Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.
A few of you out there may remember the old NES Konami shooter Stinger, which featured cutesy-looking mech spaceships shooting away at goofy enemies based on fruits, animals, and assorted other non-traditional nemeses. Even though Stinger was the only Twin Bee game to make it out in the US, the series has continued with success in Japan, all the way through its newest installment, the Twin Bee RPG.
In the Twin Bee RPG, you play a young teenaged boy who is watching Twin Bee, his favorite anime show, at the beginning of the game. At the end of the episode he is watching, the heroes of the show are in deep trouble against their nemesis, who presumably plans to take over the world. At this point, Melora, the goddess of the Twin Bee world, starts talking to the player, and asks him to come to the world and save it. At this point, the main character is sucked into his TV, wakes up in a shrine in the Twin Bee world, and your quest begins from there. You spend most of the game traveling around in Twin Bee, who is one of the cutesy sentient mechs, and along the way, you meet all of the characters you were watching on TV.
Except for the anime character portraits that pop up next to dialogue boxes and a few short anime cut scenes, the graphics in this game are entirely polygonal. The backgrounds are drawn fairly well and are colorful, but are a bit lacking in detail, unlike the complex polygonal backgrounds of other recent RPGs like Grandia and Xenogears. The characters, also polygonal, are somewhat similar to the characters in Final Fantasy 7, but are drawn in bit more of a superdeformed style. The polygon graphics allow free rotation and tilting of the viewpoint, as well as 3 discrete levels of zoom that the player can choose at his or her preference. There’s even an option to have the camera automatically rotate the screen for you when you make your main character turn.
The battle scenes are relatively unimpressive when compared to other recent RPGs. When you enter battles in this game, the battle takes place right where you encounter the enemy (kind of like Chrono Trigger). There isn’t really a separate battle screen. The enemies are generally very small, and are lacking in detail as well. Some of the bosses look pretty cool, though, and some of the more powerful spell effects are impressive.
Despite the fact that this game is not an action RPG, I assigned a control rating to this game because it contains some action elements. Similar to Grandia or Chrono Trigger, you can see your enemies before they attack (unless they jump out of somewhere and ambush you), so control is an important factor if you want to avoid them. Also, there’s also some areas that can’t be reached without jumping to them (similar to Xenogears), and, like Xenogears, the jump control is very, very bad.
The sound in this game is reasonably well done. Sound effects throughout are definitely on the goofier side but for the most part not annoying at all. The sound quality of the music is also, well, sound. The songs themselves are upbeat and pleasant (with a little bit of goofiness thrown in), but they really aren’t memorable. I buy a fair amount of game music soundtracks, but, suffice to say, I’m not going to get this one.
The most impressive thing about the sound in this game is that every line of dialogue from major characters in this game is spoken as well. The voice acting is quite good in this game, too. My only complaint about the voice acting in this game: Twin Bee’s voice is really annoying.
Gameplay is where Twin Bee RPG is at its strongest. It takes the tried-and-true gameplay elements of successful RPGs of the past and puts them into the Twin Bee universe. Combat is very similar to that of Final Fantasy 7. For the few of you who haven’t played Final Fantasy 7, this means that the combat is turn-based and the turns are generated in real time, with the enemies not bothering to wait for you to select an action before they attack again.
A new aspect of gameplay that Twin Bee RPG brings to the table is the mixer. Whenever you defeat enemies in this game, they will leave you with at least one fruit (out of a possible 5 types of fruit). Potions such as healing and status-cure are all in the form of juices. After you get a mixer, you can essentially concoct your own items in this manner by blending fruits together in the mixer to make juices. This is a great option, as it lets you carry a reservoir of customizable items around with you.
The characters in this game have more depth to their personalities than in the average RPG. Your main character has a choice of 3 responses whenever he talks to people in the game. I don’t know if your response affects the long-term outcome of the game, but it does seem to affect how you get along with the other characters in the game, particularly the female ones. In fact, at some points in the game you can actually go on dates with some of the female characters.
The only negative aspect of gameplay is that the difficulty is not very well balanced. There will be areas in the game where you will have to sit around and battle aimlessly to go up levels. It’s not as bad as it could have been, though, because you go up in levels relatively quickly.
Overall, this game was an enjoyable experience. I’m a little bit of a hard-ass when it comes to assigning numerical scores, so you should definitely pay more attention to the body of the review than the score. If you have any comments or questions about this game or anything else, I would love to hear them.