Release Date: May 28, 2020
Price: $7.99 (commensurate European pricing)
Genre: Retro, Arcade, Action, Flight, Shooter
Platform: Nintendo Switch
"Review Code Provided by Sega"
Growing up in the early 90’s had you playing games in the arcades and at home had you deciding on a variety of games from the beat em up genre, the emerging fighting game genre, and chief amongst them up to the mid 90’s was the SHMUP or Shoot Em Up genre. We had countless juggernauts that were coming out from Blazing Star, Gradius, and the heavy hitter Thunder Force series from Sega which was charting in the arcades as it was on the Sega Genesis and while we got numbered entries on the home console, we never got this arcade entry on console……until now (unless you count Thunder Spirits for the Super Famicom and Sega Saturn Thunder Force Gold Pack 2). How does Thunder Force AC hold up after 30 or so years? Let’s find out.
The story is fairly light focusing on the ongoing battle between the ORN Empire and the Galaxy Federation having reached a breaking point. The FIRE LEO-03 STYX, a combat ready battle fighter, was created by the Federation in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide of the war and return the galaxy to peace.
Thunder Force AC is effectively a remake and rearranging of assets and more from Thunder Force III and II with its own original content mixed in.
Like most SHMUPs you are able to move your fighter jet around the screen to try and avoid being hit by enemy bullets, enemies themselves, environmental hazards, and the environment. You will gather power ups that give you a shield power up which grants you additional hits before disbursing along with weapon power ups that allow you to fire above and below you, behind and in front of you, homing missiles, laser shots and spread shots. You can upgrade your weapons with additional power ups of the same element and it allows you to have a more powered up version of said move making it easier to take out enemies and bosses.
Control wise you have the ability to cycle through not only your weapon power ups that you’ve gathered but also the ability to cycle between speeds for your battle fighter which will help you avoid the terrain and enemies and use it in a strategic style.
Graphically speaking, the game looks really good for a game from 89/90 and holds up nice with detailed environments and enemies especially the bosses such as the first boss dragon with how nicely (and stiffly) it animates and looks. There is no slow down at all with all the enemies that will flood the screen not to mention the moments when it becomes a pure bullet-hell shooter.
I like the fact you can add overlays such as an arcade overlay that makes it feel like the old smoke filed days and other wall papers. You have varying filters you can add such as smoothing, pixelated, and CRT which give you more of an authentic experience.
There isn’t much to say here other than the limited repetitive OST (which slaps) there isn’t much other than the constant sound of your weapons being fired and the occasional sound of your enemies.
There are 3 issues I’ve found with the game and of the top that I can list off is the graphics and this is moreso the artstyle is how sometimes its hard to see enemies and bullets due to how dark and muddy the graphics look at times making many instances where you’ll end up dying cheap deaths more frequently than you’ll be comfortable with.
Following the graphics is the credit system by default if you don’t change the settings as you have a finite amount of credits to get through the game once you run out then that’s it. If you are solid at SHMUPs then this wont be an issue but if you are new to the genre then you have a few items to help you with changing the credit system to unlimited and then having save states that you can use which will allow you to ease up the difficulty levels of which are also selectable as well.
Lastly, is the audio. Aside from the constant sound of your weapons and the repetitive OST (good yet repetitive), there isn’t much going on in the audio department which is a shame considering this is a Sega game from the golden age of that company.
SHMUPS are timeless classics that many of us of my generation grew up with and many of us have fond memories of this genre, however, for the modern gamer who may have gotten into gaming with the 360 generation and or this current one; then this is going to be a hard sell unless you have a desire to play older games and learn more about gaming history. If you aren’t in that category then this more than likely isn’t for you but honestly for how cheap this is; I say give it a buy and check out one of the best SHMUPS of its era.