Spirits is the only port of any Thunder Force game for a Nintendo
console. Thunder Force 2, 3, and 4 (AKA Lightening Force) were all
released for the Genesis/Mega Drive. Thunder Force 5 was released
for the Saturn and (there was a slightly better version for ) Playstation
[*]. I have heard that the original Thunder Force was only released
for the MSX, though that's the extent of my knowledge on the subject.
Exceptionally good SNES shooters were few and far between. And Thunder
Spirits isn't one of them. It's not on the shitelist either, though.
If you like the Thunder Force series and own a SNES, you should
go hunt this one down. If you only own a genesis, you probably aren't
missing much by skipping out on Thunder Spirits.
Thunder Spirits is largely identical to Thunder Force 3, both in
terms of graphics and level design/gameplay. The weapon system is
identical to that of TF3 (except I couldn't find an autofire button
- that sucked big time - didn't think to check the config screen,
though). Power-ups and 1-ups seem to be a little more plentiful
than they were in TF3.
Though you can't choose which level to begin on, four of the game's
eight levels are identical to levels in TF 3 (TF 3 also had eight
levels - actually seven and a half - if you care). Level six is
also quite similar to level six on TF3. Also, one of the levels
(four, I think), is from Thunder Force 2 (it was the final side-scrolling
level and had an orangish color scheme - if that jogs your memory),
although the boss this time is the ice level boss from TF3.
The biggest design flaw with Thunder Spirits is its lackluster graphics.
This game looks as if someone just changed a few levels and then
magically recompiled the Genesis code for the SNES - 4 color sprites
and all. The effort to make use of the SNES's graphical abilities
was certainly minimal, and the graphics are probably what kept the
game from becoming popular - TF series fans would probably have
bought a SNES if there was a graphically-wicked partial-port version
of TF3. Other people would have probably become interested in the
series, too. There's no reason for not having graphics equal to
Gradius 3, or for that matter, TF4.
Getting down from the soapbox and putting the megaphone away, I
have to say that the game plays pretty nicely. Sprite collisions
seem to occasionally favor the computer. But, other than the potential
lack of an autofire, there are no major problems with the control/play
system. OK, one more thing - power-ups may slip by unnoticed when
explosions cover the screen. Many are hidden in corners, too.
Earlier, I said that fans of the series should get the game, although
you should also keep in mind that there isn't much new ground being
covered here. That's true. I also think that fans of the side-scrolling
shooter may enjoy the ride, though you'll probably want to test
drive the first two or three levels before shelling out the $5 or
$10 that the game is worth.