Arrrrrrgggghhhh!! I want to write other words but Super Thunderblade has beaten it out of me! Thunderblade on the Master System was a bit of a non-event, as helicopter games usually are, so I was surprised to learn that this was one of the launch titles chosen for the Mega Drive in 1988. If you’ve not seen the original coin-op, ST is a shoot ‘em up whose levels consist of a view from behind the helicopter and then a top-down view when trying to defeat the “bosses”.
Both viewpoints actually showcase the Mega Drive’s increased power (from the 8-bit) pretty well. The stages are colourful and more detailed than the 8-bit and the 3-D levels look way better than anything the Master System could conjure up. And then the action starts. The music and sound are horrendous. The music for each stage sounds pretty much identical, with a few random notes thrown in here and there and don’t get me started on the FX. You could let this pass if the gameplay wasn’t so unforgiving.
The levels prior to each boss feel narrow and confined. Enemies will hurl heat seeking missiles at you in twos or threes, making it virtually impossible to escape without crashing into a building or large rock. You can use the hover (or airbrake) to mitigate this somewhat, especially on stage 2 where you’ve got to dart in and out of rock formations whilst pummelling Apaches but this leaves you super vulnerable (see what I did there?) to the hordes of glowing balls homing in on you. Your fire button rattles off a machine gun with periodic homing missiles, that’s it.
On normal, I lasted all of five minutes and only just made it past the mid-level tank boss. You can change the difficulty to Easy and set your lives to the maximum number of seven but it’s still an absolute nightmare to master. Which I suppose isn’t surprising given that there’s only four stages and each one is hardly mammoth in length. If ever a game would benefit from more stages and a gradual learning curve, this is it. Some good things, mostly bad things, is not the best way to launch a new console.