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Matters Of Import: Taking Off With 3D Thunder Blade

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

Thundering ahead?

1987 was a great year for Sega in the arcades – After Burner II was wowing gamers and the previous year’s big hit, Out Run, was still going strong. But there was another Sega game doing the rounds at the same time with equally impressive sprite scaling techniques, and that game was Thunder Blade.

Broadly speaking the game’s a shoot ‘em up in the same vein as Space Harrier and After Burner II, although Thunder Blade breaks up the over-the-shoulder action by starting and ending each level with an overhead section, affording players the opportunity to be wowed by some impressive canyons and towering skyscrapers along the way. It’s important to not get too distracted by the view though as there are plenty of enemy tanks, choppers, jets and even giant flying fortresses looking to take your helicopter out of the sky.

When playing for the first time the only mode available is the arcade original, and as with M2’s other Sega 3D Classics this is just like having the arcade game in the palm of your hand. As we have come to expect from this talented team the game has a wealth of options available to tweak the game to your liking, including true widescreen and a simulation of the deluxe moving cabinet complete with authentic arcade sounds. This mode also offers you the ability to start the game from any previously reached stage – perfect for nostalgia-hungry but time-poor gamers that just want a quick go on their favourite level.

Unfortunately this option coupled with Thunder Blade’s meagre four stages mean that unless you have the strength of character to limit your credit use you’ll more than likely have the game finished within about fifteen minutes of your first go.

Thankfully the special mode that’s unlocked as soon as you complete the original makes a few fundamental changes to the flashy Super Scaler formula: the stage select has gone out the window meaning that if you want to see this mode’s new last boss you’ll have to sit down and do it the old fashioned way. The arcade version’s money-guzzling difficulty has been rebalanced to feel much fairer and your missiles have been improved so as to actually be worth using, and as such this new version feels far more like an enjoyable home conversion of the game than the frenetic but occasionally frustrating arcade original.

As ever M2 have included what we inadequately refer to as “the usual” options – multiple difficulty levels (with the easiest making landscape collisions non-fatal), an alternative soundtrack and a feature-rich sound test as well as a variety of control schemes to suit just about anyone, whether they prefer playing with digital controls, the slide pad or even using the 3DS’ gyro sensor.

While Thunder Blade was always more about style over substance this 3DS port, with its eye catching sense of depth (that is only enhanced by the handheld’s 3D screen), is the first time gamers have really been given the opportunity to experience the game as intended without searching for an obscure retro Japanese computer port. 3D Thunder Blade can’t claim to be a timeless classic or a technological pioneer in the way earlier Sega stablemates Space Harrier or Out Run can, but it’s still a fun little slice of arcade nostalgia that’s been carefully polished and optionally enhanced by M2’s consistently excellent touch.

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User Comments (18)



unrandomsam said:

Thunderblade and Afterburner 2 are the Super Scalar games I played the most of. (I could have played as much Super Hang On but I didn't).

Think I only played Outrun twice. Never even saw Galaxy Force 2 or Space Harrier. (Not sure if some of the Afterburner 2 cabinets I did play were converted Space Harrier ones though).



rixard said:

Used to play this at a theme park about one hours drive from my home. It was the sitdown version, some type of chair + helicopter controls. If I remember correctly the chair would swivel as well. Played that game sooo much. Might try it again on my 3DS



bofis said:

This would be great, but when is OutRun even coming out in the US first of all???



accc said:

I never played the arcade version of this game, but I was so impressed by the 3D trailer on the eShop that I immediately bought the game for my JP 3DS. I like the game — it's short, but very sweet. If the difficulty of these games is a detractor for you, you should know that the unlockable mode is fairly easy to get a 1CC clear on with the default settings. You start with three lives, but you earn a ton of extra lives at the end of each stage.



FritzFrapp said:

I never rated this one.
I know Sega have said they're a bit disappointed with the sales in the West on eShop of their 3D classics, though I believe pricing is the main problem. It would be great to see a retail release of the whole collection (including those games not released in the West) at a sub £20 price point.



XyVoX said:

Waiting patiently for SEGA to do a sale on all of their 3D Classics thats when i'll buy them all.



khululy said:

Man I love these 3D classics by sega I really hope we get part 2 in the west. I love playing old games and with a bit of 3D sauce and with some extra features to spice things up, they turned out to be a real treat



Cav44 said:

Love playing both Hang on and Space harrier on my 3ds. I find the cabinet simulator mode great fun, especially on SH, and the gyro controls better than thumbstick in Super Hang On. Definite purchase.



Taggsta said:

They need to bring all of these out in the West. Come on SEGA!!
Tweet @SEGA and let them know you want to see these games!



Fandabidozi said:

Just watched the trailer. It looks AMAZING in 3D!
M2 have outdone themselves (again). Got everything crossed that Enduro Racer or OutRun Europa might be on the horizon.



Mr-X9000 said:




musicmaniac1965 said:

3D Out Run is allready out, and for this game it's only a day and a half wait, now i hope everyone in europe is going to buy all those freshly released 3D games, Like Afterburner II, Out Run, and soon Thunder Blade! Hope sega makes enough sells to warrant a new batch of arcade conversions, like:

3D Power Drift.
3D Turbo OutRun.
3D Rail Chase.
3D OutRunners.
3D Rad Mobile.

I would buy them all!

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