The game was first released to arcades in 1987, by Taito Corporation in Japan and by Romstar internationally, and subsequently ported to various consoles and Japanese computers.
In terms of gameplay (there is really no story), Twin Cobra is a typical Vertical Scrolling Shooter. Players' helicopters take off from carriers to wreak destruction on enemy helicopters, tanks, cannons, airplanes, gunboats, and so forth. Players have a choice of four primary weapons plus bombs that inflict massive damage within their wide blast radius. The primary weapon can be changed by collecting orbs that change color as they float around the screen. These weapons, and their colors, are:
- Red: Missiles (default).
- Green: Machine gun.
- Blue: Spread cannon.
- Brown: Multi-directional homing weapon.
In 1995, one year after Toaplan closed, Twin Cobra II (Kyūkyoku Tiger II) was released. It was developed by ex-Toaplan employees now working for Takumi (who later produced Giga Wing and Mars Matrix). This game was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1997 as Kyūkyoku Tiger II Plus, with a storyline and a few new things added in.
Twin Cobra provides examples of:
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: The cooperative 2-player mode of Twin Cobra gives the first player a red helicopter and the second player a Palette Swapped blue helicopter.
- Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The Stage 5 and 10 bosses.
- Difficulty by Region: The Japanese version forces the player back to a Checkpoint upon dying.
- Endless Game: The arcade version loops after level 10.
- Every N Thousand Points: The exact number of points required for an extend depends on the difficulty setting.
- Hard Mode Filler: Stages 6 through 10 are the same as 1 through 5 with different, much harder enemies and bosses.
- Spread Shot: The blue weapon.
Twin Cobra II provides examples of:
- Arrange Mode: The Saturn port has an arrange which features a new soundtrack, new enemy color palettes, an added final level with new enemies and boss, and cutscenes between levels.
- Bottomless Magazines: Your regular weapon.
- Button Mashing: All of the weapons have automatic fire when the fire button is held down, but mashing the fire button while using the Red Fang or Blue Masher will increase their power.
- Chain Lightning: Player 2's green weapon, the Binchou Laser. Any enemy that got close to the laser would be fried by a lightning bolt emitted from it.
- Cognizant Limbs: Most bosses have many different parts for the player to target and destroy.
- Continuing is Painful: Dying resets your bomb stock to three normal bombs, and powers your weapon down to the minimum level.
- Cool Airship: The first boss. Once you destroy its connecting sections, it splits apart into a Dual Boss.
- Cores-and-Turrets Boss: You fight two of them as Mini Bosses in the final level. The Final Boss is also one.
- Divergent Character Evolution: Player 1 and Player 2 actually look different (not just being a Palette Swap). Their green weapon also differs- the blue heli (player 1) gets the Thunder Claw, the red heli (Player 2) gets the Binchou Laser.
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: The stage 4 Mini Boss (two wind-generating machines) will spawn tornadoes, which do not suck in the players. If the player touches the tornadoes, they will spin around wildly and cannot attack.
- Dual Boss: The first boss. Once you destroy its connectors, they will separate and attack individually.
- The Goomba: Enemy helicopters fit this role. They shots get very fast later on though, so take them out quickly!
- Law of Chromatic Superiority: Most Mini Bosses and some bosses are pinkish-red in colour. There are also red versions of the regular helicopters- these have more health. fire out spreadshots, and drop stars when defeated.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Thunder Claw, the green weapon for Player 1. Normally, it would fire out a Spread Shot of missiles with a lock-on missile in the middle. If the lock-on missile hit an enemy, the missiles would all home in on that one.
- The first, second and fourth boss love doing this to you.
- More Dakka: The Red Fang weapon that you have. Some enemies also use a rapid spray of shots on the character.
- No Plot? No Problem!
- Outrun the Fireball: How you escape the enemy's base when it blows up. You fly upwards, out of a volcano vent that "erupts".
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Player 1's helicopter is blue and is piloted by a male, Player 2's helicopter is red and is piloted by a female.
- Rewarding Vandalism: Destroying crates and stuff get you stars which you can pick up for points.
- Roboteching: Stage 4's Mini Bosses are two tornado-generating machines.
- Shock and Awe: Player 2's green weapon shoots out an electrified laser that shocks all nearby enemies.
- Smart Bomb: Two kinds, a regular one, and a "powerful" one. If you have five Smart Bombs and obtain an extra one, it makes one of your regular bombs into a "powerful" one that hits for a bigger radius, lasts longer and does a lot more damage.
- Spread Shot: Lots abound. The blue weapon (Blue Smasher) used by the players, Player 1's Thunder Claw combines this with Macross Missile Massacre. The enemies have too many to count.
- Too Dumb to Live: The rapid-fire tanks in Stage 5. They will happily attempt to move onto a bridge between two cliffs... even when that bridge is destroyed. Heck, you'll even see one move off the cliff!
- Wave-Motion Gun: Used by the fifth boss when he's on his last legs.
- Wolfpack Boss: Stage 3's boss, four moving turrets on train tracks. They spew out 8-way bullets (and a spray burst on low health), which can make it painful to avoid all four of them at one go.