Thunder Blade

Developer: Sega
Publisher:  Sega

Thunder Blade was a helicopter SHMUP originally launched for the arcades, it boasted some very impressive sprite scaling effects giving it a pseudo-3D effect. Porting it to an 8-bit consoles seems like an odd choice, but despite limitations, the developers clearly gave it their best shot.

The game is separated into two segments, the first being a typical 2D shmup with all of the previously mentioned pseudo-3D effects removed. This mode is fairly standard for the genre, boasting some near perfect collision detection though I'd argue the player's hit box is a bit too big for my taste. It does add a twist though, you can only shoot ground units with missile, whereas air units are only hit by bullets. This style seems reminiscent of titles like Xevious ensuring the player is constantly shifting between air and ground based attacks. These vertical overhead levels are extremely hard as enemies keep coming at you from all directions and often sneak in a cheap hit or two. This is made even by worse by the fact that there are no power ups throughout the experience.

Upon reaching the halfway point of each stage, the perspective shifts to a Pseudo 3D style (as seen in the image). Here we are graced with some impressive graphical effects considering this is running on a Master System. Unfortunately, is also moves at low framerate ensuring players are given little reaction time to dodge incoming fire. Upon reaching level two, players are also expected to dodge environmental hazards, but these pop up at such an intense rate that soon Thunder Blade becomes a frustrating experience. The lack of a proper depth perception means you'll be crashing into objects and bullets that you thought you'd be able to easily to dodge.

Graphically the 2D style is pretty standard for a Master System console, with the real eye candy being reserved for these 3D segments. Some might feel these haven't aged well and to a certain degree they would be correct, but from a technical standpoint, Thunder Blade is nothing short of impressive considering it's running on a Master System! The PSG music ranges from forgettable to annoying, the issue being further exacerbated by unsatisfying sound effects. 

You can tell the developers gave it their best shot, but this is a case of the Master System simply biting off more than it could chew. Yes the 3D looks impressive but it's not very playable whereas the 2D sections look drab and boring without the Arcade's scaling effects. I suppose they could have added power ups, but then there would hardly be any similarities with the original Thunder Blade.

Trivia: Did you know this game is compatible with the Master System FM-Synthesizer? Of course, in order to take advantage of it, you need either a Japanese Master System or to install a sound chip mod on your western console.

- 3D graphics look pretty cool
- 2D sections can still be fun and challenging

- Although cool looking, the 3D segments suffer from poor depth perception and low framerate making them nearly unplayable
- Could have used power ups in the 2D sections
- The game is simply too hard

Final Grade: D

 (Excuse the glue residue folks)

I have to say, the boxart looks awesome, it's the sort of cover that you'd expect from some 80's action flick while browsing a videostore, definitely eye catching.

Unfortunately though, I don't own the manual so I can't compile a full packaging review.

Packaging score: N/A

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