"It's obvious that Sega and the former Technosoft employees who worked on this project still love the same scenes that I loved ten, fifteen, seventeen years ago. That reassures me; my fascination with such details was clearly no accident. For children who have grown up, for people who stopped embellishing in their minds and only accept what's "real"... Thunder Force 6 makes those moments real — no imagination required!"
After an absence of ten years, there was no way that Thunder Force 6 could possibly live up to fans' expectations. Every episode before it pushed technological boundaries, and there was no way that a low-budget revival could possibly continue that trend. I wish I could say that it's easy to disregard the expectations as "unreasonable" and enjoy this shooter for what it is. Unfortunately, the bosses are pushovers, the stages are too short, and Tsukumo Hyakutarou didn't compose any of the music. Worst of all are the "tribute" stages which, instead of recalling nostalgic feelings, mock the memories they're intended to respect.
Screw you, Sega. It wasn't enough to just ruin Sonic -- now you're cashing in on other companies' classics, as well!
Two days later, I realized something: I was acting like an idiot. Anyone who claims to love a series, but judges the newest episode after a mere 30 minutes of play, is full of crap. I don't aspire to idiocy, so I gave the game another chance. I raised the difficulty level by one notch and actually played the game to completion -- and now I love the Thunder Force series more than ever.
When you love something, especially as a child, it's easy to get lost in imaginative fantasies. Thunder Force 3's "Gargoyle" boss may have looked like a big sprite that stood on the right side of the screen and randomly sprayed orange goop, but it was actually a biomechanical goliath that set the jungle ablaze with gouts of flame! Thunder Force 4's space battle isn't just a bunch of inanimate ships on a black background; it's an intergalactic war! Thunder Force 5 gave crazy names and backstories to otherwise ordinary bosses; "Armament Armed Arm" was more than a tank that transformed into a mechanical spider... it was a vicious killing machine that kept being reborn each time it was destroyed!
Thunder Force 6 focuses on bringing those extravagant memories to life. The biomechanical goliath Gargoyle has returned, bigger than before, as "Gargoyle Perfect". The space battle is re-enacted, this time with massive explosions and laser beams coursing between battleships in opposing fleets. And the indestructible machine, Armament Armed Arm, has been reborn yet again as Barbaric Berserk Beast.
It's obvious that Sega and the former Technosoft employees who worked on this project still love the same scenes that I loved ten, fifteen, seventeen years ago. That reassures me; my fascination with such details was clearly no accident. For children who have grown up, for people who stopped embellishing in their minds and only accept what's "real"... Thunder Force 6 makes those moments real -- no imagination required!
The reason I dismissed these wonderful details when I first played the game is because the default difficulty setting is far too easy. The bosses died so quickly that Gargoyle Perfect came across as a five-second joke, rather than a reborn goliath. With a quick visit to the options menu, that was easily rectified. That simple adjustment also made the stages far more challenging; the fire level, formerly decorated with inactive volcanoes, became a raging inferno of eruptions. On the easiest difficulty setting, I literally made it to the boss without pressing any buttons (which is totally unacceptable). On the tougher settings, I had to weave and dodge and switch between my ship's five weapons, which have been drastically re-balanced. The stages are still a bit short, but that's not as noticeable when the world is exploding around you.
For people who beat the game at the default difficulty or higher, Sega has included two rewarding surprises; one is unheard of for a Thunder Force game, and the other is unheard of for any shooter. Both improve the game tenfold.
Fans of Thunder Force should absolutely pick this import up, as Sega put nearly two decades of love into it. If you haven't played Thunder Force before, if you don't have fond recollections of the lava level or the Guardian Knight, it's still worth experiencing. Through insane camera work and a ridiculously high-powered electric guitar riff, the designers even make a dogfight against a small spacecraft -- a small spacecraft! -- feel exciting. Thunder Force 4 is still the most intense, and Thunder Force 5 still has the most epic final boss, but Thunder Force 6 does something no one expected: it makes the entire series better.
Bless you, Sega.
Staff review by Zigfried (December 31, 2008)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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