Reviewed in 2013 by Tibe

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ADK, Freewheeling!

by Tibe (2013)

ADK - aka Alpha Denshi in the eighties and the early nineties - is the most efficient editor on the Neo Geo after SNK, and this is true even since the birth of the machine. Magician Lord, World Heroes, Ninja Commando, Blue's Journey ... The japanese firm has not been idle on the system, both for the amount and for the quality of its games (ok, let's temporarily forget Aggressors of Dark Kombat and a few others)... However, as surprising as it may seem, no Shoot them Up was released on the Neo Geo by these guys. No, not until 1996! It is indeed this year that appears the editor's only game of the genre on this machine: Twinkle Star Sprites. Forget the traditional recipes of shooting games, get off the known tracks, because we are dealing here with a brand new style of game: the "Competitive Shooting"!

Operating with a vertical scrolling, the soft offers a playing area divided into two parts: that's in these two zones that players' vessels will evolve. Each one have five hearts at the beginning of each round, and it's going to be about kicking the opponent's ass very hard to win. The principle definitely calls to mind Puzzle Bobble: here, we are controlling our little character while enemies come from the top of the screen. The more you destroy, the more you generate new enemies in your rival's area. It's possible to make 'chain combos', ie to blow mobs through an exploding chain reaction, pushing the 'Hit Counter'... and necessarily, the power of the attack you send to your opponent. Attacks can also be countered (reversal), causing impressive ping-pong games... and believe me, it's often quite a mess on the screen. Three game modes are offered: "character mode" allows to play against the CPU with the thirteen characters; in the "competitive mode", it's the same, but two human players face each other. In these modes, the game requires two winning rounds to win. The "story mode" is a bit different, since you can only play Load Ran, the heroine,  and games are played over one round.

Every characters of TSS offers a different way to play, and the least we can say is that these heroes are cute and colorful! Mevious, for example, is the villain of the game: he's a vampire-sorcerer with blue hair, who can summon bats... Monja-Nanja are a band of completely farfetched hairballs. There's also Load Ran, the heroine of the game, and Dark Ran, her evil twin... and some other figures worthy of the best 'kawaii' mangas. The gameplay is more technical than it looks, because in addition to the art of dodging proper to every Shoot them Up, you'll have to make strategies in order to achieve the biggest 'combos'. To basic shooting attack are added 'charge' attacks: the more you kill enemies, the more the Power gauge (at the left-bottom of the screen) fills, on three levels: by depressing the A button, you launch these overpowered attacks. The maximum level triggers the Boss Attack: you simply send your Boss to your opponent! Players also have special bombs to get out of difficult situations (B button). Good news, the hitboxes are small and almost all the characters are fast and handy.

The ADK teams provide a brilliant demonstration of their talent and mastery of the machine, regarding the realization of Twinkle Star Sprites. Declined in a simplistic manga-style with nice pastels, the game's graphics are beautiful, with background and enemies not too diverse (only six worlds), but all cute and good-looking. The animation is also a strong point, offering flawless fluidity and a perfectly set game speed, alas marred by a few slowdowns when the screen is loaded with hundreds of sprites. Nevertheless, these are useful when the action is getting intense! As for the musics, those fit particularly well with the graphics, based on groovy and catchy J-pop themes. The teams who realized TSS were talented and inspired, no doubt about that. Alpha Denshi signs here one of its most successful titles on the Neo Geo, combining the originality of a totally new and ultra-fun gameplay, with a pretty remarkable realization.



In a simplistic 'kawaii' style totally assumed, TSS features well-drawn and colorful graphics, with nice intermediary screens.
Sprites are nicely animated, scrollings are fast and the action intense, so much that it sometimes generates a few slowdowns.
In a groovy J-Pop muscial style, the soundtrack fits perfectly with the graphics and action. Effects are great too.
The game packs a cute and hard enough story mode, but above all an addictive VS mode: thirteen characters to have fun, this promises endless games!
Twinkle Star Sprites inaugurates a new and original way to play, mixing Pop'n'TwinBee and Puzzle Bobble: the interaction between players and the technicity of the game are great, plus the game packs a good room for improvement.



A cute and taking Shoot them Up, offering a brand new and excellent way to play. Its two-player mode is addictive and fun, offering an almost infinite replay value.


Out of reach for a majority of players, Twinkle Star Sprites recently passed the thousand euros psychological barrier. It's a very good game, not doubt about it, but really overpriced. It's hard to find an alternative, this one being the only one of its kind!

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