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Twinkle Star Sprites: La Petite Princesse
  opened by paleface at 01:54:04 08/09/05  
  last modified by paleface at 12:57:51 08/09/05  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_Vert; loc=JPN]
An update to the old NeoGeo vs vertical shooter (take a minute to digest that if it's new to you) Twinkle Star Sprites, La Petite Princess is a fucking awesome game, and brings a tear to my eye. Really, to see something this goofy and saccharine and absolutely packed with insane action, coming straight to console in this day and age, from SNK no less, is a damn miracle. Okay, so it isn't an original game, but...damn.
LPP plays exactly the same as the NeoGeo TSS, which goes something like this: you and an opponent cruise upward on either side of the screen, shooting waves of enemies as they sachay downward. Some enemies are red, or turn red as you shoot them: take them out and you can cause a chain reaction that destroys the rest of their wave in a bright firework flash. Getting chains sends fireballs raining down on your enemy's side; however, if your enemy shoots them, they'll come back to your side, faster and tougher. BUT if you shoot them back again, they'll become character-specific special attack sprites that follow unpredictable paths and are invulnerable. Danger!
To spice things up, a wave sometimes contains a blue ball: destroy the ball and you go into FEVER mode, where everything you destroy sends a fireball over to the opponent's side. Get ready for fun!
Also, you have a charge shot meter, and can let off a big, character-specific blast to take out a whole wave at once. Shooting more stuff charges the meter, and at full charge, you'll let loose a boss attack on your poor adversary. You can also earn a free boss attack by moving a lot while you get a big chain hit. Bombs will help save your skin when too much stuff is filling your half of the screen.
And there'll be a lot of stuff. This game is mad. Unlike the NeoGeo version, there is no slowdown at all (although there are minor load times between stages), and what with 3D and lots of system memory they've really ramped up the explosive effects and things. When you start Fever mode, a big FEVER banner crosses the entire screen, and when you pop off a bomb, your whole side of the screen erupts in animated mayhem.
The stages look good, too. I'd worried from early screenshots, where they looked plain and charmless, but in person they're absolutely charming, as is the rest of the game, right down to the pastel-colored UI and all the wacky characters.
You get twelve characters to start with, and can unlock three more, as well as the intro to the Saturn version (hilariously naughty pre-teen sexual allusions abound!), and even the NeoGeo version tucked away here in full ROM form. If you can, though, you really ought to get the Dreamcast port of the original (see entry 502), as it allows you to turn off the original's incessant slowdown (duly emulated in the PS2 unlockable, unfortunately), as well as other amenities. Heck, you can't even remap the buttons in this one. Doh. Still, a nice extra.
As for the game itself, you've pretty much got exactly the same modes as the old home version: Story mode, in which you take the main character through a series of six stage battles of escalating difficulty; Vs mode, where you can face off against a chum; and Character Battle mode, where you take any of the characters through the six-stage gauntlet, sans amusing Story elements (there are still win quotes, all in Japanese of course).
So yeah, it's a short game up-front, although I betcha it'd take you just about forever to clear it with all characters on the highest difficulty. Oh man, that reminds me, on the last two stages, the enemies start to get extra special attacks or something, and it is nasty. Also, they are darn good at dodging nearly everything you throw at them. You can dumb them down quite a bit in lower difficulty levels if needed, however.
Vs mode is really where the thing shines. The characters, many of them returning from the NeoGeo version, feel much more balanced than in the original, even though their point ratings in the two categories, Speed and Power, may differ. Heck, I really like the lowest-rated pig girl, who gets massively wide shots to compensate for her low paper stats--and the highest-stat character, on the other hand, has really narrow shots that take much more precision to use. Some characters still seem to have a bit more oomph than others, but it isn't nearly the kind of slanted affair you would run into a lot in the old version.
I've read people complaining that the pace is slightly slower than the original version (leaving out the original's slowdown, I guess...), but what this means in effect is that the battles become much more epic and strategic, as you can really see and engage in the back-and-forth of fireball countering and Boss countering. Don't let the chirping voices, springtime colors and cutesy sprites fool you: this is a hardcore battle to the death that will test your reflexes, wits and endurance to the uttermost!
I can't believe SNK had the stones to make this game in this day and age. They still rock. I'm sure they'll lose money on it, 'cause damn, it is just too good.
Now, if they can just turn this kind of execution toward a truly original title...
  paleface 12:57:51 08/09/05
La Petite Princesse supports online play via the KDDI matchmaking service in Japan. Just imagine the intense battles going on over Japanese internets at this moment! I wonder how it performs online... There is a "Slow mode" option for Internet play in the Option screen, presumably to help reduce the effects of internet latency.
· Twinkle Star Sprites (DC)

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