Genre: Shmup Developer: Toaplan Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1990
Toaplan’s shmups of the late ’80s and early ’90s were mostly ported onto the Genesis by different companies, yet many gamers don’t know that Sega itself ported two Toaplan shooters onto the 16-bit hardware: The more popular Truxton and the lesser known Twin Hawk. The latter, which was only released in Japan (as Daisenpuu) and Europe, was one of the more distinct shooters from the famous shmup company. By not following most of the genre standards of the time, Twin Hawk can be a very interesting experience indeed. While I do have to admit that more people prefer Truxton, this one is just too special to disregard.
Twin Hawk shouldn’t be too difficult to play, A or C is your fire, and B is the bomb/squadron call. Squadron call you might ask? One of the special features of Twin Hawk is that you can call out a backup squadron (by pressing B) and have them fire at the enemy with you. Having six planes to assist you is great when there are a lot of enemies onscreen. Now, the extra planes won’t last forever because they can crash if they’re shot. Another special feature is that a crashing plane will commit kamikaze. That’s right; it’ll crash into an enemy in order to destroy them completely. While the squadron is still alive, you can discard them by pressing the B button again (and thus they’ll all crash or try to commit kamikaze). With the B button you can also release a bomb attack. Press B and you’ll see the squadron move into formation. During the formation press B again and you’ll release a bomb attack (it’ll do good damage, but the range is small).
The power up system in Twin Hawk is slightly interesting. A colored truck or boat will appear on the screen from time to time. The color of the truck or boat can tell you which power up icon is holding. Green is for 1000 points, Orange is for fire power up, White is for extra bomb/squadron call, and blue is for a 1UP. If you destroy the green truck or boat, you’ll simply receive the 1000 points. But if the truck or boat is a different color, you’ll not only have to destroy it, but you must also catch the icon from the top of the screen (the icon depends on color of the truck or boat).
What Twin Hawk will be remembered for in the shmup community is its unorthodox gameplay. Just about every shmup of this type has both air and ground enemies, a boss in each stage, and more than five stages. Twin Hawk is totally different by having only ground-based enemies, no boss when the stage ends, and only four stages (but there are two loops so stages 5-8 is just 1-4 but a lot harder). All the enemies, like I said before, are all ground-based and are mostly tanks. The tanks all follow a very interesting formation (famous with Toaplan shmups). They can come from the top of the screen, the bottom, or from the sides. If you’re fighting a major enemy, during the battle tanks can come from the bottom of the screen and try to destroy you when you’re already in a middle of a fight. Not only this is annoying, but this makes the game harder. Also, a mini boss appears in certain areas of the game. The first major one will appear in the middle of stage two, and they are tough to destroy because tanks are also coming from the behind. So I guess you could say that Twin Hawk is different when it comes to the gameplay aspect.
While the gameplay is all high and mighty, everything else is average. The graphics are very average indeed, with a medium amount of animation on screen, and the stage designs are only moderately interesting. Seeing the backup squadrons doing their kamikaze attacks is a cool touch, but you’ll mostly see the same enemies again and again, so the creativity in the ship/enemies design is average. Like the graphics, the sound is also mediocre. The effects are nothing to talk about really, just simple shots and explosions. The music is going to be a hit and miss with some because there are only four tracks in the whole game (and they can be annoying at times).
The unorthodox gameplay is what distinguishes Twin Hawk because it’s truly unique. I’ve never see another other shooter be so weird in the gameplay department in my life (Parodius doesn’t count folks because it’s just graphically weird). Thank goodness Sega was nice enough to port Twin Hawk onto the Mega Drive, because they did a good job with it. While Truxton is a little better in presentation, Twin Hawk wins in regard to gameplay. It’s true that Twin Hawk wasn’t released in America, but the import versions are cheap and common. I would recommend the Japanese version because of the better packaging and because it doesn’t have regional lockout. For less than $10 you can purchase Twin Hawk (it might cost a little more for the Japanese version), and that’s a good deal indeed.
SCORE: 7 out of 10