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Thunder Force
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Thunder Force III
Thunder Spirits
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Thunder Force III (サンダーフォースIII) - Genesis, Saturn (1990)

Japanese Cover

Gold Pack 1 Cover

For Thunder Force III, Technosoft decided to abandon the overhead stages of previous games and convert exclusively to the horizontal scrolling format. At the beginning of the game, you fly to five different planets and the game gives lets you choose your starting area. After all the planets are cleared, you fight the battleship Cerebus and move on into ORN's base. While scrolling up/down/diagonally on occasion, the game essentially plays the same as the side scrolling stages in Thunder Force III, except for some significant changes which carry into later installments. When you die now, you only lose the weapon you were using at the time (sans the defaults Twin Shot and Back Shot). You get less extra weapons than in the previous game, and they tend to be either very strong or very weak. You can now also adjust the speed of your ship at the press of a button.

Thunder Force III (Genesis)

At the time of its release, Thunder Force III turned a lot of heads with its graphical prowess, especially from the famous wavy fire background effect of the Gorgon planet. There's also neat parallax scrolling of the ice planet Ellis and trance inducing waterfalls towards the end of the rocky planet Haides. Technosoft really started hitting their stride with the Genesis music-wise, and as a result, the soundtrack in Thunder Force III is very well done, mainly containing catchy, melodic, level music along with frantic, tension building boss themes. One song in particular, planet Hydra's "Back to the Fire," was pretty much an anthem for those who played the game to death back in the day.

Thunder Force III (Genesis)

The game's one major shortcoming is that it's rather easy, as extra lives are given out like candy and stronger weapons like the Sever laser can finish bosses in mere seconds. After a couple of plays, strolling through the game probably won't be much of a problem, even on a singe credit. Still, Thunder Force III is a fun game to dig up and play though every now and then, and probably the most accessible to newcomers to the series due to it being the easiest and most fundamental as to what Thunder Force is all about. The default high score is 68000, may be a tribute to the Genesis CPU, or maybe a farewell to the X68000. As mentioned Thunder Force III was included with the Thunder Force Gold Pack 1 for the Saturn.

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  • Osamu Tsujikawa

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Thunder Force III (Genesis)

Thunder Force III (Genesis)

Thunder Force III (Genesis)


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Thunder Force AC / Thunder Spirits (サンダースビリッツ) - Arcade, SNES, Saturn (1990)

American SNES Cover

Gold Pack 2 Cover

Japanese SFC Cover

Thunder Force III was apparently so popular that shortly after it's release, Technosoft modified the game and released it in the Japanese arcades as Thunder Force AC. However, they removed the ability to choose a starting stage and took out two of the levels, Haides and Ellis, entirely. In their place are a level of deep space ruins and a temple stage rehashed from Thunder Force II. Since the game runs on arcade hardware, the graphics are enhanced a little. The music, while still decent, doesn't quite sound as good as the Genesis counterpart. There is one exclusive song that sounds pretty cool, however, and it later shows up as an Omake track in Thunder Force IV. The difficulty is also pumped up a bit and autofire is disabled, making it not quite the breeze-through that Thunder Force III was. For some reason, the status bar has been moved from the top to the bottom of the screen, which feels really, really weird coming from the original.

Thunder Spirits is a SNES port of Thunder Force AC, which brings a few slight changes. The Cerebus stage has been changed to feature a completely different battleship with an extra boss tacked on, and the final stage is a bit different as well. The game looks nice and does a fairly good job of reproducing Thunder Force AC's graphical effects, but unfortunately, the game slows down frequently because of the SNES' slower processor. Ironically, sound quality also takes a hit despite the theoretically superior SNES sound chip. It's not a terrible port, but there's little reason to prefer it over Thunder Force III or the Thunder Force AC. At least it brings back the autofire, although that needs to be enabled in a hidden menu.

Thunder Force Gold Pack 2 is the same deal as the first one, but contains Thunder Force AC alongside Thunder Force IV.

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  • Toshiba-EMI (Japan)
    Seika (US)

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Thunder Force AC (Arcade)

Thunder Force AC (Arcade)

Thunder Force AC (Arcade)

Thunder Force AC (Arcade)

Thunder Force AC (Arcade)


Comparison Screenshots


Thunder Force IV (サンダーフォースIV) / Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar - Genesis, Saturn (1992)

European Cover

American Cover

After the success Technosoft had with Thunder Force III, they decided to up the ante with the next installment, and push the Sega Genesis to its limits. The results of their labor cumulated with the release of Thunder Force IV (known in the States as Lightening Force), which is commonly regarded as the apex of the series.

Graphically, Thunder Force IV is easily the best looking of the Genesis Thunder Force installments, and one of the best looking Genesis games altogether, employing some awesome effects to wow the player, such as those seen in the striking parallax heavy first stage. Exclusive to this game, many of the stages span heights greater than a single TV screen, giving you wider areas to maneuver around and a sense of vastness from where you're flying. The graphical effects are so high that occasionally it becomes a bit too much for the Genesis to handle and the game suffers from noticeable slowdown at times. Music wise, to call Thunder Force IV's soundtrack great is an understatement. As far as Genesis soundtracks go, Thunder Force IV's is one of the best on the system from both an artistic and technical standpoint, standing among greats such as Streets of Rage 2, and further demonstrating the masterful skill Technosoft had at handling the Genesis sound chip. It's basically a combination of fast paced, guitar driven, power rock themes, such as the ass kicking intro and boss themes, and more reserved, laid-back, jazzier themes, like "The Sky Line" in stage 3. As an added bonus, beating the game and then going into the config menu allows you to access some nice Omake tracks.

The gameplay for the most part remains unchanged from Thunder Force III, with a few slight modifications. Like in the previous game, you get choose where you want to start, but now you can pick the order of the first four stages. The standard Thunder Force weapon system also returns, but the weapons are very balanced here, as each one has their advantages and drawbacks depending on the situation. After the game's halfway point, you get the ability to use Thunder Sword, a devastating frontal lighting attack. The two requirements for using it is to have CLAWs and to wait for it to charge by refraining from firing. After a few seconds, the Thunder Sword will charge to full power, however it can be fired beforehand to discharge a lesser blast. The drawback to using the Thunder Sword is that it leaves you vulnerable while you wait for it to charge, and it has major recoil, so you can very easily smack into something behind you if your not careful.

Despite your impressive arsenal, the game is very challenging, much harder than Thunder Force III. You'll no doubt be dying frequently during attempted playthroughs as the game can lay it on you pretty hard. On top of that, the bosses aren't pushovers this time around, and the harder ones can take quite a beating before they finally go down. While difficult, the game is beatable. Its just a matter of memorizing the enemy patterns, learning where to position your ship, and finding the best weapon to use in various sections. It will take some replays to figure all this out, but the game is long and fulfilling enough to keep you playing. Without question, this is one of the must play shooters on the Genesis. Other than the title change (and the moronic misspelling of the word "lightning"), the American version has a bug in the options screen that grants you 99 lives if you set your ship count to zero.

On the Saturn Gold Pack 2, Thunder Force IV has the added bonus removing the slowdown problems which sometimes plagued the Genesis version. It also contains a neat bonus for those skilled enough to beat it on one credit - the ability to play as the Thunder Force III ship. On the other hand, it also suffers from slightly degraded sound.

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  • My Home Papa

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Thunder Force IV (Genesis)

Thunder Force IV (Genesis)

Thunder Force IV (Genesis)


Additional Screenshots


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Thunder Force III
Thunder Spirits
Thunder Force IV

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Thunder Force VI

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