(Note: You may have read an earlier version of this review at a different site. The scores still remain the same but I decided to add more analysis to the game itself.)
Isn't this a treat?--the fifth in a great line of shooters by Tecnosoft. To open, Thunderforce V is definitely a worthy collection to the Tecnosoft library, and it sure as hell is an improvement over their more mediocre titles (can any one say Blast Wind?). I suppose it is a shame that itís no longer a Saturn exclusive, but hey, we Saturn owners can still enjoy this game. Okay, let's get to the real goodies of the game:
1-10 rating scale
Most of the game is done with 3D polygons with pre-rendered backgrounds, somewhat similar to Layer Section II (aka Raystorm), but no matter how good the graphics in Layer Section II were, the graphics in this version are much better. The game is simply surrealistic and beautiful. If it weren't some moments of slowdown, it would be 10/10. Yes, that's perhaps one problem with the game--Many times there is some extreme slowdown. However, the more I played it, the less it really bothered me (in fact, it saved me a few times). The pre-rendering design of certain levels and enemies might seem kind of weird at first, almost reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon, but nevertheless it is still breathtaking to look at. Many enemies are regular sprites, but most are polygons. Overall, all of the sprites and polygons animate very well, except when it slows down of course, but that is no biggie. The bosses are a real treat, as some of the later ones were really a sight to see. Just don't let them distract you too much...
I really loved the music--It seriously rocked. The beats are fast, and for some levels really mysterious. In fact it seemed that the music for every level really fit in well. It's hard to imagine this unless you play and experience the music at the same time. The beats hit you and make you get really into the game--a really great adrenaline rush. Donít be surprised to hear some tunes that are reminiscent of Thunderforce III and IV as well, because some of the levels contain samples of the previous game music. As a bonus, the special edition of this game comes with a separate music CD! It might be $10 more, but the CD contains remixed Thunderforce III and IV songs, which at least I really appreciate.
The sound is the game is pretty good, if you balance it out correctly. In the option menu there is an option where you can balance out the sound and music volumes. The default has the sound slightly low, so it isnít very powerful, but once you balance this one out, itís great! The voices are only slightly muffled, but then again, thatís a Thunderforce tradition!!! Explosions and shots are crisp and clear,
Good solid control, and it's analogue pad supported! In fact, the controls are virtually identical to the previous Thunderforces: shot, weapon change, and speed change. Only this time there is one more button for your overdrive weapon. Not much to criticise here.
Challenge vs Fairness: (Another rating I didnít fill in last time) 9/10 A good shooter will be quite challenging without being very frustrating. TFV is very fair to you--there are never instances of huge barrages of bullets where it is impossible to dodge. The game also remains challenging, but not to the point of impossibility. At least if you put it on the most difficult setting (I found normal to be slightly easy). I suppose less hard-core shooter fanatics will appreciate the slight toning down in difficulty.
There are also two different endings to the game, depending on whether or not you continue and how quickly you beat the game. If you donít continue and manage to beat the game under a certain amount of time, you get the better of the two endings. This in turn drives the gamer to play the game more and play the game smarter as well--and that is a plus.
Basically the TFV took a step towards shooter conformity by establishing only seven relatively lengthy levels. The game will take 30-40 minutes to beat, which is pretty standard nowadays. For me that is actually a plus because with my hectic schedule, thatís about all the time Iím allotted in each gaming session to play. Oh, and if that seems short, remember that TFIII took about the same amount of time to beat (however, TFIV is a different story--it took almost one hour to complete the game).
The game operates very similarly to TFIII and TFIV. After the demise of the Rynex ship, your new ship is called the Gauntlet. Your weapon arsenal consists of twin shot, backshot, wave, a beefed-up free way, and hunter. Later on in the game, you upgrade your ship as to having a permanent blade and railgun instead of twin shot and backshot. The standard shield is used in the game as well. There is one new goodie in TFV that I learned to appreciate. It is your overdrive system. You can get up to three options (this aspect is different from the other TFís--each option you get will only have ONE claw appear), and when you do you are able to use your overdrive. It is basically a highly powered weapon depending on which weapon you are currently using. If you are using twin shot, your overdrive will be a supercharged giga-beam similar to the thundersword. However, this overdrive drains your options, as they will change colour from blue to red until it disappears. If you donít use the overdrive, your options will heal and regain their colour. Neat, eh?
While that system of gameplay is good, thereís also a side to TFV that some may not enjoy at first. For the first three levels it doesn't feel like Thunderforce at all. In fact, it was more like playing a Philosoma rendition or something. One of the newer elements of gameplay is that many enemies can "shift planes" by manoeuvring into the background or foreground so you cannot hit them sort of like Macross or to a lesser extent, Layer Section. It seems kind of weird when you first experience enemies flying from the background or the foreground onto your plane of play. Also there are lockons to wherever is the weak point of the enemy, so you don't have to bother finding out where the weak point of the enemy is, and that just slightly ruins the challenge. But back to the first three levels. Some of the old Thunderforce mechanics seemed to be missing in the first three levels. For instance, the previous Thunderforces had plenty of boundaries and objects which you must dodge in order to survive. In number five, there are hardly any objects besides enemies which you could crash into--most of the game is just open space. In a nutshell, while the first three levels impressed me graphically and musically, I felt as though something was missing. After a half an hour of gameplay, I was almost thinking of returning the game. I suppose there may be other gamers who feel the same way I do.
Let me say that if I returned the game, I would have made a HUGE mistake!!! Playing more and more, I discovered how awesome the game really is! The style of game changes back into old-school Thunderforce action when you reach the later levels--because it gets intense!!! Actually, the first few levels, after playing a lot, are not bad, but actually quite pumping. It is just that it didnít seem like Thunderforce at first. Anyway, in the later levels, especially when you travel into space and when you enter the mystic DNA-like enemy mothership, are quite well done with a relentless enemy armada swarming after you. The graphics also seemed to get beefed up as the level advances. This is what Thunderforce is all about, the mastered elements of sound, music, and awesome graphics put all into one, and then pitting the player in a no-holds barred shooting fest.
The bosses are the best thing in this game. Let's just say the innovation of the bosses really pay off--it always gives me a great rush just to play through the game and fight them. Never have I seen more bad-ass bosses out there. Each has boss has many forms, and has many different attack patterns. You will also encounter one boss that even transforms from jet to knight, similar to the one in Layer Section II, but this time with attitude! And donít be surprised if you encounter the Rynex again in this game. The last boss--he (or is it she?) has to be seen to truly appreciate his power.
Let me just say that I purchased this game when it first came out. The game is a nearly a year old, but it still remains a great classic. Out of all the Saturn shooters, I still favour TFV heavily over others (yes even more than the great Soukyugurentai). The game may not be the best Thunderforce out there, but it definitely is a formidable shooter, and a worthy collection to any gamerís library. With this recent news of TFV heading to the PSX, I suppose the game can only be improved in its translation. But there is no denying one major fact: The Saturn version is hands down awesome, and while some PSX bonuses may give the other version a slight edge, remember that we Saturn owners have experienced this great game for almost a year now. I guess PSX owners will finally be able to play a GOOD shooter for once.
I know I shouldnít compare the two, but between the psuedo-3D shooters out there, Thunderforce V kicks Layer Section IIís ass (Iíll explain why in my Layer Section II review).
Just don't forget: get the special edition for that CD (unless you already have Thunderforce Gold Packs, then I donít think the CD will make that much of a difference)!
Review By: Phil Shen