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elvis
15th November 2008, 09:34 AM
Name: Thunderforce VI

Developer: Sega

Publisher: Sega

System: Playstation 2

Release date: October 2008

Note: This is currently a Japanese (NTSC-J) release only. You will either a Japanese PS2, a standard PS2 modded to allow import play, or a Swap Magic kit if you don't want to mod your console.

Links:
http://thunderforce.sega.jp/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Force_VI
http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/thunderforce/thunderforce.htm

YouTube:
YouTube - Thunder Force VI Maniac 35.7 million(1/3)

Review:
Sega Megadrive fans need no introduction to Thunderforce. Owned and originally developed by Technosoft (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technosoft) (also spelled Tecno Soft, makers of great MD games like Devil's Crush Pinball, Herzog Zewi, and others), it was a brilliant series of horizontally scrolling shooters (with some mixed overhead stages in number II) for Sega's 16bit console that presented some really tough challenges.

The original Thunderforce was a pretty lame game, originally appearing on Sharp X1. Thunderforce II, III and IV all came out on Sega Megadrive (with II also on Sharp X68000), and were well received by gamers. There was a "Thunderforce AC" which was a remix of III for arcades (playable in MAME (http://www.mameworld.net/maws/romset/tfrceac)). Thunderforce AC was then bizzarely ported back to SNES as "Thunder Spirits".

Thunderforce V was the game's first foray into 3D graphics (still with 2D gameplay), and came out for both Playstation and Sega Saturn.

Despite being bought out by a Pachinko (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachinko) manufacturer, Technosoft still own the Thunderforce license, and have allowed Sega to make the sixth game in the fantastic series.

I read an interview with the lead developer of the game (Tetsu Okano, responsible for other well known Sega games like Segagaga and Gunstar Super Heroes) and he mentioned he wanted to make this game "accessible to all gamers". At first I was a little stumped by what this meant, but over the last few days of play I figured it out:

Unlike older Thunderforce games, you start this game with a ship that has all weapons available. (5 to start with: a standard double-forward laser, a forward+reverse laser, a wide beam, the weak homing ball, and a self-focussing laser with a limited auto-lockon field). You also get the two "CRAW" (claw?) "options" that float around your ship giving you extra fire power, and absorbing certain types of shots. Not only that, but you're given a multi-hit shield that can absorb certain small enemy fire, scrapes with obstacles, etc. Playing through on the standard difficulty, it took me 2 days to complete the game. At first I was a little miffed by this - Thunderforce is supposed to be a rock-hard game, and this was very easy.

However my initial fears were put to rest. Upon finishing the game with the standard "Phoenix" ship, you unlock the "Rynex-R" ship. This ship is much closer to what was in the old school Thunderforce games: You only get the forward and reverse lasers to start with. All extras (other weapons, shields, CRAWs, etc) need to be earned via powerups, and the weapons themselves are reminiscent of the ones in Thunderforce IV (including the blade). Plus, if you lose a life, you're back to square one with no power ups. Some will find it odd that you've unlocked a technically weaker/harder ship, but this goes back to that interview with Okano I mentioned above: good players will unlock tougher challenges quickly. But at the same time players either new to shooters or not skilled in the ancient art of pewpewpew will have a much easier game to play on their first run through - one that's not nearly as frustrating.

The biggest problem with shmups of late is that they are getting harder and harder to satisfy the hardcore crowd who have been playing these games for the last quarter century or more, alienating new/young players. I commend the Thunderforce VI devs for tackling this problem in an interesting way.

In addition to all of that, the game offers a huge range of difficulty levels and lives. You can set it to "kids" with 9 lives, and literally walk through the game, or you can set it to "maniac" with as little as 1 life and most likely see the Game Over screen on level 1. There are about 6 different difficulty levels all up. By default you get three continues, but the only way to be allowed to enter your name on the high-score table is to not use a continue and set the game to "normal" with 3 lives. This is an interesting way to keep gamers honest, and keep score systems on a standard.

In addition to the two ships I mentioned above, there is a third "Syrinx" ship. You get this ship very briefly on your first play through (the standard Phoenix morphs into it just before the last boss). Should you finish the game completely with the second "Rynex" ship, you can also get this ship permanently. It's basically just the Phoenix with some different weapons.

As with other Thunderforce games, you can control your ship's speed. While some games make this nothing more than a gimmick (eg: you can do this in Blazing Lasers / Gunhead (http://www.aussiearcade.com/showthread.php?t=12044), but it's almost pointless), in TF6 it's absolutely necessary in some stages. The fire level's boss, for instance, will try and pounce on you. Anything less than top speed means you get smashed.

Gameplay wise this is oldschool horizontal Thunderforce fun. There are some points in the game where the camera decides to get a bit artsy and float around, but it doesn't detract from the game too much. There are also a handful of levels where for a short while the camera flips around and you are flying right-to-left. Fire up the reverse-lasers, and you invert the inversion. A rather odd sensation, but fun all the same.

As mentioned, unlock the second ship and bump the difficulty a notch to "hard", and you're basically at an equivalent difficulty to TF3 and TF4 - something oldschool shmuppers will appreciate. However slap it on "kids" with the first ship, and even the young ones can have some fun.

It's not a long game. You can choose what order to tackle the first three levels in. Then there's two longer levels after that, a big boss that respawns a few times in different configurations (you can see the Segagaga influence there) and then the final true boss. But truth be told, epic shooters are not my thing. I like 'em quick, fast and hard (oo-er missus!). This definitely isn't as long as Gradius V, which can take bloody forever to get through levels.

The graphics are a little under baked. The PS2 is capable of better visuals than this (again, Gradius V is much prettier). But that's not really an issue for me (or most on these forums). Music wise the tracks are a mix of some light techno and a bit of metal/electric-guitar squeal. I didn't mind it too much. Not hugely immersive, but not out of place either.

Overall if you're a horizontal shooter fan, this is a great game. It's definitely a Thunderforce title (ie: it has the Thunderforce "feel", not just the name/brand) and very different to the other horizontal shooters on PS2 (R-Type Final, Gradius V, etc). It's interesting to note that Sega initially suggested to Okano that he approach Treasure (ex-Konami developers, makers of Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga and co-developers on Gradius V, Gunstar Heroes, etc) to assist with the development. Okano rejected the suggestion, fearing the game would become "another Treasure shooter". Despite Treasure's impressive shmup resume, I think Okano made the right choice. This game is Thunderforce through and through, and using Treasure on the project would have made it a very different game, not true to it's roots.

As mentioned, don't be fooled by the initial difficulty level. It's just there so the game doesn't scare off amateurs. Unlock the second ship, jack that difficulty up, and you've got yourself some fun and tough Thunderforce goodness. A recommended title for shooter fans.

paulpeter
8th March 2010, 03:57 PM
Hello Elvis,
Thanks for the Information on the Thunderforce VI I want to tell you something about the game..
This game has a lot to offer. To unlock every thing in Thunder force 6 you must beat the game on every difficulty level. Which means you can't scrub out bonuses. This is a good thing to add on the part of the programmers as it keeps the players honest and keeps ya coming back for more.

Hewitson
11th August 2010, 06:06 PM
Quite frankly I think this game is an insult to the Thunder Force name. The slowdown is terrible. Not even the Megadrive games suffered from slowdown.

elvis
11th August 2010, 08:05 PM
Quite frankly I think this game is an insult to the Thunder Force name. The slowdown is terrible. Not even the Megadrive games suffered from slowdown.
The slowdown is intentional. It's a pretty common design element to a lot of modern shooters.

Although I agree they should have removed it to stay truer to the roots. And they should have made the second ship the default. And made it a bunch harder.