The Sega Mega Launch Titles Part 2 – Thunder Blade & Super Thunder Blade

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Well this is a bit late but I had good reasons. So last year I took a look at Space Harrier and its sequel Space Harrier II, whilst the arcade original is awesome and is a timeless Sega classic, the sequel for the Mega Drive was decent but not as good as the original. And I know that I’m not technically reviewing sequels but this review is the second part of a review showcasing the launch titles for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan…so it counts.

Now today I’ll be talking about the second Japanese launch title for the Sega Mega Drive, Super Thunder Blade. But before we talk about the game I really need to talk about the arcade original. At the time I reviewed both Space Harrier series, the original arcade game of Thunder Blade was never released on consoles. Around Christmas of 2015 I found out that it was eventually re-released as part of the 3D Classics series on the Nintendo 3DS so I’ll take a look at that port first.

Thunder Blade (サンダーブレード Sandāburēdo), developed and published by Sega and was released in the Arcades in 1987.

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You are a pilot in a helicopter and you must gun down enemy planes, tanks and other various machines in order to protect the people of _insert where you live here_.

And that’s it. But there’s much more to this game. You use your gun and missiles to shoot down enemies. At times, the levels’ perspective can change from top-down to third-person. For the top-down parts you can fly up and down, and side to side. The third-person parts are the normal piece of gameplay.

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And this is where the graphics come into play. It’s really awesome; it immerses you in a fully 3D world without being 3D at all, just the Sega Super Scaler engine at its finest. The level design is for its time, it’s not exactly timeless but the way they make buildings and other layouts 3D is still very impressive. The controls (based on the 3DS and I did use a Circle Pad Pro) are simple to use but a bit difficult to master but you’ll get used to it nonetheless.

My only issue is that the game is far too short. There are only four stages, in which I would have forgiven it had I played it in the original arcade machine, but I paid around £4 for it and for my money, it’s quite short. Then again, it is £1 a stage. Though there is a new mode exclusive to this port called special mode, though this only adds a few minutes to the gameplay. And the music, something Sega arcade games are known for, isn’t that great and just doesn’t stand out.

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You do get some features for the 3D classic port. You can use the c-stick on your New 3DS and the analog stick on your Circle Pad Pro to throttle. There’s also a gyro/motion sensor to simulate being inside a moving arcade cabinet…which I never used and it’s something I didn’t like in Starfox 64 3D. But really, using gyro/motion sensor, especially on the 3DS, probably wouldn’t be accurate. The 3D is brilliant and shows off the best of what the 3D can do for even a classic arcade game.

Overall, Thunder Blade is the slow and shorter equivalent of After Burner II, which is probably why it wasn’t the most popular Sega arcade game at the time and even now. But it’s still a great game to play, though it’s something to play in short bursts if you want to get your money’s worth. But if you are of the few people that enjoyed Thunder Blade in the arcades and you have a 3DS, you’re going to love this.

So how would Sega convert this technically advanced game to home consoles? OH! I KNOW! Let’s make a console that’s inferior to our arcade hardware, then we shall have the guts to tell the consumer that they’re going to get the authentic arcade experience, meaning Sega effectively lied to the consumer and these days could get them under scrutiny and no one would buy it in protest. But it was the 80’s and I guess people were less miserable and more laid-back.

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Super Thunder Blade (スーパーサンダーブレード), developed and published by Sega and was released in 1988 in Japan, 1989 in the US and 1990 in Europe.

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So…the game is the same as the arcade game, in terms of what you do in the game is the same…err. Well before I state how I truly feel about this game, how about I talk about modern gaming launch titles and how they’re not so good. Now that I’ve finished that statement, THIS IS THE WORST GAME EVER MADE AS A LAUNCH TITLE AND AS AN ARCADE PORT AND AS A GAME IN GENERAL! And I mean it; this is so, so bad.

So, my issues. The gameplay is completely wrong. Controlling the plane is a load of crap, the helicopter is so heavy and sluggish to control, which is quite realistic, and I guess that’s how helicopters control in real life. And I could accept this…if it was a simulator, this is an arcade game and it sucks. This is also a problem when you try to dodge enemy fire and rocks in caves as well as the passages to get into said caves, you really can’t. Then there’s F^%$ING STAGE 4 where you will always get destroyed by incoming pipes.

This game is so bad and unfair I used a Game Genie to get infinite lives. It took ages to get to Stage 4 due to losing so many of those infinite lives. Then all of a sudden, the code to get infinite lives stops the moment you get to the final boss. Yep, the game does not want you to beat the game unfairly YOU SON OF A B…

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The level design is pure garbage, there’s no 3D-ness to it, everything is flat sprite-wise, from the buildings to pretty much everything else, sprites being placed haphazardly, it’s a complete mess of a game. The music is actually good but the sound effects will make your ears bleed, if you hate scratchy electronic sounds, you will find them annoying here.

Overall, this is simply put, a horrible port of an arcade game, so bad in fact that the Master System and the ZX Spectrum ports much better…and they’re much inferior gaming machines. This is an example of what happens when you lie to people, what happened? I’m guessing that Sega couldn’t give us the true arcade experience because it probably would have been expensive to produce millions of those boards. OR Sega were too cheap and decided to make an inferior machine on purpose. Probably one of the reasons why the console wasn’t much of a success in Japan. Sega was lucky that when the console was released in America and even Europe, they had more games by then.

And despite being a terrible game, it’s in a number of compilations including Sega Mega Drive Collection for PS2 and PSP, Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, on the Virtual Console on the Wii and on Steam. Why would Sega constantly port this despite not being that good? Who knows, probably filler, but for those Sega compilations, this game could have been replaced with one other and much better Sega title like:

Gunstar Heroes
The Revenge of Shinobi
Crack Down
Toejam and Earl
ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
Ranger X
Herzog Zwei
The Ooze
Michael Jackson’s MoonWalker (With permission somehow)
Landstalker: The Treasure of King Nole
Eternal Champions (Actually, no)

So the lesson is…NEVER BREAK OR ALTER YOUR PROMISE and make sure you actually make a game that promises the goods, otherwise it’s going to be Watch_Dogs, Destiny, Titanfall and Evolve…the gaming industry hasn’t changed that much has it.

Thunder Blade rating: 3.5/5
Super Thunder Blade Rating: 1.5/5

Oh, and Yuji Naka was the producer of this game. Well that answers all my questions.

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