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elvis
16th February 2008, 08:55 AM
Name: Lords of Thunder

Manufacturer: Hudson (with some development support from Red Entertainment)

Systems and release dates:
PC Engine CDROM (aka Turbo Duo): 1993
Mega CD (aka Sega CD): 1993 (Japan), 1995 (USA)
Wii Virtual Console: February 2008

This review was done on the Wii VC version, which itself is an emulated version of the PC Engine CDROM version. It costs 800 Wii points (roughly AU$12). Standard PC Engine games cost 600 Wii points, but I'm assuming the extra cost came because it was a CDROM game.

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lords_of_Thunder
http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/lordsofthunder/lordsofthunder.htm
http://shmups.classicgaming.gamespy.com/reviews/lordsofthunder/index.html

YouTube:
YouTube - Lords of Thunder (TurboGrafx-16)

Review:

I won't go much into the history of the PC Engine, as I did that back in the Blazing Lazers review (http://www.aussiearcade.com/showthread.php?t=12044).

I'm not going to muck about here - lets get stuck into one of the most amazing things about this game. The music utterly rocks! Load this sucker up in your preferred MP3 player:


LordsOfThunder.mp3 (http://www.stickfreaks.com/music/LordsOfThunder.mp3)

That standard of music exists right across the game. From the opening intro, to the weapons shop and stage select, to the game itself. If you're a fan of 80's rock and hair metal, this game is going to make you want to stand on your couch and headbang (and for a few levels, break out your lighters and hold them high). All versions of this game retain the brilliant music. From what I can tell the MegaCD version has some extra voice content during the intro also, which reminds me quite a bit of the Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star) voice over guy.

But music doesn't make the game. Luckily, this game has the fun factor too.

This is a horizontally scrolling shmup, and the spiritual sequel to "Gate of Thunder" (I've found I have a bad habit of review sequels first). It's classic late 80's / early 90's shooter affair here. No crazy scoring systems, no million different weapons, no insane bullet patterns.

As the game begins you get a choice to tackle all but the final level in any order you choose. This is great news if you want to practice later levels without having to play some of the minor levels first. Although some of the levels are quite difficult without a decent power up first.

During gameplay enemies will spit out coloured gems. Blue gems are worth 5 units of currency, red gems worth 25. Before each level you will go to a shop where you can purchase life, powerup, bomb and shield upgrades. These are quite expensive, and often you'll be left making some sort of a compromise between them all. In game you have both a life and power up bar, both of which deplete when you are hit by enemy fire (or enemies themselves).

Your character has three types of attack: The first is your standard shot attack (auto rapid fire, which is nice when playing on a control pad). Second is a melee attack, which the character breaks out a high-power sword to slash enemies who get close. This happens automatically when enemies are within a certain range, and is the same button as your standard shot. Again, this happens with auto rapid fire, so there's no fumbling for controls to try and switch back and forth. Lastly is your standard bomb attack, which as you'd expect does a fair bit of damage, covers quite a lot of screen, and can take out enemy (and boss) fire. Great if you're a "panic bomber" and only use bombs to save yourself from impending death.

Before each stage you also get to choose one of four different types of armour, represented by the elements Wind, Fire, Water and Earth (hello Captain Planet!). These armours determine what type of shot weapon and bomb your ship will be equipped with. While the instruction manual advises you to choose the right armour for the right world, it becomes pretty self evident early on that one of the armours in particular (the water armour) makes the game a lot easier thanks to it's high power, wide spread, and reverse shot.

The game comes with three difficulty levels - Normal, Hard and Super. Combine this with the four armors (one of which utterly sucks), and you've got a pretty wide range of difficulty levels that you can choose from. With that said, this game is no slouch. Even on "Normal" the game gives a great challenge.

Some levels will require an amount of memorization to complete without getting hammered and/or killed early on. Enemies can appear from all sides (including from behind you), and it's not uncommon to find yourself pinned in a corner, only to have an offscreen enemy pop out and smash into you. While it's frustrating at first, you'll quickly find safer spots to sit while blasting away.

Speaking of enemies, they are quite impressive. The whole game takes on a medieval feel, and the enemies sit with the theme well. There are plenty of bad guys also in large suits of armour out to get you. Perhaps most impressive is during certain points in the game enormous dragons and other creatures will come flying out towards you - some of them as big as the playing area itself (leaving you not much room to hide).

The end of level bosses are huge and tough. The dish out a lot of damage, and many of them have quite small weak points that aren't trivial to hit thanks to their own attack types. Many of them will attack with multiple weapons at once (and sometimes slightly out of sync, which makes finding a patter hard), meaning that trying to maneuver around them AND hit their weak spot will be tough.

Levels are of a fair length (certainly not the epic runs of Blazing Lazers) - long enough to be tough, but not so long you get bored.

All up I really love this game. I'm not usually a fan of horizontal shooters, but this one is heaps of fun. The difficulty (even on Normal) is tough, but not so tough that you can't make a little more progress each time you play. And even if you're a shmup legend, Hard and Super will give you a good fight.

The game is not super rare, so finding it on original console on eBay or other places won't be hard, whatever your system. As mentioned, I'm playing this through Wii Virtual Console, and the AU$12 for the game is definitely worth the price of admission. You won't be finishing this any time soon, and even if you do the three difficulty levels and four armours will make sure there's always a tougher challenge to be had. Highly recommended.

Oh, and the music rocks. Play it just for that if you like. It's worth it. :)

mouser
4th June 2008, 11:14 AM
But it does encapsulate most media and gaming cliches of the time when it was released and stands alone as a bloody good little side scrolling shooter.

Great review mate!