Thunder Force II
-Techno Soft (1989)
Eighteen years ago the peaceful planet of Nebula was attacked and nearly decimated from the attack of the Lone Star System. But, history tends to repeat itself and the Emperor of Lone, Reficul, has launched another attack. Reficul is a bold evil space dictator and has docked his mother ship, the Plealos, at Nebulaís space dock. Jupiter Ryder, ace pilot of the Federation, has undertaken the task of eliminating Reficul and his fleet. He is flying the new Fire Leo 2 space fighter equipped with a bounty of deadly weapons.
Thunder Force II is a game with two different shooter styles: free roam overhead and traditional side-scrolling. The side-scrolling stages are pretty good. There are plenty of enemies, some tight spots to maneuver in, and a few death-bringing surprises. The overhead stages, on the other hand, were designed in the worst possible way. You have free-range movement, meaning you can fly in any direction while at a constant fast speed. It may be a little more realistic than the typical vertically scrolling top-view shooters, but free range movement can become immensely irritating. You are constantly turning the ship to retreat and re-circle enemy targets to take them out.
In the top view stages the goal is to find and destroy four bases. You have no radar so you have to use those ageing peepers and find them yourself. In most of these stages, no matter how many times I played them, I could never remember where to go to find one or two of the bases. I would just fly around aimlessly until it finally passed into view. The quicker these stages are beaten, the more bonus points you receive at the end, but trying to find that last base would tend to add minutes to my time.
The side view seen average at first, but then you get to the fast scrolling parts of the stages where obstacles and terrain unexpectedly pop out. The stages have some parts that can only be gotten through by memorization. If you donít pay attention to where and when something suddenly pops out of the ground or ceiling, you wonít survive for long.
It looks like the planet contains many types of terrain, similar to that of the Earth's. You'll start flying over a green area with small lakes and walls that are inexplicably floating in mid-air. The side view stage is the inside of an enemy port with a fairly basic space ship boss that fires balls. The next overhead stage is actually kind of neat as its a city with lights and a few skyscrapers that you can crash into if you're not careful. After the bases are destroyed you fly along a highway against a giant tank. The third group of stages has you cruising through a volcanic cavern and then deep underground where a giant slug awaits. Clean yourself off and fly over a ancient ruins and then inside one of the great temples where creepy eyes stare at you from the background. The boss here is an almost Gradius-style boss ship with lots of lasers. The final stage is next where you take out the mother ship Plealos. The final stage is the most frantic I've played in a shooter. Not only is it in the top-view, but now, since the Plealos is fleeing the planet, you have to contend with an added drift-like effect as you're flying around the massive ship. It is a very difficult final level.
Overall the graphics are good, but sometimes have a muddy appearance and are certainly dated. Everything from the backgrounds to the enemies are fairly detailed, if you have a moment to look away from the action and check them out, that is. The music is pretty good shooter fare. There are also some revolutionary voiceovers whenever you pick up a new weapon power-up that will absolutely amaze you. Ok, probably not, but any games this old that have voices rock.
Thunder Force IIís greatest single feature is the ultra beefy weapon selection. In all there is a grand total of twelve weapons plus claws (they rotate around the ship, add extra firepower and act as shields) and a regular energy shield. The ship starts off with a twin shot and a back fire, a weapon that shoots in front and behind. The twin can be upgraded to a very powerful laser while the back fire becomes wide shot with three shots in the front and one behind. The laser has a different appearance in the top and side view stages. In the top itís a straight blue laser, but once you see it on the side itís two lasers that travel in a slight wave pattern. The side view laser also seems more powerful than its top view counterpart.
The five wave weapon shoots five lager shots in a spread pattern. Destroy consists of three straight fired missiles. Clash is a mess of circles that bubble forwards from the ship. The wave shot has two deadly wavy waves firing from the ship. Mega flash shoots three circular missiles to the front and two to the rear. Nova fires circles in the opposite direction that the ship is flying. Side blaster shoots upward and downward which is handy when maneuvering through some of the more dangerous tight spots.
Then we have hunter. Hunter is probably the coolest weapon in the game and the Thunder Force series. Basically, hunter does what itís named: it hunts all the enemies on the screen, no matter where they are. It may be a little less powerful than some of the other weapons, but it fires off a lot of shots at a time. Hunter is the only extra weapon that appears in all the Thunder Force games.
Thunder Force II has it's moments. The weapon selection is simply awesome and no other Thunder Force matches the quantity of weapons found here. The side view stages are good and it offers up a lot of challenge. The frustration factor of the top view levels can get high, though and may turn off those looking for a fun shooter to blast away with.
More hot Thunder Force action: