Thunder Force III (Genesis) review
"Thunder Force III is an initially impacting shooter. At first thrust, you're hooked; you rejoice in its beauty and it's soothingly comfortable. Thunder Force III has the basic elements of the series that earmark games like Lightening Force with the quality they're synonymous with. You soar through the levels and kill the enemies and advance quickly. The game gives itself to you and is a joy to behold. At first. "
Thunder Force III is an initially impacting shooter. At first thrust, you're hooked; you rejoice in its beauty and it's soothingly comfortable. Thunder Force III has the basic elements of the series that earmark games like Lightening Force with the quality they're synonymous with. You soar through the levels and kill the enemies and advance quickly. The game gives itself to you and is a joy to behold. At first.
The next day you play Thunder Force III, the feeling dissipates. The sense of accomplishment as you curiously progress rapidly in the game disintegrates. Thunder Force III's foundation becomes less adept at buoying itself. For all of the strength it receives as a matter of heredity, it is mired in something a shooter should never retain: loneliness.
TFIII is a horizontal shooter, a thoroughbred affair born of the horizontal levels of its predecessor, Thunder Force II. Its selection of weapons is large and its generosity with them equally as satisfying. This is a futuristic, anti-armada shooter, and you'll be well prepared for the battle.
As with its brethren, any weapon you've collected can be selected by a button press. Should you die, the weapon you carry is dumped and you go back to the default frontal fire. Any weapon held but not active is kept; thus, quite the effective arsenal can be withheld and unleashed. Thunder Force III is fair in these rules; it wants you to be able to deal death, and it wants you to lust in it.
The hunter is an enemy-seeking horde of energy spheres, perfect for dealing death to enemies as you dodge, or as they cower in corners. The sabre is an emission of lance-like lasers, brutal in their sweeping destruction. The wave is a properly-named emanation of large waves which sweep the screen and leave little to chance. Backwards fire is always a possibility, as TFIII sends aggressors behind you as much as towards your face. The collection of weaponry is commendable; so is their opportunity for collection.
The problem here is that Thunder Force III is a very lonely game. Thunder Force III is sparse.
You'll spend more time gawking at beautiful but barren screens than fending off the game's simple enemies. Patterns of enemies come in small, humbled bunches, intent on dying quickly and offering little resistance. Often, you can murder the forces before they can attack at all, rendering the majority of shooting sequences a set of encounters with impotent offenders. Enemies often hobble onto the screen, as if they didn't mean to be there and have no determination of getting in your way. After they're easily dispatched, it's more empty screen as more empty encounters are waited for.
Levels, as vacuous as they are, have instilled in them environmental challenges. The world shakes and rises and falls in the Haides area; dodging the shifting world around you becomes the primary concern as the predictably weak opposition does little of concern. Timing and steady hands are of importance, as Thunder Force III begins to show glimpses of challenge. The floors of the final Orn stage host claws that grab at you, requiring dexterity and a level of prediction in order to progress. Unless you use the hunter weapon, which will seek and destroy these like mere nuisances. Thunder Force III is simply lacking in ways to keep your attention, and this concept culminates in the game's washy boss confrontations.
After stomping through the lethargic levels, initially intimidating bosses arrive to seal the deal. Despite their size, despite their quality of design, and despite their relative ingenuity, their spinelessness cannot be overlooked. The Twin Vulcan, a pair of tanks that orbit around you while firing, is a fresh idea and seemingly challenging encounter. However, it's over in ten seconds if you simply kill one at a time, sullying the experience and diminishing whatever impact its quality initially had. The very large, rooster-like boss of Hydra, as hulking as it is, is simply a joke, practically rolling over for you as you murder it without retribution. Thunder Force III never gets better in this aspect; as far as you can get into it, even the final boss, leaves you feeling as if you've accomplished nothing.
For all of its lack of composition in play, it maintains a truly memorable graphical presentation. It is wide in its palette of color, bright and vivid and deep in its parallax. The enemies are well animated and the atmospheres of different planets are conveyed so that each is singular and remarkable. Most notable, though, are the specific effects which Thunder Force III effortlessly slings about the screen.
In the planet Gorgon, you're treated to one of 16-bit's greatest effects, the swirling backgrounds of the fiery planet. As you traverse the zone of lava and flame, the background dances and swirls in an undulating rhythm of magnetic hypnotism. This persists throughout the level and persists in your mind far after playing the game. The bright, entrancing waterfalls of the Haides zone and the brilliant parallax of the icy Ellis planet are executions of graphical superiority the game is steeped in.
While not of the same memorable quality, the music is a suitable selection of shooter techno. Perhaps sedate in nature, but nevertheless competent in composure, the music plays almost softly and uneventfully as the game unfolds. It is good music, delivered well by the Genesis hardware, but it is never the intense accompaniment a shooter deserves.
Or, at least, an intense shooter deserves, making the music suit perfectly the game.
Thunder Force III is a game of very promising nature; it has a fine structure to it and its mechanics are tuned and effortlessly effective. Its weapon system, control, and nature of offense are well-implemented and certainly fun before the meat of the game is exposed.
Thunder Force III is devoid of enemies and things to shoot; a death sentence for the longevity of a shooter. You can rejoice in its playability for a short while, but sooner than later the reality of its difficulty will dominate its promise. The game is good sulking fare; play it when you can't beat the likes of Lightening Force or Cotton Boomerang, and you'll find your ego swell yet again. Thunder Force III, as it sits as its own entity, is worthwhile as a collection piece or to play through without thought or effort. Defeating the game is more a requisite experience than it is a goal. Moving on will occur soon after, with nothing taken from the experience but the impact of great graphics and its worth in taking up the vacancy between Thunder II and Lightening Force.
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)
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