Thunder Force 3
Box Shot
Thunder Force 3
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Technosoft
Designer: Technosoft
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Thunder Force first began on some forgotten home computer in Japan. Its sequel was one of the first games to come out on the Genesis. Now here's Thunder Force 3, probably the most popular of the series (currently in five installments, the most recent being for the Playstation and Saturn.)

Thunder Force 3 ditches those wimpy overhead levels (search and destroy? *PPFFT!* I just wanna blow stuff up!) and goes to the more standard side-scrolling viewpoint. At the beginning of the game, you get to pick your starting level (divided into five planets), which is kinda nice. But once you pick a starting point, you follow through the rest of the planets in a set order. Each level has a typical theme (jungle, ice, volcano, underground, and water.) Once you're done with those planets, you get to fly into outerspace in a battle against the token large battleship, then head in the alien base for the final battles.

The object is to pilot your nice little spaceship (which has a name, but its pretty much negligible) and makes anything menacing go boom. I think most people are familiar with the way these kind of games work. There's some alien menace to be done away with, and you're up to the task.

You start off with five lives and two weapons that you always have: a twin machine gun and a rear-firing gun. You can also find five other weapons by destroying wily little red ships that float onto the screen at programmed points. You can store them up and select any acquired item. Two of them are just upgrades of your normal weapons, but you can also get the Fire weapon (shoots missiles at the top and bottom of the screen), Wave gun (large waves of energy shoot forward) and Hunter (a weak homing blast.) One hit destroys your ship (unless your so lucky enough to have a shield) and you lose whatever weapon is currently selected in your inventory (except for the two default ones.) As an additional bonus, you can also find the CLAW, in which two orbs rotate around your ship that provide additional firepower.

All of the weapons in your arsenal fire very fast, and you'll need that firepower. This is a quick game, and you need to have your brain up to speed. Enemies pop onto the screen so fast, you may not even know that they're there. Oftentimes, you may find yourself destroyed without even really knowing what hit you. Thank God that your next life pops right onto the screen after dying, so there's no having to replay sections of level. That's for when you run out of lives, when you have to start the planet over. The designers were kind enough to give seven continues, which really helps in figuring the layout of each level. Of course, you'll get better as time goes on. You'll get to memorize where the enemies come out, what the best weapon to use is and what position to stay on the screen in order to dodge their attacks.

In fact, a large amount of the game absolutely requires memorization. I swear that some of the levels are unbeatable unless you've played through them before and know what's coming. A great example of this is the underground level...parts of the level often shift upward and downward without notice, or rocks come falling without much of a chance to get outta the way. I know that the impatient will be easily put off by this...I know I sure was at first. But again, with some time and repeated plays, levels can eventually be memorized and conquered. It's a good thing that the bosses are generally easy though...

The visuals don't compare well with later Genesis games. There's very few scrolling background planes, and the graphics are pretty dank. Still, the sprites aren't too bad, and the bosses look kinda cool too. And the flame wave effect was very impressive for its time, though its become almost cliche in shooters that succeeded this one. The music, however, is generally pretty good. Again, it sounds like an early Genesis game using mostly FM synthesis, but most of the tunes are memorable. And in the heat of battle, the game controls very well...the anal retentive even to select their speed during flight, to help manuevering.

While the try-die-repeat sense of the game may be rather tough to overcome, Thunder Force 3 is still a great fast n' furious paced shoot-em-up. There's tons of blasting enjoyment to be had. Just make sure that you have the eye to keep up with this game.