Thunder Blade / Super Thunder Blade



Destroying Silent Hill once and for all.



When helicopters ruled the earth.




GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 07/30/88 – (JP), 10/88 – (US), 11/05/88 – (EU)

YUP: This is another arcade port.


Dare I call Thunder Blade a borderline realistic shoot-em-up? Your helicopter only takes one hit before it’s shot down. It has two modes of attack, air bullets and ground-based bombs. There are no power-ups. Every level takes place around drab landscapes that look like they have boring real life equivalents. The only unrealistic point about Thunder Blade is that you’re a one-man army destroying what must be a small country’s army of planes, tanks, and landscapes. Maybe in the 80s we would dare to dream of such heroics, but not in today’s selfish times.


Thunder Blade (UE) [!]000

Now I’ve done it.


Because of Thunder Blade‘s lack – no power-ups, bland environments, choppy framerate, four levels – the game only feels like half a shoot-em-up, despite each level having three parts to it. The first and best part of each level is a top-down shooter where you attack green helicopters and green tanks amidst a sea of brown dirt, brown dust, and/or brown sand (seriously, green and brown are Thunder Blade‘s two favorite colors). The framerate is stable here and there’s a steady flow of enemies to shoot down. But – and it could just be me – the screen feels too cramped with your sizable helicopter mincing with both the tanks on the ground and the enemy helicopters in the air. The red bullets can be hard to discern as well, depending on the stage you’re in. These parts are over way too fast, but they at least make you feel like you’re playing an average shmup.


Thunder Blade (UE) [!]001

This city’s been going downhill since the helicopters moved in.


The second part of each level is a behind-the-helicopter perspective, similar to After Burner or Space Harrier sans the spastic perspective of the former and the strange environs/enemies of the latter. This does not mean that this portion is preferable to either of the aforementioned games. Sega apparently believes that the behind-the-vehicle perspective for shoot-em-ups is fantastic, despite the fact that said viewpoint makes any Master System shmup slow, unstable, and impossible to tell if the bullets will hit your helicopter/airplane/levitating Rocketeer. These sections also chug on for far longer than needs be. They’re at least three times as long as the top-down shooter portions, and while that still isn’t very long (each level, if completed without losing lives, could be taken down in about seven minutes), it will feel like an eternity, thanks to the all-encompassing crapulence.


Thunder Blade (UE) [!]002

Gettin’ sweaty in the cockpit.


The last part of each level is the boss fight. The bosses again adhere to the game’s staunch pseudo-realism, and include a large missile, a fortress, an aircraft carrier! Stuff you’ve seen before. You destroy the shootable parts to take ’em down. Or don’t. If you make it to the end of the boss without dying, the boss will still explode, even if you didn’t shoot it at all. Yay realism!


Thunder Blade (UE) [!]004

We’re through the looking glass here, people.


It takes a lot for me to dislike a shmup, it takes a train for me to hate one. Thunder Blade is a long ride aboard the Union Pacific. The game’s lack of enthusiasm for itself is stunning. In my time spent with the Master System, I’ve seen few titles look as bad, sound as bad (the music and sound effects combined sound like stunted farts atop shredded wax paper), and provide so little reason for continuing. A helicopter shoot-em-up could work, but by gar, Thunder Blade is not the way to chop about it.




A panorama of destruction.


Thank goodness the war is taking place outside city limits.




GENRE: Arcade shoot-em-up

RELEASE: 10/29/88 – (JP), 09/01/89 – (US), 09/1990 – (EU)


Super Thunder Blade isn’t as bombastic as “Thunderstruck,” not nearly as epic as “Thunder Road.” But by Sega, it’s a considerable improvement over the craptastic original Thunder Blade.


Super Thunder Blade (W) (REV00) [!]000

Danger: this machine kills fascists.


The gameplay has changed slightly, if only because of the Mega Drive’s additional power. In Thunder Blade, you were wrestling with the choppy framerate while trying not to get hit by stray fire. In Super Thunder Blade, the framerate is much smoother, but as a result, Sega adds more enemies and more firepower. Hot dang, there’s so many enemies – and they shoot so much. Fighter jets, rival helicopters, tanks: everybody’s got beef. You’ll be swinging back and forth throughout the levels, avoiding the tall skyscrapers and the neverending infernal onslaught. The constant sway-and-shoot hypnotizes you into a moderately enjoyable trance. In fact, there’s the tagline. Super Thunder Blade: a moderately enjoyable trance.


Super Thunder Blade (W) (REV00) [!]002

The action is so fast, you’ll hardly have time to notice who’s shooting at you.


There are still only four levels, which means each of them is a hard-as-cojones endurance run. The second level, where you dip in and out of caverns, goes on forever. The caverns have pillars, stalactites, and stalagmites, and it is here where you notice how slow-moving and huge your helicopter really is. You’re asked to make split-second turns in and around the caverns’ pillars while being shot at by tons of enemies. In order to do this with perfect style and grace, your helicopter would need to be smaller, more agile, and speedier, but as Hardcore Gaming 101 points out, Thunder Blade controls as slowly as a helicopter would in real life. You can slow down on a dime with the ‘B’ button, but it’s difficult to keep a steady pace. All you can do is pray that your able-bodied maneuvering will get you through the many danger zones. No skill, only luck.


Super Thunder Blade (W) (REV00) [!]005

Nothing but blood, metal, and a goofy tank sprite.


Super Thunder Blade gives and takes. The overhead flying sequences are gone, leaving only the behind-the-shoulder perspective and the overhead boss portions. No big loss, though, since the behind-the-shoulder gameplay has been greatly improved. The original Level 3 has been excised in favor of a new level, a battleship brawl across the ocean. Also, each level adds a mid-boss, a much-needed feature that breaks up the considerable length of the levels.


Super Thunder Blade (W) (REV00) [!]004

At least I can still shoot down giant aircraft carriers. Partial credit, Sega.


Super Thunder Blade suffers from some of the same problems as the original: the boring traditional scenery, the absence of power-ups, and the incredible difficulty. These issues didn’t bother me as much here, though, if only because the rest of the game sits on a solid foundation of mild respectability. Super Thunder Blade has sharper visuals, faster gameplay, and an intriguing progressive rock soundtrack, but more importantly, the game plays like Sega gave a damn. If I’m honest, that’s all I ever want.



Posts created 76

27 thoughts on “Thunder Blade / Super Thunder Blade

  1. Ouch !
    I kinda like this one despite it’s obvious flaws but I cannot dispute your reasoning.
    Unlike Sega’s other super scaler games Thunderblade never got the chance to shine on the 32x or Saturn like it’s stablemates AfterBurner, Space Harrier and Galaxy Force at least until the 3DS version.

  2. I owned this one back in the day. While I thought that it looked a little better than you do, I can’t disagree with much else. The 3d levels are so hard to tell if you’ll be hit. I never beat this game and I beat pretty much all my games. I never liked this game at all. Great review Dylan.

  3. Being the aviation enthusiast I have always been this was one of the titles I always wanted but never got. Then last year I got a chance to sample it briefly and I am with you Dylan. This sucked. Also the Japanese art is a total rip of a film and tv show called Blue Thunder – that was terrible too.

    1. The first level where you fly through the city is very similar to F-15 City War for the NES. Not sure which came first. Both games suck, though, so it doesn’t really matter.

  4. Aaaagghhh!!! This could very well be the worst game in existence.
    I had the misfortune to play this on both the master system and the MegaDrive/Genesis.
    It’s so dull that if If you wrote the world dull down on a piece of paper 1000 times and then read every word in a dull monotone you would still be nowhere near of how dull this game is.
    It pretty much impossible on top of that. smashing into buildings with no notice , tanks relentlessly firing unescapable red blobs of what looks like ketchup at you.
    The only redeeming feature seems to be that Japanese box art but then that’s giving false hope to the poor undeserving person that buys this.
    As a kid I wanted to love this game , I really did, it’s got helicopters in it it’s got tanks in it , it’s all out action right? Right? No.
    The truth is it gave me nightmares as a kid , and could still now
    Now excuse me while I go get some Nyte Nurse.

  5. I used to like this game when I was a kid. At the time I was really impressed but looking at it now I can see the game was way to much game for the Master System. The top down parts I still think look decent for an 8-bit game.
    Great review

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  7. Actually you can control your speed in Super Thunder blade, one of the buttons slows you down, you have to ride the button to control your speed in the caves,

    I do not like this port at all. It looks nothing like the arcade. It’s way too short, and way to difficult. I guess the music is OK. Usually it’s getting to the cave and endlessly crashing. Although getting to the last level is cool. Dodging stuff in the factory or whatever is very reminiscent of the Death Star Run on Revenge of the Jedi. And once you beat there was never much ince give to go back and play it again.

    If you want to play Thunder Blade, go and play the arcade version on 3DS. It’s arcade perfect with 3D. And bonus content.

    1. Dah, you’re right. Fixed.

      Yeah, it’s not great or anything. But I enjoyed it as a mindless button mash. Four levels is short, but the original Thunder Blade was four levels too and people didn’t seem annoyed about that.

      I understand why Thunder Blade never saw a rebirth. It’s not that great/interesting of a game. Like After Burner, the best part about it is the arcade cabinet.

    2. If by controlling your speed , you mean an “air brake” button, then i guess.
      Motorola 6800 CPU could have replicated the arcade “Thunder Blade” just as well. This seemed rushed. Very bad version of the game!

      I do like the music.
      Music is good for memories only

  8. I’m with Sean on this one, once you get to the caves the games limitations come into sharper focus and the fun factor nose dives. Also what is that damn crashing noise supposed to be !

  9. I do not insist on photorealistic graphics in my games, otherwise I wouldn’t be so fund of 8bit and 16bit games. But damn, those scyscrapers look ugly! They look like cardboard facades. Even in 1990 that would have been a no-go for me (at least in a game with a behind-the-shoulders perspective)!

    1. They did a horrible scaling job. Really the System 16 board was made with scaling in mind. Think Out-Run , Thunder Blade.

  10. Can’t agree here. Harsh on the SMS version, not much could be done better, considering it’s an 8-bit port of powerful arcade hardware.

    The Genesis game was just awful, plain and simple. The frame rate was laughable with poorly drawn buildings and canyons, not much better than the SMS game. The sound effects gave the great Genesis sound chip a bad rep early on. Control was stiff and barely responsive.

    A truly half-assed port compared to Super Hang-On, Outrun, and Super Monaco GP. No way either of these systems could replicate the cool “bungee jumping” scaling gimmick of the arcade. As someone else mentioned, play the 3DS game to get the real Thunderblade experience.

  11. Not that I have a great need to defend a mediocre-at-best series of games, but I’m really surprised by the level of hate Super Thunder Blade is getting. As a general arcade port, it’s average. Compared to the travesty that was MS Thunder Blade, it’s a masterpiece. And if you’re still incredulous by my saying so, play both games back-to-back today. Also remember: Super Thunder Blade was a launch title Mega Drive game in ’88. It doesn’t look, sound, or play as good as other later Mega Drive games. Thunder Blade for the MS – also released in ’88 – came three years after the MS was first released. There is no reason that port should have sucked as bad as it did.

    1. The game sucked in 89. Even magazine reviews gave it mediocre to weak scores. Compared to Super Hang-On and Space Harrier 2, which were released around the same time, this looked and performed terribly.

      It controls poorly, that is the main issue. Unacceptable compared to the rest of the launch lineup. Pretty sure Yuji Naka himself wasn’t very proud of this game.

      I’ve only ever seen one positive review for this game. And that was some fanboy on Sega-16 who gave it a 10/10. That’s sites credibility fluttered down the sewer pipes after posting that.

      I just don’t see the fun in it, DC.

      1. Also, you keep comparing SMS to Mega Drive. 8-bit and 16-bit. And Arcade to SMS. The latest in high end arcade technology versus a 3-4 year old 8-bit system. Huge gap in tech. That’s simply not fair to the Master System.

        That’s like comparing a Neo Geo to an NES. Even gods of programming wouldn’t be able to do much with it. It shouldn’t have been attempted at all. But Sega was banking on their arcade fame at the time. So they probably felt the need to put something(anything) on their home consoles.

        Remember Afterburner, Shinobi, and Space Harrier on NES/Fami? Compare those to the SMS ports and you’ll see a huge difference. That’s a fair comparison.

        1. I don’t expect MS Thunder Blade to play like the arcade. I don’t mention that in my review at all. I do expect it to play like a competent game, which it doesn’t. I expected Super Thunder Blade to look better and – maybe – play better than the MS version. It does.

          Fair enough that Super Thunder Blade received mediocre-to-weak scores in ’89. My comparisons were misguided. Nevertheless, I had a bit of fun with it. That’s enough for me.

      2. I actually maybe like the SMS Thunder blade more. But the Genesis version just peaks about average for me. I mean it is playable. But really …. Out of the launch games in the U.S. I’d still prefer Last Battle to this. Or Alex Kidd. Even Altered Beast. It’s just not that interesting. Or well made. It feels like a game made for launch. I suppose it’s hard because while having great graphics for the time, it easily is crap looking compared to the arcade, which is I think the most common complaint. I mean really even today arcade Thunder Blade has some amazing parallax scrolling and backgrounds.

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  13. Jump back to 1992, I hadn’t had my Megadrive for that long and I popped over to my pals house where another pal was just leaving, he looked mightily hacked off at something and then asked if I wanted to buy a game, his anger and the smirk on my other friends face told me that whatever game he had on offer must be pretty bad and I was shown a brand new complete copy of Super Thunder Blade, so I reached into my pocket and told him ‘sorry I only have loose change’ it was roughly just over four pounds and he said ‘that will do’ and so I ended up with the game. Not forgetting how expensive games were back then and him being happy to cut his losses I wondered what I was in for. His sales pitch was pants as well I distinctly remember trying not to laugh when he said ‘just picture it up on your shelf next to your other games’. I remember not expecting much and straight away I didn’t really like it because I died a lot, and then I died a lot more, it’s too hard to see what’s going on and even when I did progress then it was more like an exercise in sheer luck than any skill involved as I quickly grasped that you couldn’t really learn any enemy patters just as another missile rammed me mercilessly from behind ending yet another game, sometimes I didn’t even know what had actually killed me as I plummeted down in pixelated flames landing with such force that the copter would have to be dug out of the ground. I still have the game so I definitely got my four quids worth out of it over the years, I don’t hate it but it is only good for a ten minute bash every now and again, it’s a bit like Tequila as in your memory fades and you think it might be a good idea to give it another go only to be reminded why you stayed away for so long.

  14. Super Thunder Blade is okay enough for a quick blast as it’s not meant to be an incredibly in-depth game.
    I pretty much ignored it in the 90’s as it wasn’t my copy and was too hard but got into it in recent years by playing it on the At Games Megadrive.
    Pretty good game if you want a bit of straightforward gaming to fill the time.

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