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In Story mode, you play as Load Ran with her faithful Rabbicat as they try to find the Magical Twinkle Star and save their world from the evil Mevious and his henchmen. Along the way, she encounters friend and foe alike after the Twinkle Star themselves or are trying to stop Ran from doing so. Free Character mode lets you play as one of the other characters and lets you see what would happen if they got the Twinkle Star.
This is where it gets interesting. Unlike most shmups where players play cooperatively, Twinkle Star Sprites is a competitive shooter where one player is pitted against another or the computer across the screen, where each player has their own half of the field. The game itself is rather short, so its main attraction is in Versus Mode, where players can choose one of nine characters (thirteen, if you count the four secret characters). Players attack each other by destroying enemies and their explosions can be chained together to wipe out more enemies. When the chain ends, fireballs (how many depend on how long the chain is) are volleyed over in varying trajectories across the screen to the other player's side. These fireballs can be shot back by destroying them or if they get caught in another chained explosion. If these flashing fireballs are destroyed again individually, you will perform a character-specific extra attack, but if destroyed in a group of 3 or more indirectly (as in, by the explosions of enemies around it), you will perform a boss attack, which summons a mini-boss to the opponent's field to really mess up their game. The gameplay can quickly get even more hectic with the appearance of a Fever orb (activated only by a bomb or an enemy explosion), which doubles the speed and rate at which fireballs are shot.
Sound complicated? While it's difficult to explain, in play it's actually incredibly simple and incredibly addictive, while still providing a fairly in-depth Metagame. Matches on average last anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes; any longer and you've got two really skilled players. If you're curious, gameplay videos can be found here.
There is a sequel on the Play Station 2 called Twinkle Star Sprites: La Petite Princesse, released in 2005, though it was not released stateside. It introduced a new cast of characters (mostly clones of the original cast), as well as having a few returning characters (namely, Load Ran, Dark Ran, Really Till, Yan Yan-Yung, Memory, and technically Kim) for a total of fifteen characters (Load Ran, Really Till, and the final boss Mikoto are unlockables). The rest of the cast usually shows up in the story mode at some point as a cameo, but were ultimately not playable (Arthur, Mevious, and even the titular character Sprites herself is this).
Tropes used in Twinkle Star Sprites:
- Badass Adorable: Pretty much everyone.
- Battleaxe Nurse: Ryetam in La Petite Princesse is normally very maternal and tolerant. Rub her the wrong way, though, and she goes psycho.
- Berserk Button: The Nanja Monja have a very specific one: little girls in red dresses.
- Big Eater: Memory. Her special attacks are various foods, her Mini Boss is a giant cake, her win quotes are all about her being hungry, and the only thing she wants from Twinkle Star is a ton of food. She's thin as a rail, incidentally.
- Seemly it all goes to her breasts... ESPECIALLY in the sequel where THEY ARE HUGE!
- Brainwashed and Crazy: In Story mode, Mevious brainwashes Memory and orders her to attack Sprites before withdrawing himself because of a back injury. Sprites then has to knock some sense back into her..
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In story mode, Mevious will remark on how many continues you've used up to the battle against him.
- Bishonen: Arthur Schmitt asks the Twinkle Star to make him the most handsome man in the world so he can impress Ran.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Dark Ran asks to have the name of the game changed to Twinkle Star Dark Ran.
- Charge Meter: Holding the shot button until the meter fills up to the highest current level allows you to fire a stronger shot. Destroying enemies without using charged shots increases your maximum level up to Level Three. At Level Two, you fire a charged shot and several special attacks. At Level Three, a Mini Boss is also summoned to attack the other player.
- Combos: Explosion chains are both a great way to score points and stay on the offensive. It can backfire if both players have chains going on and yours ends first.
- To elaborate, the most efficient combo/chaining method is to destroy a wave of enemies by killing as few enemies as possible in order to let the resulting explosion blow up the rest of the wave. A perfect combo is when only one enemy is killed to destroy the whole wave, and this results in getting a bonus in the combo meter, in addition to sending over the most possible fireballs.
- This is made even more hectic in Fever mode, where both the number of fireballs and the speed at which they are fired are doubled. Really, this game breathes this trope.
- Chinese Girl: Meirin, the extra character from the Saturn version. Doubles as a cosplay fanatic.
- Cosplay Otaku Girl: Time insta-changes into a pigbird cosplay and a nurse cosplay, among others.
- Dragon Rider: Really Till, the self-proclaimed rival of Load Ran. Really Ryez in the sequel, Really Till's younger sister, also fulfills this.
- Different As Night and Day: You really would never be able to guess Really Ryez and Really Till were sisters; the only trait they have in common is that they ride dragons and have multicolored hair.
- Evil Sounds Deep: When Ryez is in her Kawaiiko mode, she sounds giggly and high-pitched. When she's full-on Yandere, her voice drops several octaves without warning.
- Good Bad Translation: The English translation for the Dreamcast version is okay, but errors are plentiful.
- Gratuitous English: Everything the announcer says. Can get rather silly when a battle heats up.
- Grim Reaper: If the match passes 100 seconds or you don't shoot for 30 seconds, a Grim Reaper enemy appears and will kill any player it touches regardless of how much health they have. It can be destroyed and sent to the other player's side, but it will always come back and be harder to destroy than the last time until the match ends.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Really Till asks the Twinkle Star to make her a great singer. Her singing is so bad not even the Twinkle Star can help.
- The Hunter: Vieru and Sherry from La Petite Princesse are monster hunters. They also seem to be wolfmen of some kind who ride electric guitars, making them possibly the coolest hunters ever.
- Kawaiiko / Yandere: Really Ryez, Really Till's younger sister. Her exterior is sickeningly saccharine, even for this series, but what especially sets her apart from the other sugar-sweet characters is that she is a total yandere for Arthur Schmitt.
- Les Yay: Time thinks there's some going on between Really Till and Load Ran. Really Till becomes flustered at the suggestion.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Kim/Do Sukebe. Despite this, he somehow manages to get a wife and a significantly less perverted son.
- Magical Girl: In Story Mode, Load Ran can transform into Sprites in order to fight Mevious and Memory. In Free Character Mode, Sprites asks the Twinkle Star to make it so Ran can appear as Sprites whenever she wants. The Twinkle Star draws a picture of Sprites and gives it to her.
- Miko: The aptly-named Mikoto, the final boss in the sequel La Petite Princesse.
- Mini Boss: Summoned to fight your opponent with Level Three Charged Attack or if three or more flashing fireballs are caught in your chain explosion at the same time. Each character summons a different mini boss.
- No Export for You: The console versions were only released in Japan. The Dreamcast version should work on American Dreamcasts, though.
- A Play Station 2 sequel, Twinkle Star Sprites: La Petite Princesse, was featured at E3 in 2005, but SNK decided not to port it because of a perceived lack of marketability.
- Odd Friendship: Ryetam and Meirin are absolute opposites in every way. Meirin is hot-blooded and rowdy, Ryetam is maternal and caring. Meirin is a Pettanko, Ryetam is significantly bustier. Meirin means nothing but good deep down, Ryetam has...a hidden psycho side.
- Omake: The Sega Saturn version came with a bonus disc full of fan-made and official artwork, concept art, karaoke, music, and messages from the characters. Naturally, none of this is available outside Japan.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: Averted, unlike most shmups. Everyone has five HP (and two bombs, while more bombs can be picked up for a max of 3). Fireballs, special (extra) attacks, and boss attacks (or running into a boss) take away three HP. Running into a regular enemy takes one HP and stuns you (though you can't be killed this way, you'll be left with half an HP at the lowest). Furthermore, after running into an enemy, you can bounce into another enemy and take one more HP damage, but you won't get hit by another enemy again until you recover from the stun (however you can still get hit by your opponent's attack, and should that happen, it'll be game over). On the flip side, for every time your opponent runs into an enemy, your health is restored 1/2 HP, and if your opponent gets hit by one of your attacks, one whole HP is restored.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Changing from eight-year-old Ran to fourteen-year-old Sprites. But it's only temporary.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Kim asks the Twinkle Star to make him 3000 years younger. It grants his wish, but he looks exactly the same.
- Rebellious Princess: Load Ran seems to be one. Tinker & Linker ask the Twinkle Star to bring her back home so they can make her do her homework.
- Small Girl, Big Gun: Ryez pulls one out on Time after the latter provides a distraction for Arthur Schmitt to escape.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Because La Petite Princesse was never officially localized nor got a fan translation, the names of the characters can be (and often are) spelled a whole truckload of different ways. The only consistency is that the protagonist's first name is "Time".
- Is her surname Buttermitt, Buttermint, or Betterment?
- Are the wolfboys named Vill and Shell, Viel Ah Ru and Ciel Ah Ru, or Vieru and Sherry?
- Is Really Till's younger sister named Ryez, Ries, Reese, or Reez?
- Are the catgirl nurses named Ryetam and Meirin, Rightan and Maylin, or Retam and Merry?
- Split Personality: Really Ryez, who switches between Yandere and Kawaiiko at the drop of a hat. Her true side comes out whenever she gets pissed and/or when she enters battle/Fever. When she's like this, she'll be prone to using the pronouns "kisama" and "onore," both insulting and demeaning ways to address someone.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Do Edge from La Petite Princesse is the son of Do Sukebe (Kim in America) from the original, and aside from personality is pretty much exactly the same character.
- That One Boss: Mevious can be pretty tough at times as well.
- The Power of Rock: Vill/Vieru and Shell/Sherry in La Petite Princess, two wolfmen riding electric guitars who attack with musical notes and power shred as their bomb.
- Take Over the World: Mevious. In Free Character Mode, he wants tell Twinkle Star to make him the ruler of the world, but his back hurts too much so he asks to have it healed so he can try again later.
- Villain Decay: A rare intentional example. In La Petite Princesse, after his defeat, Mevious works as a lowly miko with only his still-loyal Dark Ran keeping him company. He is not happy about it.
- The Unintelligible: The Nanja Monjas, a group of hairballs with antennae that can only seem to repeat their own name.
- Updated Rerelease: The Saturn version has an animated intro, an extra character, some visual upgrades, full voice acting, and a few minor gameplay tweaks. The Dreamcast version, however, was a straight port of the Neo Geo version with better music and the option to emulate the arcade and Neo Geo's slowdown.
- Years Too Early: Mevious' taunt quote to Sprites.