Thunderspirits - Technosoft

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Reviewed by Joel Schander

Thunder 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.



Level 1 is the same as the Hydra level of Thunder Force 3. This is the Lancer (L) Gun - it's the best for covering your buttside.

The (F) gun. I forget the name. It's for ground attacks. It's pretty useful - If you can hang on to it. If you have Claws (sideships), you get these short-distance mini-wave shots, too.

A subtle hint to let you know when a boss is nearby. Note the Claws that rotate around the ship.

The first level boss. This is the "safe spot," although you have to have incredible reflexes to stay here the whole time. In the end, it's probably "safer" to stay at the back of the screen and dodge what comes your way.

Level 2
This was the Gorgon level from TF3. Note the Hunter (homing) gun in action. The original sine wave background is always cool. The pillars of fire are common throughout the level. They'll come and go away before you have to fly through them (usually).

The twin bosses. The weak spot is at the topside of each mech. Lancer is probably the best gun to use if you don't have Hunter.

Level 3
This was the Seiren level from TF3. It's underwater, so watch out for air bubbles - they will try to smash your craft against the ceiling. Oh, this is the mid-level boss. Strategy? Dodge his fire. :)

The level boss. His weak spot is the "eye" in the middle. It isn't always open (as you can see - blue collisions mean you aren't doing damage - red is what you want to see).

Level 4
I don't know what the theme of level 4 is. Stationary asteroids with grass and alien constructs? Anyway, this is the first level that doesn't appear in TF3, and the guy in the lower left can be really bad news.

The boss. It's a bit slow. If you take too long, it'll charge and crush you against the back of the screen. Oh yeah, this is the Lancer gun. Obviously for frontal attacks.

LEVELS 5-8 this way...


Thanks for that Joel! I remember being a bit disappointed by this as well (I also had TF3 on Megadrive at the time) and thinking what a con it was that I had bought practically the same game with a new name. The different levels made up for it slightly though, but I never got over that cheated feeling. Still, it's a solid and playable game, marred somewhat by slowdown on the machine itself (pleasingly, emulation doesn't have this problem!), and definitely worth picking up if you can get it cheap.

The game is also available on the Saturn Thunderforce Gold Pack 2 under its original monicker Thunderforce AC - together with Thunderforce 4. AC is actually a standalone arcade game, although it does share some levels with the Megadrive Thunderforce III. - Malc


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