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Thunder Force II Review Rewind


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On 01/23/2014 at 12:00 PM by Jamie Alston

Thunder rumbles on the Genesis.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you’re a lover of challenging 2D shooters with tricky level designs, this is the game for you.

If there was one thing that Techno Soft did very well in the 16-bits days, it was shoot ‘em ups.  It all started when they created Thunder Force in 1984. It was released on the NEC PC-8801 and several other Japanese home computers at the time, but never saw the light of day in the US.  The game featured an overhead free-roaming viewpoint and the goal was to destroy the enemy’s shield generators, using your main shot for air targets and the bomb shot for ground targets in each stage. While it’s tough to gauge the game’s popularity from back then, it apparently did well enough to warrant a sequel.  So Thunder Force II was released four years later for the Sega Genesis in 1989, making it the very first shoot ‘em up on the system.

The game’s plot involves a continuing battle between the Galaxy Federation and the ORN Empire.  ORN attacked the Galaxy Federation with an enormous battleship, resulting in the destruction of one of the Federation’s allied planets.  The empire then seizes the planet Nebula from the Federation to house their mothership deep under the planet’s surface. The Galaxy Federations responds by sending a lone pilot to destroy the ORN bases on Nebula and take out that behemoth battleship.

 

What made Thunder Force II unique was its combination of free directional overhead scrolling stages, as well as new side-scrolling areas.  In the overhead areas, you have to search for enemy bases and destroy the core of each one.  The side-scrolling levels require you to fight your way to the big boss ship of that particular area. 

You start off with only the Twin Shot and Back Shot weapons, but you can obtain more powerful weaponry by picking up various power-ups from special small carrier ships.  Interestingly, the overhead and side-view levels have a different selection of weapons. This game also introduced the CLAWs--rotating orbs that absorb bullets and fires its own weapon alongside your ship.  They’re an invaluable resource because things get dicey very early into the game and you’ll need them to soak up the hail of bullets flanking your ship.

 

The game's difficulty is quite formidable, even in the early stages.  While the overhead stages give you a sense of freedom, they can also be your worst enemy.  You'll need to beware of walls, buildings, and other hazards that you can quickly crash into if you aren’t paying attention (or your reflexes are too slow).  Sound easy?  Well, it isn't.  In some of the later stages, you'll have less space to move around; instead, you'll be following sort of a maze-like layout.  You can shoot through certain obstacles, but you need to do so with a rapid-firing weapon, otherwise you'll likely crash before you can clear a path for yourself.

The side-scrolling sections aren’t much comfort either.  You'll be fighting through tricky enemy patterns and constantly dodging volleys of missiles and laser beams.  Also, certain stages have sections where it speeds up, requiring you to maneuver around poles and force fields that suddenly pop up to greet you.  At one point, you’ll even go backwards, then forward again to reach the end boss. The side-scrolling constantly throws you little curve balls like that, which will undoubtedly frustrate some players.

 

There are several powerups that can be collected, turning your ship into a powerhouse of artillery when paired with CLAW orbs.  Just don’t get killed, because you’ll have to start from scratch each time you die.  It’s an unfortunate downer for a game that’s already tough enough as it is.  It should be noted that there are no checkpoints in this game.  You just respawn back on the screen immediately after being shot down.  I consider it to be somewhat of a perk since most games of this genre would restart you at an earlier point in the stage.

The graphics are very detailed for an early Genesis game.  The background colors in some of the side-scrolling levels are a little dull in comparison with the overhead viewpoint, but not terribly so.  Boss enemies can be large and intimidating.  In fact, the final mother ship is so big it takes up the entire screen.  You have to blow it up in small sections. Some of the levels move blazingly fast with nary a hiccup to be noticed.  All things considered, the early graphical capabilities of the Genesis were put to good use with Thunder Force II.

 

The audio quality is generally good, with some exceptions. The music flows smoothly with the game, showcasing some early potential of the Genesis sound chip.  Unfortunately, some of the sound effects are dull; one of them being the dinky "pop" sound your ship makes when it gets blown up.  The absolute weakest is the poorly translated voice work in some of the voice samples. The female voice telling you which weapon you've just collected is a little better, but she still sounds muffled and "muddy".  I also noticed that when you pick up a CLAW, it sounds like she's saying "Gull".  There are instances when she'll announce other power-ups that simply can't be understood. I actually found it be humorous.  It adds to the game’s charm in a way.

 

Techno Soft did an excellent job blending two viewpoints into one shooter.  Strangely enough, this was also the last Thunder Force game to feature overhead scrolling levels, in favor of the side view.  Thunder Force II is definitely a must-own for any Genesis game collector.  It's also a great game to pick up if you're not very familiar with some of the earlier games in the system's life.  So whether you're looking for a good challenge or just want to relive the 2D shooting days of old, you'll find it all here in this well crafted game of reflexes and patience.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/23/2014 at 12:19 PM

I LOVE this game. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/23/2014 at 12:26 PM

Me too dude.  Some folks always complain that the overhead levels are outdated and tarnish the game, but I disagree.  This is definitely a Genesis classic.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/23/2014 at 12:31 PM

I don't think they're outdated at all.  IN fact, I would say more that they are more progressive because they are nonlinear and allow free flight.  Not many other games let u do that. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/24/2014 at 08:25 AM

Yeah, exactly.  I wish that more SHMUPs did that back in the day.

Cary Woodham

01/23/2014 at 07:17 PM

My favorite Genesis shooter is Gaiares.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/24/2014 at 08:26 AM

That's another good one Cary.  I need to play it again.  I never beat it.

Aboboisdaman

01/23/2014 at 09:28 PM

I missed out on a lot of Shumps. Including this one. I just wanted to say you gotta love those Genesis sound effects. I played Ghouls 'n Ghosts recently, and literally thought there was something wrong with my TV's speakers at some parts lol.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/24/2014 at 08:27 AM

Yeah, that sound chip in the Genesis was a beast.  But only the truly masterful engineers could make it pump out some serious tunes and sound effects.

KnightDriver

01/26/2014 at 03:08 PM

Holy bullet hell! Thunder Force is a blast to watch! I wanna shoot holes in the ceiling cowboy style I'm so loaded with excitement.

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