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Thunder Force II (Genesis) artwork

Thunder Force II (Genesis) review

"TechnoSoftís Thunder Force series of shooters has gained much renown over the years as one of the shining stars of the genre. Combining fast-paced, twitchy action with a few diabolically difficult memorization sections, these games have proven capable of challenging virtually every skill a veteran player may have developed. "

TechnoSoftís Thunder Force series of shooters has gained much renown over the years as one of the shining stars of the genre. Combining fast-paced, twitchy action with a few diabolically difficult memorization sections, these games have proven capable of challenging virtually every skill a veteran player may have developed.

Thunder Force II challenged my self-control ó as in, ďcan I fight the overpowering urge to turn my Genesis off?Ē

Sad to say, the first two or three times I started this elderly game (released in 1989), I seemed a bit lacking in willpower, as my finger stabbed the power button within mere moments. Donít blame me ó blame the horribly-designed overhead levels that all but suck every last drop of fun out of Thunder Force II. You see, the gameís four side-scrolling stages range from ďdecentĒ to ďOH MY GOD, CAN THIS BE ANY MORE AWESOME??!!Ē, but itís hard to focus on them when youíre constantly confronted with the realization that youíre only minutes from getting tossed back to another lousy overhead level.

The objective of these stages is simple: destroy four bases, a process that is achieved by wiping out a large, centrally-placed gun. That would be a relatively simple process, as very few of the foes in these levels are particularly imposing, except the control flat-out sucks. The screen scrolls in all four directions with you and you can never slow down or stop your ship, forcing you to constantly tap buttons and fidget nervously with the controls, knowing that one tiny lapse of attention could send you directly into the path of enemy fire or (more embarrassingly) into a wall or other obstacle.

By the time youíve reached the third overhead level (the fifth stage, overall), youíll likely notice that the programmers decided you needed a new challenge ó destructible walls. Thatís all well and good, except for how they regenerate the second you scroll off the screen, forcing you to tap-tap-tap your control pad, being careful to not let your ship actually move more than three inches away from the lethal walls youíre attempting to blast through. While also keeping an eye out for the legions of enemies that are quite fond of popping onto the screen from out of thin air. Have I mentioned how I really dislike these stages, yet?

Well, I did sort of like the fourth overhead stage to a degree, but that had more to do with the way it was presented than any actual improvements to the gameplay. Set above ancient ruins, this level has cool-looking foes like bullet-spewing statues and skittery insect-like things, which made things a bit less of a chore for me. Donít get me wrong ó this level was still pretty boring and tedious in comparison to the superior side-scrolling ones, but it was better than the other top-down offerings.

But I forced myself to get through those overhead stages just so I could experience the part of Thunder Force II thatís truly worth playing ó those four horizontally-scrolling levels! While the first couple may not have been overly exceptional (but still were pretty cool), the final two almost proved sufficient to make up for all this cartís flaws. These stages bestowed a challenging, yet exhilarating, joyride that took everything I had to get through.

I found myself needing to sneak past indestructible moving platforms while dodging bullets sprayed by enemies crawling on the ceiling and ground of a desert-like base in the first of these levels. But that was mere childís play as the final, diabolically difficult side-scroller taught me. As you fly through what appears to be one of those ruins you were jetting over in the previous overhead stage, youíre confronted with death traps, high-speed sections and enough enemies to cause permanent nerve damage in your trigger finger.

If itís your first time in this level, get used to dying because itís assured youíll get caught unaware by some of this levelís tricks and traps. Maybe it will be when missiles and lasers rain down upon you as you attempt to scamper through a particularly frenetic stretch. Maybe it will be when the scrolling suddenly comes to a stop...and changes direction, likely catching you in a no-win situation. Maybe it will be near the end of the level, when the screen moves at a blistering pace. Only one with perfect knowledge of the terrain (as well as incredible reflexes) will survive this area to reach the levelís boss.

And even those attributes may not be enough to win that battle. While itís not the final encounter (there still is one more overhead stage to follow), it is one of the most difficult bosses Iíve ever struggled to beat. Initially, this giant ship starts out looking like a pushover, but as you start smashing bits and pieces of it, things get a lot tougher. By the time youíre able to attack the core of this foe, it will be emitting a non-stop stream of lasers ó a challenge that only the best will be able to overcome.

But is it a challenge worth the trouble to reach? Itís hard to recommend Thunder Force II solely on the majesty of those final two side-scrolling levels, especially when so much of the remainder was so bland and mundane (if not downright annoying). And itís not like this game even has much in the way of eye candy to distract from its flaws ó heck, a couple of the overhead stages barely look better than certain NES and Master System offerings.

Really, the only things Thunder Force II has going for it are those final two horizontal stages and some great music (which tends to pop up during the side-scrolling parts). Of course, if you want some good stages with nice music, just pick up Thunder Force III or IV for the Genesis. Youíll get more great stages, theyíll look better AND you wonít have to put up with any of that overhead foolishness!

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (June 08, 2005)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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