1990’s Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game, Thunder Force III was such a great and very challenging entry in the series that it got an enhanced arcade version in Japan called Thunder Force AC, which has now come back as the latest SEGA AGES release on Nintendo Switch ($7.99). It’s a game I used to play along with a ton of other space shooters on the Genesis as well as developer M2’s second enhanced port of a Thunder Force title (Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar) that’s a must-buy.
You get a flawless version of the game with the new ability to play with three other ships from other titles in the series (you’ll need to play a bit to get to three of them), and the game is another example on a fine example of M2 making a good game even more stellar on Nintendo’s platform. At the time it was released, the game was quite the spectacle with its parallax scrolling, some fancy warping effects, plus a few other neat visual tricks. Oh, and the music was (and is) perfection and thankfully, you get a music player function in this version.
These days it’s a time capsule of tight gameplay from the past that captures the feel of an era where space shooters were trying hard to be the best on whichever console they appeared on. Thunder Force III was so good it not only appeared with changes in arcades in Japan as Thunder Force AC, the arcade version was ported with a few tweaks to the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo as Thunder Spirits (and I’d say the music is a bit weaker sounding in that version, but that’s my Z80 bias speaking out).
Anyway, you get the arcade version in two forms (Old and New), adjustable difficulty, a “Kids Mode” where you don’t lose weapons when you lose a ship, online leaderboards, the ability to watch other’s high score replays, ans the usual set of Sega Ages visual features. There’s even a Japanese arcade cabinet visual treatment, but you might want to play that docked, as it shrinks the image to a teeny one in handheld mode. The game demands precision as the enemies and later, environments are quite hazardous to your spaceship’s health.
Overall, the game is still an enjoyable classic that stands the test of time. You’ll likely blow through it in about a half hour of you’re good, but the point of games like this was and is to replay them to better your overall score. The leaderboards have some mighty impressive runs to pore over, so it’ll be up to you if you want to get up there with some truly skilled players or just dip a toe into this for fun and pure nostalgia, which is here in spades.
It’s too bad more of Tecnosoft’s work seems to not be in the cards in the future for M2, but whatever they work on for SEGA next will be definitely worth a look. Recommended.
Score: A (90%)
-Review code provided by SEGA