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Thunder Force III (Genesis) artwork

Thunder Force III (Genesis) review

"Amazingly, on a system inundated with side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, TFIII managed to shine. Critics, shooter fanatics, and casual players alike, found common ground with this cartridge."

Technosoft's Thunder Force series gets better with each successive release. Thunder Force II was once considered a classic by many, but detractors see its overhead levels as an unnecessary evil that degrades a game packed with intense side-scrolling stages. Thunder Force III corrected that little problem, and then some.

Amazingly, on a system inundated with side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, TFIII managed to shine. Critics, shooter fanatics, and casual players alike, found common ground with this cartridge. Sure, the music is particularly memorable, especially the default opening level theme, and the music that accompanies the aquamarine annihilation that is usually level three (usually, because the first set of levels are all selectable from the onset).

And the graphics are what really had people talking at the time of TFIII's release. And one graphic element in particular had many reviewers’ mouths agape, astonished at how far it seemed to push the hardware of the Genesis. Witness Gorgon, and if you are a fan of the system, pride will be an overwhelming emotion, lurking immediately behind awe. This level features a simple enough landscape, dressed up with an undulating canvas of flames, at once raging and hypnotic. It remains one of the greatest scenes I have observed on the Genesis.

TFIII's excellence is about much more than one level, one helping of eye candy, however. There is Seiren, the aforementioned water stage, which features areas with whirlpool-like effects that pull your ship out of control and often into danger. Haides is fraught with moving platforms of rock that fall and rise resolutely to crush your spacecraft. A simply drawn, yet oddly beautiful Ellis, composed of blue sky and blue ice, holds crystalline fingers that long to spear you, retracting only when a barrage of bullets is your response. These levels are all paper-thin in appearance, as if vibrant character cut-outs were pasted upon a starkly coloured painting realized on construction paper. The result is a simplistic beauty that you will either embrace, or reject, depending on your aesthetic sensibilities.

But where TFIII really takes off – separating itself from a glut of generic me-too Genesis shooters – is in how it plays. Having seven weapons that can all be collected and simultaneously kept onboard adds a measure of strategy to a genre often lacking it. If you are about to die while using your favorite weapon - say the Hunter – you can switch quickly to the standard issue twin shot to avoid this loss. Then, as you respawn at exactly the point of death, your Hunter will still be selectable from your ship’s cache of weaponry. The seven weapons can each be powered up threefold with options called Claws that orbit your craft, both augmenting your arsenal and protecting it from smaller enemy bullets. A shield is also available to you, and with it, and both craws and a decent weapon, you will become inordinately powerful.

Perhaps too powerful. And that would be the main weakness inherent in TFIII's design. Having not played the game for an extended period of time before making my pre-review blast-through, I still seldom crashed, needed none of the copious continues on offer, and finished the game with eight ships in reserve, all in approximately thirty minutes. Certainly the awesome, creatively conceived bosses, deserve to last longer than ten seconds each when confronted. The overly considerate difficulty curve is a drawback to those seeking a shooter with teeth, but there is a hidden option available at the title screen that unlocks Hard and Mania levels of difficulty that should mollify these players.

Interestingly enough, many other shooters that can be beaten this easily, are not remembered with the same fondness – reverence, even – that TFIII is. Those games are looked upon with indifference, conjuring up images of players blasting through them and then tossing them into some closet of forgotten cartridges never to be given another thought – truly disposable titles in every sense of the phrase.

This is not the case with Technosoft’s quick, engaging, yet too-easy interstellar battle. It manages to accomplish the nearly impossible feat of being a pushover with panache; a universally accessible romp with intense stretches and pretty 16-bit presentation to hold your interest. You won’t fall asleep playing it, but you certainly won’t break your controller either. It manages to impart an inexorably likable personality upon those who play it even for a short time. Give Thunder Force III more time, crank up the difficulty, and this feeling will only intensify.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (March 17, 2011)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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If you enjoyed this Thunder Force III review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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EmP posted March 17, 2011:

Nicely done. AWESOME editing job by whoever your proofreader was, as well.
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Masters posted March 17, 2011:

Baha, I knew I could count on your creative, positive feedback, Emp.
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EmP posted March 17, 2011:

I'm angry because you got to write about the good Thunder Force.
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Masters posted March 17, 2011:

This is the pretty good one.

The great one comes tomorrow. =D

Followed by the very good one. ;)
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jerec posted March 17, 2011:

All the reviews are good ones lately. This is a good one, too. Well done Marc!
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Masters posted March 17, 2011:

Thanks, Jerec.

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