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Gate of Thunder (Turbografx-CD) artwork

Gate of Thunder (Turbografx-CD) review


"Gate relentlessly rocks hard and intense, whether it's level one's appropriate 'let's get it on' tone, or level two's melancholy 'this could get sticky' tune, or level seven's 'you know what must be done' closing track. Never before have I been so into a shooter, and perfect weapon system and engaging enemies aside, the music lends the greatest hand to selling me on this purest excitement. Pure, because there is no nostalgia at work (the game is wholly new to me), no feelings of collector's pride (I bought it manual-less and case-less), no feelings of being on the cutting edge (it's a decade old). The exhilaration is as genuine as it gets. "



Gate of Thunder arrived in my mailbox some weeks ago. It was the best gaming related occurrence to happen to me in ages. I had other games sent to me along with Gate in that package--other side-scrolling shooters even--but I had been dying to play Gate from the first. All along I had heard of its brilliance from the 'professionals' and I wanted to see if they knew what the hell they were talking about.

They did.

Gate is perfection. Never before have I been so convinced of a game getting it just right. This is what true excellence is--the next shooter I played seemed obsolete. It's not that the game is amazingly innovative--on the contrary, it's as derivative as it gets. Gate looks and plays a lot like Thunder Force III. But it's much, much better. The craftsmen at Red managed to take TFIII's look, of torn, vibrant, parallax heavy skies--and paint them better. They managed to take that game's weapon selection system and pare it down to just three weapons, and convince us that this trio is all we'd need. You won't find homing gun crutches here: just a wave spread, concentrated laser, and a napalm gun (my favourite).

Your first power up earned will furnish you with the cliched shooter helpers, one above your Hunting Dog ship, and one below. It's a small touch, but you'll appreciate the way the helpers actually block bullets--get used to Gate getting all the little things right. The backwards-firing mechanism isn't a small touch, though I managed to complete the game without knowing it existed (it's what I get for not having the manual). But lo and behold, a friend schooled me on double tapping the fire button to effect an about face by the helpers to cover your back. Switch weapons, switch speeds, switch directions, all on the fly without a hiccup. Gate's controls are flawless.

Flawless too are its sounds. Explosions are raucous, machine-gunning in the air as you bring down enemy after enemy. Foes come in all shapes and sizes and offer varied killing techniques: bending lasers, angled lasers, timed air mines, sandworms with crushing pincers--you'll be kept on your toes, suffice to say. But impeccable gameplay doesn't quite make Gate what it is. Everything seems so much better because of the music.

Good music is probably more important to a shooter than to a game belonging to any other genre. The archetypal shooter mission to right what's wrong in the galaxy is so improbable, and so repetitive, that a proper score delineating your grandiose/tedious undertaking is a requirement. The soundtrack has to support the blasting. Your soul must sing as enemies singe. And Gate's soundtrack is arguably the best in a shooter, ever, carrying an already highly polished and competent game to even rarer air. It's that simple.

Gate relentlessly rocks hard and intense, whether it's level one's appropriate 'let's get it on' tone, or level two's melancholy 'this could get sticky' tune, or level seven's 'you know what must be done' closing track. Never before have I been so into a shooter, and perfect weapon system and engaging enemies aside, the music lends the greatest hand to selling me on this purest excitement. Pure, because there is no nostalgia at work (the game is wholly new to me), no feelings of collector's pride (I bought it manual-less and case-less), no feelings of being on the cutting edge (it's a decade old). The exhilaration is as genuine as it gets.

If you manage to buy a Duo brand new, you'll get the 3-in-1 disc that includes Gate of Thunder. If you pick up the system used--which is much more likely these days--you'll have to purchase the disc separately, and I can't stress enough that you cannot dismiss it as a typically lame pack-in. Indeed, if more people had given NEC/TTI a chance, and if shooters were bigger selling points, Gate would rival Super Mario Brothers as the best pack-in game ever. That's heavy praise, but Gate is a heavyweight game--it carries the most ponderous of hyperbole easily on its capable shoulders.

Rating: 10/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (July 25, 2004)

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