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Retro Videogame: Thunder Force IV

Looking back at Thunder Force IV an old Sega Mega drive side-scroll shooter.

Platform: Sega Mega drive | Year: 1992

For those of you that don’t know, the thunder force series is a series of games that came out in the 80’s to early 90’s. And it came out most notably on the Sega mega drive (or genesis, if you’re from the USA). From what started out as a top down scrolling shooter, later evolved to a side scrolling shooter.

A quick story behind the Thunder Force series; Thunder force is about the Galaxy Federation and their war against the ORN empire. With their leader Khaos; a bio-super computer who has conquered much of the galaxy. You, the player take control of a small space craft dubbed the FIRE-LEO series. Each one having their own iteration. In the 3rd game, you actually defeat Khaos. However as the title of the post says thunder force IV. The 4th iteration focuses on the residual forces & their allies that are constantly attacking the Galaxy Federation. They are named Vios. Once again the federation sends out another iteration of the FIRE-LEO space craft to defeat Vios once and for all.

To me, thunder force IV is an improvement from 3. That being the graphics are better, the sprites are better, the sound tracks are even better. In general it’s better overall. There are more levels than the 3rd one. The 3rd had like 8 I think. Whilst the 4th had about 10. I could wrong here. Just like the 3rd you can pick the first 4 stages in any order. As for the actual game itself.

Thunder force IV – Planet Strite

The game is linear / on-rails. You just have to shoot through the hordes of mobs that are flying at you on-screen. Whilst dodging / avoiding incoming attacks. Whilst getting some power-ups through-out the level. Namely CRAW. CRAW is an upgrade, that hovers around the ship. It boosts you ships choice of attacks; the ship has several of them. The default attacks are: blades & rail-gun. Blades fires in front and rail-gun fires both front and back. This attack is pretty useful as mobs do tend to come from behind. You can also get other weapons; free-way, snake and hunter. However to note, if you lose a life the equipped weapon / upgrades will be lost (barring the default weapons). In the previous games all weapons were lost, regardless of whether or not they equipped.

The 4 stages are: Strite, Ruin, Air-raid, Daser. My favourite and I think pretty much everyones is; Strite. That’s because it’s the first stage, and mostly because it’s pretty much the most player friendly. I also liked the stage music, it isn’t too heavy on the ears. The background really does gives that fantasy type setting. Where you know you’re playing a game. The other stages unfortunately are one-dimensional and don’t offer much diversity. The argument is that these stages had a running theme through them.

Which is understandable during that time period. Where a certain types of levels were pretty much the standard. Like having an ice-based level / world. Though they do get a tad bit repetitive. At the same time I do have fond memories of them. Strange isn’t it?.

The biggest difference between 3 & 4 is the addition of the thunder sword. If you get a craw (I think), hold down the fire button it charges up. It unleashes a powerful beam that can destroy most mobs.

Besides the improvement of the graphics / sprites. Is the music. And boy hell do I have a favourites on these. These are stark different to the 3rd. As these make use of heavy electronic synthesiser, guitar / chip tune. And they are really catchy. The most notable ones are; lightning strikes again (opening), metal squad and stand up against myself (credit roll). Depending on what difficulty mode you play; there are 4 different types of ending music you get.

The ending is very interesting. It has the space craft drifting towards the Oort cloud (basically Earth). Sadly the game ends here. As the last two iterations of the games continued on the Saturn / PS1/2. And they were only released in Japan.

I really enjoyed Thunder Force IV. As it’s one of those side-shooters that had such a fantastic story, along with the gameplay. What really sold me was the music. My god were the music just fantastic. I still enjoy listening to them. Lightning strikes again, metal squad & stand up against myself had dozens of covers, remakes. The best one coming from SSH.

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