Thunder Force 3 by Techno Soft (1990) - MegaDrive
It has been a looong time since I did one of these, which is a bit strange considering how many screenshots I usually grab when playing games for reviews. I might as well put some of them to use, surely? Yes I should, and so it shall be once more. To that end, bewildering absence notwithstanding, the Game Gallery is now back! Since the last one was for Thunder Force 2, for this return I thought it's immediate sequel and 'Finest MD Shmup' title-holder, Thunder Force III was a logical choice.
Click here for the full review of this fine game.
Special Note: As many of you will know, players can choose between the game's first five stages from the start. This gallery, however, will feature them in the 'correct' order, thus:
Title and 'Secret' Config Screens:
Stage 1: Hydra
Despite its slightly watery-sounding name, the first stage is set in a lush green forest which, in addition to containing an evil Orn horde in their various ships, and plentiful defences in the form of gun turrets and missiles, also pits you against nature itself, with giant missile-carrying wasps and even sunflowers of doom throwing everything at you. This aggression will not stand, alien scum!
The mid-boss looks pretty cool but is a piece of cake to put down, but this first stage boss - known as Gargoyle - is a little tougher. He has sweeping fiery breath when up close and spits fireballs from further away. If you kept all your weapons and found the secret 'sever' weapon, however, you should be able to off him before he can even fire his first shot. Shove your fire up your bunghole, beeyatch!
Stage 2: Gorgon
Yes, it's that famous stage that so wowed us ragamuffins in our day - a journey through fiery caverns with its wibbly lava/fire background as well as columns of fire erupting frequently in the foreground, bringing with them rocks and debris to be avoided. These hazards alone are dangerous enough but there are also some fiery enemies such as the flock of phoenixes below. Away, hellish denizens!
The mid-boss for this stage appears during a fast-scrolling section but is another easy one - you'll probably destroy it in seconds, even if you're not trying to. The stage boss can be quite tough though, especially if you don't have the correct weapons (missiles are best). The two grabby contraptions move around the edges of the screen, with their weak spots protruding from their tops.
Stage 3: Seiren
The third stage is set underwater which presents problems even before any enemies appear, with the current pushing your ship upwards periodically. There are also some noticeably stronger enemies here including some pesky mines which will explode if you get too close. There are also several larger enemies in addition to the bosses such as the nautilus and sea-snake thing below. This one can be quite tricky.
This stage also hosts the first mid-boss that you at least need to stay awake for, but neither he nor his sunfish-style craft are a mountainous challenge. The stage boss could be straight out of the Darius series and fires many rings of death at you, especially as it nears death, but it shouldn't pose much of a problem either.
Stage 4: Haides
Now our brave pilot ventures underground to the deeply unstable caverns of Haides where many challenges await! Here there are curly R-Type-style snakes and bubble barriers that you must cut through, but the stage is most notable for its moving scenery which includes entire columns of rock as well as floors and ceilings which leave you very little room to breathe. Watch out for dead-ends!
This may be the first mid-boss you find a little tricky, although that's just as much down to the scenery as the insect-like boss itself, although it does fire pesky wide boomerang shots. The stage boss approaches from behind and packs a formidable arsenal in his stupid lobster claws. You may well still have a shield by the time you get here though, so you might not even need to be careful.
Stage 5: Ellis
Sometimes TFIII seems more like a platform game than a shooter, what with all its themed stages and all. This one, as you may have guessed, is the 'ice world', and that means enemies bursting from beneath the ice and scary indestructible icicles getting in the way. There's also a diagonal section and a short vertical (though still side-viewed) section to add a bit of variety. Might need to wear sunglasses though!
Another super-easy mid-boss here. As great as TFIII is, I really think Techno Soft should've done more with their mid-bosses than simply make them look cool! The stage boss is a pretty good one though. It's a large contraption known as Mobile Fort, and it can dish out an amount of firepower worthy of that designation, but it shouldn't take too long to see off with the sever or wave weapons.
Stage 6: Cerberus
Yes that's right - huzzah - TFIII has an R-Type-stylee 'large battleship' stage! This one is very similar in style, with you approaching the ship from the rear (snigger!). Or is it the front? Either way, you'll face the biggest guns (and bullets) in any shmup ever! Then you'll slowly skim over the top, going round the front (or back), and then underneath it, destroying defences and support ships as you go. If you get far enough you'll go up inside it to take out the 'boss' which is a basically just a bank of guns. There's nothing super-challenging here but it's a decent effort.
Stage 7: Orn Base
Oh dear, we're in trouble now - into the hornet's nest, so to speak! The main base of the Orn Empire, which is presumably a giant spacecraft or asteroid or something, is unsurprisingly full of nasty surprises - barriers and narrow passageways will hinder your progress while the enemies include a tiny probe that unleashes a devastating eight-way shot. There are also a few split paths and diagonal bits too.
About halfway through the stage you'll reach this creature/device blocking the hole in the wall so I guess it counts as a mid-boss. It seems to be the source of the probes with the eight-way shots too. Fortunately, it isn't too tricky. The stage boss can be a toughie though, mainly due to the four cargo container things that keep moving around in front of it. Grrr, stay still, pesky grey crates!
Stage 8: Orn Core
Oh dear, the final confrontation is upon us! This isn't a proper stage though, it just features a sub-boss, the wavy-armed fellow on the right there who shoots wibbly shots at you, and then the stage, and indeed game boss which appears to be a device of some sort. It has several types of fast shots to fling your way and is the toughest boss in the game, but there's nothing extraordinarily challenging here.
Well done, you have finished the mighty Thunder Force III! It isn't the most taxing shmup of all-time admittedly (hey, even I can finish it unaided!), but it's a hell of a ride while it lasts. Here's the reasonable-for-its-day end-sequence which is accompanied by some superb music. Even old beardy there is getting into the spirit of things! Next up: see if you can get this far in 'Mania' mode...