Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thunder Blade

Sega / NEC Avenue

Thunder Blade is a hybrid blaster that alternates between vertically scrolling fare and "into-the-screen" sequences. Both of its play modes are afflicted with the same disastrous flaw: they're choppy as hell. Honestly, I'm not one to allow visual elements to make or break a deal, but the jerkiness here is revolting, and it impacts the gameplay significantly. Hit detection is way off during overhead play (which actually often works in the player's favor) while it can be hard to judge the positions of environmental hazards during the behind-the-'copter scenes (which, of course, is not beneficial to the player at all).

Still, TB is not difficult. Unless you're actually concerned about your score, you can easily steer clear of enemy flocks throughout the overhead strips, and there's a peculiar gameplay quirk that, if discovered, will allow you to cheese your way through the sub-levels that follow. The game also isn't epic in length, but by the end of its fourth and final stage, I'd had my fill anyway.

As hard as I am on it, Thunder Blade is not terrible. It's, uh, functional, I suppose. But I see little reason for anyone to go ahead and purchase it, as neither of its play modes stands up well. Space Harrier and After Burner II are faster and more challenging than the forward-flight levels here, not to mention that they feature smoother visuals and better tunes (though TB's music actually isn't bad). And we don't even need to look to CD to find about a billion PCE verts that crush TB's traditional blaster segments.

The choppiness in the vertical levels is completely unjustifiable. The bland, ugly terrain; small, simple sprites (the same few of which appear over and over again); and wimpy weapons don't comprise an adequate explanation. We're not talking ambitious stuff here.

I'm not letting these parts off the hook either, as Space Harrier, After Burner II, and even Jimmu Denshou show that stages of this style can be pulled off pretty well on the system.

Most of the bosses are large machines that require you to weave amid periodic blasts and annihilate cannons.

The final fight is reminiscent of boss confrontations in Burning Force, though BF's bosses are cooler and tougher than this thing. BF, of course, is much better on the whole, as are many other similar titles.

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