Until recently I knew next to nothing about the Tubografx 16 console (PC Engine in Japan) but when I started looking into the Castlevania series and Rondo of Blood I was intrigued. Having 16-bit games on a CD adds so much to the games’ depth. That is the case with this gem “Lords of Thunder” which was released in 1993 which only makes it more special. This is a Shoot em’ up game ( a “shmup” game like Gradius, Xevious, Galaga & Thunder Force) and there were a lot of them on the Turbografx but I saw this one was special right away so I decided to try it out.
Lords of Thunder is an unofficial sequel to another shmup game on the Turbografx called “Gates of Thunder” which is a more traditional shmup game but it still has it’s unique style. Lords of Thunder is very different though. The game’s setting is some sort of a futuristic fantasy style that is truly unique and extremely cool, and it happens on land. It looks like an evil lord is taking over that land with strong, strange powers and he has six goons/bosses, 1 per stage and you have to defeat them in order to save the land( i think).
Maybe i should start off by saying that even though I consider myself a skilled retro video game player, shmups is a genre I am not very good at and have never really specialized in any shmup game so I have never beaten this game without a cheat. I am still playing the game every now and then so I will update if I do clear it.
Alright, let’s get down to business. After you listen to the insane music in the intro and title screen you can pick your level. The game has six of them and you can beat them in any order, like in Mega Man. Some of the stages are noticeably more difficult than others so you are going to want to figure out where to start. Before you start you visit the shop, the most important place in the game. You start the game with 300 crystals (not that much) but you can gather more by killing enemies in stages. In the shop you buy power-ups that are vital to your success in this game like extra health/armor, health potions and an extra continue. Yes this game limits you with only 3 continues and then you have to start the game over from the beginning. Pretty harsh but extremely fun if you are out there looking for a challenge. And hey, it just makes the game last that much longer. The difficulty levels are 3 (normal, hard and super)…. Yeah, I was trying to switch to easy mode but… nope! No such thing. I can’t even beat the game in normal (yet… i’m still trying).
You also pick one out of four available armors. These are the fire, water, earth and wind armors. These armors are basically your weapon type and they have 3 levels. At armor level 1 you shoot pretty much straight forward depending on the armor, at level 2 your attacks get more powerful and spread more, and at level 3 your attacks can spread backwards, make a circle of shots around you or annihilate the ground for example. When you take hits you start gradually losing your armor level until you are at armor level 1, then you start losing health. So keeping a high armor level is very important because it is much easier to survive at armor level 3, and you are not losing any health yet. Get knocked down to armor level 1 and you are in trouble, your attacks are weak, you start losing health when hit and it can be difficult to bounce back. Success in Lords of Thunder snowballs just as much as failure makes it very difficult to recover. Fortunately you can up your armor level by buying power-ups in the store, or you can loot them of bad guys you shoot in mid stage. The power ups are not that expensive so except for the first stage you should be able to start every level on armor level 3 unless you screwed up.
No armor is the best one really, it just depends on your situation. In stage 1 I like the water armor because it also shoots backwards at full armor level. In the next I like the earth armor because it also shoots almost straight down and spread on the ground taking care of all enemies on the ground. So the armors are then just your preferred strategy for each level and I think it adds nice depth and variety to the gameplay. A very nice feature.
The gameplay in Lords of Thunder is like most shmups in many aspects. You are a spaceship (guy in an epic armor) and you have to shoot everything you see while surviving. Lords of Thunder however deviates from the common shmup by giving you health points and armor for longer sustained gameplay and by allowing you to collide with the environment without taking damage. This is vital for me since I have always hated in shmups when you crash or are taken down in one shot and have to start the level again from the beginning. That kind of gameplay has always been a huge turnoff for me when they cut out the fluidity of a game because they wanted kids to put more coins in the arcade machine. That kind of gameplay isn’t needed on consoles and you have already bought the whole game so why bother limiting the game like that? Maybe that is the thing, this game is not an arcade port and is thus created with that state of mind unlike games like Gradius, Xevious, Galaga, and those more generic shmups. All enemies look great and are unique in their abilities, lots of monsters and mini-bosses make an appearance and enhance the gameplay by keeping it versatile and non repetitive.
Boss battles are also all very unique, challenging and fun. All the bosses look pretty normal at first (excluding their badass armor) but they then turn into some huge epic monster that you have to take down. That is also one thing about this game. The presentation is epic. Visuals, sprites, effects, backgrounds just look extremely good and partnered with that soundtrack….OMG. Guess it came in handy to have all the extra space on the CD over the cartridges.
The fluidity of the gameplay is also vital because the games’ music is so fantastic. The tunes are not really “tunes” as in the same 2min theme reapeating itself over and over again. No, These are full glory metal songs that are all around 5 minutes long or more. The music is such a huge part of this game’s atmosphere and makes playing it so much more fun. Here is an example, it is my favorite song form the game at the moment but probably not the best
Here you can see the gameplay in more details ***spoilers***
I just completely fell in love with this game, everything about it is so nicely done. A great combination of great gameplay, epic style, insane music and a great challenge that I am sure every gamer will love. It might be too challenging for some, but there is a cheat so all casuals can love it too. Go to configuration, set music to 2, sound to 2, hold in select and press 1 (A on the virtual console).
It is available on the Turbografx 16/PC Engine, Sega CD (the lesser version by far I’ve heard) Wii’s Virtual console and the Play Station Network (as Wings of Thunder I think)
So pick you version and play it because Lords of Thunder Rocks!
Lasting appeal 9
Is it fun? 9
9 an awesome game!
Thanks for reading! 🙂