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Super Thunder Blade (Genesis) artwork

Super Thunder Blade (Genesis) review

"Entertainment at its finest."

Super Thunder Blade is one of those games I like to pretend never existed, because it's always a bad experience whenever I come back, giving it another chance to redeem itself. The game is so inheritably bad that I just had to say something about it this time. It's almost like Super Thunder Blade was whispering "Review me... revvvviiieeewwww me!" in my latest playthrough. Sega had a good concept here, too: an attack helicopter versus an entire army. Boom, instant fun title! But they botched it, and it's mainly because they were being too ambitious. Like a number other titles on the Sega Genesis, this game incorporates a third-person perspective while using a sprite-switching method to give a pseudo-3D impression. It's barely an issue in titles like Super Hang-On and Out Run, but in Super Thunder Blade, it's very annoying.

The problem here is that the game has lousy "scaling" when objects come near your helicopter, and in a title with an emphasis on attacking and dodging, that's a big no-no. Trying to figure out when projectiles are near you become a constant, irritating chore, especially when there's a wave of them on screen... coming at different directions. And to give players a greater impression of Super Thunder Blade, the development team decided to place a most horrifically-designed level after the first. It's here where the game will likely break most gamers, as all the flaws are not only at their most visible, but magnified, as well.

The second stage is very condensed in maneuverability, meaning there's multiple caves you have to fly in and out of, through small entrances, the insides of which feature a gauntlet of rock pillars, ceiling spikes, and enemies shooting projectiles that are hard to view between the other objects. With the bad scaling, this is as terrifying as it sounds, and then some! That's because another issue becomes noticeable: dodgy hit detection. Mix that with the rough scaling and you truly have a nightmare to contend with, making playing the game at this point almost less about skill and more about dumb luck. Sadly, the hit detection extends into the overhead end-stage segments, when projectiles fling wildly in usually random directions. Some will miss, even though they clearly touched your helicopter, while others actually hit. It's confusing.

Thankfully, there's level select cheats to see the later two stages if the nuisances become too much, but, at the same time, would you even bother after suffering too much during the first half? Especially with the third level being a very bland sea area where you have to repeatedly and easily dodge ships, as well as the forth stage being another cramp design where you have to move around and through large pipes. Entertainment at its finest.

In the end, Sega just picked the wrong game to port to the then new Sega Genesis. We have to be reminded that this was actually a launch title for the Japanese system, the Mega Drive, which explains a lot, really; Sega wanted to flex the technological muscle of their brand new console, and what better way than to show off some sexy pseudo-3D action? Unfortunately, attempting a conversion of the 1987 arcade game was just too grand a task, as the original game featured nice graphics, slick scaling, and smooth movement. Even with downgraded graphics and the exclusion of the starting overhead sections, it was still too much for the Genesis to handle, at least that early on when developers only just started working with its capabilities. They should've just turned this purely into an overhead shooter, as at least they would've had a greater chance of not turning the Thunder Blade name into a joke.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 02, 2012)

When I was writing my Rolling Bird review, I mistakenly called it Rolling Grid. I didn't catch this until I was about to submit the review...

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honestgamer posted January 02, 2012:

This does sound like quite the disaster. I'm not sure I'd want to play such a game from the perspective you reference even in the days of real 3D gaming, let alone on a SEGA Genesis where (I imagine) bullets are just rapidly-refreshing sprites that get larger as they get "closer" and they're coming at you from all sides and... ugh! Your descriptions make this sound like a nightmare.
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pickhut posted January 02, 2012:

Yeah, it's a trainwreck. I wanted to do comparisons to Space Harrier 2, another action-oriented title for the Genesis using the scaling effect, but I haven't played that in ages, so I left it out. Besides, I figured my descriptions on the game itslef would've been enough.

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