Friday, July 5, 2013

Discovery: Stinger, for NES

One of the big advantages of working at a games company involves the high percentage of games that end up on the Free Table in the kitchen. Instead of taking the trouble to list them on Amazon or eBay or set up a garage sale, sometimes it's just easier and faster to leave unwanted games on the Free Table. That's when classic gaming vultures like me can swoop in and look for diamonds in the rough. I don't remember for sure if that's how I acquired the copy of Stinger I found in my stack of NES games in the basement, but I think it must have been, as I'd never played it before. But now I have!

Stinger, for the NES. I always thought that was a picture of a mosquito.
I didn't know anything about Stinger, just that it was apparently a second-tier shmup by Konami. Until yesterday I hadn't taken that close a look at the cover art, and I seem to remember as a kid thinking that it depicted a mosquito or a bee, which would make sense given the name. But nope, that stinger-looking orange glow on the right side of the illustration seems to be exhaust, and to my grown-up eyes it looks more like a spaceship wearing boxing gloves. Isn't that a Twinbee thing?

Stage 1: a cute pastoral scene above a road
Well yes, it is. The plot thickens when loading up the game, because Stinger is a horizontally-scrolling shmup... with small bells that emerge from the clouds, which earn you points when you juggle them. Just like Twinbee. If this were a vertically-scrolling shmup, I'd swear that this was a Twinbee game.

Stage 2: Oh.
After taking a quick jaunt to Wikipedia, it turns out that Stinger is the American version of the second game in the Twinbee series: Moero TwinBee: Cinnamon-hakase wo Sukue!, which means 'Burn Twinbee! Rescue Dr. Cinammon!' I take it that the man being abducted from Konami HQ during the opening cutscene must be Dr. Cinammon, and that my ship (the Stinger, in the American version; a descendent of Twinbee, in the Japanese version) must fly through both horizontal and vertical stages to rescue him. In horizontal stages you can fire an upwards heart that doesn't affect enemies but that will bounce the bells, and after a number of bounces a bell will cycle through a number of different colors that correspond to different power-ups. In vertical stages you don't have the heart shot, but you do have a bomb button to attack ground targets. In both types of stages, destroying ground targets will have different beneficial effects or power-ups. Uncovering a question mark can have one of several effects, or nothing.

Stage 3: Desert, with a question mark icon. The real question is why I'm fighting flying shoes.
As befits a game in the Twinbee series, enemies and bosses are very, very peculiar. I've reached the end of Stage 3 in a handful of plays, and I've already fought various types of food, flying shoes, and coat hangers. Check out the first three bosses!

A slice of watermelon?
This octopus fires his tentacles, and then regrows them!
A... faucet? I don't really know what this is!
It's a pretty weird game, Stinger, but the variety makes it quite entertaining. If I have one complaint so far it's that the horizontal stages seem to go on a little long, and feel about twice as long as the more traditionally vertical stages. I'm assuming that the alternating will continue, so once I defeat this faucet-thing I'll know if all of the vertical levels are as short as the undersea Stage 2.

I'll leave this here, for now. Current record: 458,200 on Stage 3.


I still have not exceeded my high score, but I did discover something interesting. After beating the first stage watermelon boss, a new message appeared on-screen: 'Let's Go Bonus Game!' This began a short segment with no enemies, only clouds, and lots of potential for juggling bells. So that was interesting! It seems you get the Bonus Game after a level if you grab a certain face icon (Dr. Cinammon?). Quite a bit going on in this game!

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