Thunder Force III (Genesis) review
"One level has a famous (and deservedly so) "fire" background, made up of wavey arcs of flame, swirling back and forth as you battle through inconveniently-placed rocky crags. Oddly enough, despite such a memorable background, the scenery is Thunder Force 3's primary graphical weakness. There are a couple levels with neat effects; however, when forced to impress on their own merits, the backgrounds fail. Some of the coloration is horrid — just look at the putrid green slobbery of the woods."
No matter how you cook it, a shooter comes down to a few key ingredients. Whether a horizontal appetizer like Thunder Force 3 or an overhead feast of carnage like Soukyugurentai, pretty much any shooter can be, and has been, described by someone somewhere with the same standard stock. "Beautiful", "stylish", "great music", and my personal favorite: the nebulous "intense". But do they all deserve the accolades? In some sense, yes: if the game didn't have intensity, decent graphics, or appropriate music, it would probably be atrocious. But when we describe every single shooter in the same manner, we can easily forget that some are far, far more deserving of these words than others.
Graphics. Yes, there are ugly shooters in this world, such as Insector-X. Here's a tip -- Insector-X sucks. Unless you're playing an absolutely bloody awful shooter, it's going to have some decent graphics. How many such miserable titles have you played, honestly? Most of the truly terrible shooters never escaped Japan, leaving us with a plethora of "worthy games" to choose from. They're all good, but they can't all be the tops now, can they? So, let's be a bit more discriminating in our judgments.
Thunder Force 3 is by far not the prettiest shooter out there, not even on the Genesis. Yes, one level has a famous (and deservedly so) "fire" background, made up of wavey arcs of flame, swirling back and forth as you battle through inconveniently-placed rocky crags. Oddly enough, despite such a memorable background, the scenery is Thunder Force 3's primary graphical weakness. There are a couple levels with neat effects; however, when forced to impress on their own merits, the backgrounds fail. Some of the coloration is horrid -- just look at the putrid green slobbery of the woods. Compare it to Gaiares, a shooter released in the same 16-bit era: even today, Gaiares' purple nebula field (with blue blasts of lightning) is still a beautiful backdrop. Also, when judged next to other games, Thunder Force 3's detail is simplistic. Nothing here matches the dilapidated cityscape of Gaiares' Ruins level, with windows visible in every broken building. Instead we have low-resolution, unimaginative drek -- nondescript starfields and generic, metallic "this is a Base level" lattice.
Don't even ask about the parallax. Anyone who has witnessed the scrolls of Thunder Force 4 is in for a tremendous disappointment. When it comes to graphics, part three has a few cool effects and some interesting enemies, and nothing more. And even on that note, the most interesting foe of all is the gargantuan first level firebreather, leaving little to see later on.
Music. Have you ever played a shooter with no music? Probably not. But perhaps you've played a shooter with ill-fitting music. Some games' soundtracks bring to mind a jaunt through space, whereas others are more fitting for a walk through the local clothier.
Thunder Force 3 is somewhere between. The music is fast-paced and melodic, but passive and mindless. It could even be called the "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" of the video game microcosm. Don't get me wrong -- I like Wham! as much as the next fellow, but its innocuousness isn't befitting of the "save the world" plotline thrown at the player. Also, much like Wham!, the music is quite dated in style. If you crave a nostalgic trip back to the 80's (although this game is from the 90's), visit the Route TF3 Diner. If you're looking for something saucier, with a more powerful score, I suggest Chez Gaiares or even Sol-Deace, which takes the same basic dish of pop but adds a bit more pepper.
So Thunder Force 3 has acceptable graphics and music, though by no means the best. What else, what else... yes! Intensity. How could such an important factor have slipped my mind? Perhaps the reason is because Thunder Force 3 doesn't have it.
When I think of "intensity", I think of the hordes of attacking troops in Lightening Force. The swarms of bullets in Sol-Deace. The hellishly huge level leaders of Gaiares. Or the relentlessly diverse barrage of Gate of Thunder. That's not to say Thunder Force 3 doesn't have any action; there's plenty to shoot at. However, the enemies are meted out in a haphazard manner, leaving spots where very little threatens you and other spots where... well actually, the game is never particularly threatening. It's far too easy, especially if you use the overpowered wave cannon.
Although the game itself is underpowered, Thunder Force 3 isn't bad; it can be a fun way to pass twenty minutes. It's just not as fun. Feel free to try this appetizer, but don't pass by Gaiares, Lightening Force, or the newer shooters on more modern systems.
Staff review by Zigfried (March 12, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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