Playing an action-intense shoot 'em up while competing against someone on the other half of the screen sounds fun and it is. SNK's 1996 arcade Twinkle Star Sprites is brimming with adorable sights and sounds and enjoyable gameplay so get ready to shoot!
A little over a month ago, I reviewed Rival Megagun and little did I know, it's basically a modern interpretation of Twinkle Star Sprites. So, when I saw that it was available for Switch, I just had to give it a try and I must say, it's one fantastic game! In almost every conceivable way, it's a far superior game to Rival Megagun which is kind of strange considering this originally released over 20 years beforehand. I don't want to spend this entire review comparing the two games because even though they're nearly identical, I want to focus on Twinkle Star Sprites on its own. Its core gameplay basically involves shooting and dodging incoming enemies while building up your Power Shot Gauge and the goal is to send enemies and such to your opponent's side so they'll hopefully receive damage.
Although the gameplay premise sounds simple enough, there are many complexities that you can use to your advantage. For starters, you have a number of bombs that you can deploy whenever you're in a sticky situation. Next, enemies explode and the bigger they are, the larger the resulting explosion will be. If you manage to cause a huge chain explosion, your opponent will have to dodge a lot of enemies so it's a good idea to blow up everything in sight. The resulting back-and-forth of sending enemies and shots between each other makes each match exciting throughout. Even if things start to slow down, a Grim Reaper character may appear that will kill you instantly whenever you touch it. However, the most satisfying moment of gameplay is when you send your boss character to fight your opponent. Watching a big goofball battle your foe as they struggle to stay alive is so much fun. It's all exciting stuff indeed.
One thing that ACA NeoGeo: Twinkle Star Sprites accomplishes perfectly is provide a charming game world that's full of genuinely funny moments. The protagonist in story mode (Load Ran) and her constant chum Rabbicat have such hilarious chemistry and reading the silly exchanges that they have before each battle will make you laugh out loud if you have a soft spot for off-the-wall humour. Meanwhile, the visuals are saturated with charm complete with detailed and animated stage backgrounds, gorgeous character sprites, and awesome character art in the story scenes. The audio is fantastic as well complete with upbeat and undeniably catchy arcade music, cute Japanese vocalizations, and fitting sound effects. It really is an incredible looking and sounding shmup.
I don't have much negative to say about Twinkle Star Sprites and my main complaints all have to do with its limitations being an arcade game. In other words, the selection of modes is as basic as possible with only Story Mode, Character Mode (which lets you choose your character and doesn't feature story scenes), and Competitive Mode (which is the 2 player versus mode) being available. Like many recent Arcade Archives games, it also contains Hi Score Mode and Caravan Mode which tests your abilities and allows you to climb leaderboards. I specifically wish there were more multiplayer variations because the matches are essentially all the same with only the ability to choose your character. Finally, there still isn't any museum-style content which is unfortunately expected at this point.
If you're looking for a competitive shmup and perhaps already played Rival Megagun then you'll absolutely love Twinkle Star Sprites. Its lovely presentation, hilarious characters, exhilarating gameplay, and addictive mechanics make it a must-have shoot 'em up.
- + Action-packed competitive shmup gameplay that's addictive and tons of fun
- + Charming and hilarious game world
- + Excellent music, effects, and graphics
- - Selection of modes is pretty basic
- - No multiplayer variations
- - As always, missing museum-style content