern talking, wish granting star, to a final boss with a severe eating disorder, violent birthday cakes, deadly sushi, and even McDonalds fry-guy knockoffs. You just can’t go wrong with this game. I was a little frustrated with it at first, but once you learn the mechanics and gameplay strategies, life gets much easier. I would say to give this game about three days to figure out, and if you don’t like it by then, competition shooters may just not be your thing.

You may be thinking that since this is a puzzle game, the shooter element must be watered down a bit: not so at all. TSS still calls for expert shooter skills, offering a charge bar with three different level attacks, bombs, and even has BOSS fights! While the game is very much playable alone, I feel the strong point of TSS is taking on someone head to head in the two player mode. Think about it - that person who used to be your wingman in Radiant Silvergun is now trying to blast you out of the water! Where else could you have you shmupping prowess measured directly against another shooter fanatic, settling once and for all that endless argument of “No, I’m better at shooters……..”? And you must master the art of dealing with all the junk on your side, while also keeping tabs on what your opponent is doing also. There are 13 characters to choose from (9 regular and four hidden), each one very different in play mechanics (unlike some shooters where picking different ships means very little). Each character is ranked in speed and shot power, and each has different bombs, extra attacks, and boss attacks (you’ll want to try them all……the endings are all cool too…..). Part of the head to head gameplay also is finding out which characters are the best. I’ll try to explain how to play the game the best I can:

The story is that of a quest to find the Twinkle Star, who gants the owner his or her heart’s desire. Each character has a heart meter of 5 hearts, and getting hit takes away a certain numbers of hearts depending on how strong the attack is. The object of the game is to hit your opponent enough so that his meter runs out, and you win the round. Sound easy? During gameplay, level enemies, which range from stars to treasure boxes, drop down from above in shooter-type patterns (like waves of airplanes). Blasting the large enemies produce large explosions, and hitting small ones, small explosions. In order to attack the other player, you have to get the explosions to destroy enemies for you, creating chains. Reaching a chain of about 3 will produce a yellow fireball, which is launched against the opponent (the max chain you can get is 40). This is a NORMAL ATTACK. Shooting a fireball back at the person it originated from makes it larger and reverses it. Shooting a larger fireball morphs it into a SPECIAL ATTACK, which is different for each character. LoadRan has little bunnies that attack from behind, Memory has food that appears out of nowhere, etc. During this time, you have a charge bar that works like R-Type and produces a more powerful bast. When powered up to level 3, unleashing a full charge will release a BOSS ATTACK! The boss character appears on the other players screen, along with all the regular stuff that’s going on, and works just like a real shooter boss: specific attack patterns and tougher to kill! You can also get a boss attack by reaching a high number of combos.

If you happen to get hit by anything, you lose hearts. Touching a level enemy will transfer a heart from you to the opponent, and leave you stunned for a few seconds. This is the most frustrating part of the game……with TSS fast paced gameplay, being stunned does NOT help matters at all. Of course, you have two bombs at your disposal to help clear stuffed screens, and yes, you are invincible when exploding them. Some enemies are encased in bubbles, making them harder to explode, but there is a powerup that flips between an extra bomb and a star, the star breaking all bubble enemies on the screen (very helpful.) I think that about explains things, but you really need to play to see how fast attacks can be volleyed back and forth.

There are three modes of play:

1) Character mode, where you can choose any of TSS very unique personalities and take on the game’s 8 levels.
2) Story mode, where you must play as LoadRan and get a little more of a storyline, but basically the same game as character.
3) Competitive mode (my fave), where you play head to head against someone else.

Graphics, music, and gameplay of TSS are all top notch, and this one is chocked full of personality too. The game had me laughing pretty hard, both intentionally and not intentionally, with its SNKglish. My only gripes with this game is that there is a little bit of slowdown when lots of attacks fill the screen, and it does hinder gameplay a bit. Be warned though: this game is highly addictive, especially when two veteran shmuppers go at it. I’ve know friendships lost to Twinkle Star Sprites, lawsuits filed, marriages broken up, etc. And with a Dreamcast release coming up, perhaps more people in the US will get a chance to be exposed to this very unique genre of shooter.

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< Here’s a little intro to some of the characters in TSS in the attract mode. They are all pretty unique, and have very interesting things to say when winning or losing a match. I almost want to see a Street Fighter type game featuring these characters..that would be an interesting spinoff...

I love the shmups which chuck in a bit of innovative gameplay, and I love cute'em ups, so I really enjoy TSS. While some may hate the puzzley elements of it, I think it is very innovative and fun, specially in 2 player mode. That's why I also like the race elements in Shippu Mahou Daisakusen (though I think that bit has been unfairly programmed. Why do everyone else hiss off when the boss appears, and I am forced to beat it?).

I'd give TSS a good try, but if you are a shmup purist you may not enjoy the game that much. Luckily, there's also a Dreamcast version, which gets rid of the slowdown problems.

- Akira


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie