Reviews Archive

Thunder Force III/Thunderspirits

      Mega Drive/Genesis SNES      
      thunder force iii on genesis thunder force iii on snes      
      thunderforce 3 first level boss on megadrive thunder spirits first level boss on snes      
      thunder force 3 on genesis fire level thunder spirits fire level on snes      
      thunder force iii water level on genesis thunder force iii water level on snes      

Mega Drive - I wouldn't say that the detail level here is really very good for a Mega Drive game. The backgrounds tend to look quite flat, and there's a lot of repeating pattern for textures, but there are some pretty cool effects for the time (such as the waving flames), and some excellent background animations so everything still looks very respectable.

This is certainly not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and you do have to take into consideration that this was a fairly early release in the Mega Drive's lifespan, and people were still getting to grips with the hardware.

SNES - The SNES version is pretty close graphically to the Mega Drive version. No major effort seems to have been made to update the graphics, and in fact everything is in lower resolution now than it was before.

There are some minor differences in some backgrounds on some of the stages, and a few enemies have been re-designed but for the most part the graphics don't stray very far from the source material.

Being that this version of the game is based on the remixed arcade revision, there's a few different levels here replacing the original Mega Drive stages, one of the new levels has a star field theme (replacing the parallax rich Mega Drive cave stage), and the other a temple themed stage (replacing the ice world of the Mega Drive), the short final section has also been changed from technologically themed, to a biological, Geiger-esque theme. These new levels don't particularly stand out in quality in comparison to the originals, but I do think they generally have the graphical edge.

  Winner Is: SNES  

Mega Drive - The colour here is a little drab for the most part, but as is the case with the detail section everything still looks very respectable, and carefully coloured.

SNES - The colour is very much the same in both versions, there are some very minor pallet swaps here and there, but I feel that they're mixed between some looking better and some looking worse.

Out of the stages which are different, again I think its a bit of a mixed bag. The temple stage has very ugly colour use in my opinion, whilst the final stage actually looks very good, all in all the pro's pretty much balance the cons.

  Winner Is: Draw  

Mega Drive - Perfect scrolling

SNES - Perfect scrolling

  Winner Is: Draw  

Mega Drive - Thunder Force III, like all games in the series has a very good soundtracks. The quality is high, the music catchy, and everything fits the stages very well, adding to the overall atmosphere.

SNES - This sound very similar to the Mega Drive original, there's not really much of a noticeable difference.

  Winner Is: Draw  
  Sound FX  

Mega Drive - The sound effects here are really great sound, in fact you could go as far as to call them easily recognisable, classic sound effects, which are immediately identifiable to the series.

SNES - No noticeable difference to the Mega Drive version.

  Winner Is: Draw  

Mega Drive - The gameplay here is brilliant, its a combination of every great horizontal shooter out there. All the levels having their own tricks, and styles which keep the game interesting. Some stages have the terrain moving up and down in an effort to crush you, whilst others speed you along through narrow tunnels, there are levels which push and affect you spacecraft, and there's the obligatory giant warship stage too. The power-up system (whereby as you gain new weapons you can cycle through all those available to use the best suited for each situation) also brings a very nice tactical, rewarding element to the gameplay.

SNES - This plays in a very similar manner to the Mega Drive version, except for one thing, the visible screen is now smaller on the horizontal axis (check out the ground in screenshots 3, and 4, and you'll see that there's more visible screen in the Mega Drive version), this really cuts into reaction time making oncoming threats harder to deal with.

Outside of that the giant spaceship boss has been completely re-designed here and now looks really, really good, However the level has now become a bit on the cheap side, with enemies rushing from behind on a semi-regular basis, surviving the level is now more a case of trial and error, with eventual memorisation of the attack waves needed.

Lastly this version also has much more slowdown (SNES had a slower CPU than the Mega Drive), you cannot choose which order you want to play the stages in, and the status bar has been split into two, and obscures the screen more.

Where it comes to the replaced levels, the ice stage Eliss (the one with the moving stalactites), Haides (the cave level where the terrain moves up and down in a similar fashion to lifeforce/Salamander), and the short final section Orn Core, have all hit the chopping board, being cut out of the game entirely. Now, I'm going to admit that I'm a fan those stages, they have their own little nuances, and whilst maybe not particularly original to the genre, work very well in the game.

The replacement levels are a star field, which doesn't really have anything going on in it to set it apart from any other generic shooter's level, but is still not bad, and a temple level, which is in my opinion pretty good, and well up to the standards of the rest of the game's stages (though it is a bit on the difficult side). The short final section has gone through some changes, and is much easier (and slightly less impressive) than before, with a smaller snake boss replacing the big tentacled monster, and a brain sticking out of a wall replacing the large, manoeuvrable computer as the final boss. Essentially two fantastic levels have been replaced with a fairly throwaway level, and a pretty decent level, and the final bosses are now easier and less intimidating than they were originally.

Winner Is: Mega Drive
The level of presentation is pretty much identical in both versions.
Winner Is: Draw

SNES - Rapid fire has been removed from this version, which I feel has a pretty detrimental effect on gameplay, I'd rather be concentrating on dodging and changing my weapon during gameplay in Thunder Force games than worrying about constantly tapping the fire button, however there is way of turning it back on in the options.


The SNES version lacks two of the great levels of the original, and replaces them with inferior ones, and whilst the spaceship now looks greatly more impressive the actual gameplay of that stage takes a hit too. The levels are zoomed in and don't give you much time to react, and there's a lot more slowdown than in the Mega Drive original.

Choosing between the two is a lot easier than I thought it would be, the Mega Drive version is easily the best playing of the two, and the SNES game has no notable improvements to graphics, or sound to offset this (though there's enough different things about the SNES version to warrant a fan of the series to buy both just for the new levels alone).

  Overall Winner Is: Mega Drive  
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