It was an exciting time in gaming. We had been exposed to all the greatness the Nintendo Entertainment System had given us, and some were exposed to Sega’s underdog, the Master System, and the era of computing was going from the awesomeness of the Commodore Amiga to the brave new world of gaming on what was before a “business” computer, the IBM PC (and compatibles). And we were about to see what the future of gaming was like with the release of Sega’s new 16-bit (yes, sixteen whole bits! That’s twice as many as eight!) gaming console, the Genesis.
And if games like Altered Beast, Golden Axe, and today’s Retro Game of the Day, Thunder Force II were any indication, the future was very good indeed for the next generation of gaming.
(Too bad it all fell apart when the next generation rolled around and made games for people who weren’t gamers, not for people who had supported the 16-bit gaming systems.)
Thunder Force II (unknown to us at the time, there was an original Thunder Force, not that we ever saw it from its early 1980s releases on Sharp and NEC computers) is a scrolling shooter game, with two distinct modes — a top down shooter that requires you to destroy a number of enemy installations, and a side scrolling shooter that plays like many other side-scrolling shooter games. But it’s this division of the game into these two distinct modes and the challenge the game offers in both that makes the game incredibly enjoyable and replayable. The amount of power-ups for your ship and the cool little announcements you get when you pick them up, along with the colorful graphics, the music, and the enemy variety adds up to a complete and fun package that is playable even today — all this from a title that was launched very early in the Sega Genesis lifespan.
Thankfully, the internet allows one to solve long-standing mysteries in old games. On the game’s launch screen that says “Good Luck”, a garbled voice spouts out something. The only part I could ever make out was the end, “Good luck.” But fortunately, the internet has informed me that your ship is the Exceliza, and the voice is saying “This is Exceliza.” “Roger; Good luck.” Thanks, internet.