Thunderforce 3 review - Sega Megadrive

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Thunderforce 3 box artThose Thunderforce lads are back, and this time they're taking no crap - especially from the massive Orn Empire task force that's taken over a whole sector of Earth Space. Since their last dangerous adventure on the Megadrive, they've upgraded their ships to carry even more weapons and thus give those Orn scum even more opportunitiy to have their bottoms soundly thrashed out of this dimension.

Unlike Thunderforce II, which was, for the most part, viewed from above and scrolled in eight directions, Thunderforce III is a more traditional R-Type style horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up. As usual for this type of game, it features plenty of bolt-on weapons and massive end-of-level bosses!

The object is pretty simple. Just blast anything that moves, or anything that looks as if it's about to and if it isn't, blast it anyway because it might. Just be sure to guide that ship out of the path from the enemy flak, because those slimy Orn beings don't take kindly to you destroying all their plans for cosmic domination.

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" Although it's been available on import for over a year, Thunderforce III is still one of the most technically stunning Megadrive blasters around. From the shimmering fiery backdrops of the volcano planet to the super-smooth parallax scrolling on the ice world, it's a graphical treat. It's not just a pretty face, either. Thunderforce III is tough and challenging. Obviously not on the easy level - any half decent blasting fan should be able to shoot their way through to the end of the game in a few sessions - but on the more difficult levels, where the action is bonkers and you have to fight through a constant barrage of bullets and baddies! If you're after a good shoot 'em up, check this out. Along with Hellfire and Gynoug, it's one of the best blasters available on the Megadrive. "

" I first played Thunderforce III on import when I started at CVG, and thought it was a megablast that simply demanded purchase. Well, that was over a year ago. Since then Thunderforce has ages quite a bit and isn't quite as good as some of the shoot 'em ups that followed (Gynoug and Hellfire spring to mind). There's no denying that the graphical quality of the game still remains superb, and the sound is pretty good, but it's playability that counts, and though Thunderforce is good, it could have been better. People out for the best blast on the Megadrive should go for one of the other games I mentioned earlier, but it you can't get your hands on either, Thunderforce III is a worthwhile substitute, packing a powerful punch in the shoot 'em up stakes. "


Overall Score86%

Retrospective comments


Having never heard of the Thunder Force before (and sinfully not really interested in the review for Thunder Force 2), I was not only highly impressed with the title screen that greeted me along with the fantastic tune which accompanied it (which I am humming as I type), but the first level almost blew me out of my seat.

Composing myself to try the game again (after being mercifully slaughtered in the underwater level as the first choice), I was rewarded with eventually progressing to the next level to enjoy the lovely visuals and thumpy tunes which accompany it.

I can go on about the vast imaginative landscapes ranging from the Firey volcano to the lush green forest and not forgetting the massive battleship (which was more than a nod to level 3 from R-Type), to the final level where things got frantic to say the least!

There was little room to take a breath and the speed, combined with the quick thinking required (especially for the bosses) really made you a better gamer (should you survive the onslaught) - I'd always like to see a decent end of game sequence and Thunder Force 3 does not hold back in giving a pretty decent one which made me feel rewarded for the effort.

Make no mistake about it, for me this was the best shooter for the MD, (at least until Thunder Force 4 came out). Very rarely does a shooter stay in my MD until I crack it and the fact that R-Type was clearly absent on the MD, this more than made up for that void.

I know there are many other MD shooters flying around and a lot of them deserve praise (such as Hellfire, Gynoug, Zerowing to name a few), but for me there is something about this that makes me not feel ashamed to go back to for a play.

The series has since appeared on the early in the Playstation's/Saturn's timeline (as I stumbled into them when I was visiting CEX (before they stopped doing imports (Booo)), but I never got the chance to play these incarnations - also suspect whether or not the creators of this series are still around.

Since these types of shooters in general are being shunned in favour of Halo and Quake type 1st person ones these days, it would be very hard to see this selling well should it be revived - a classic case would be how R-type Final did in terms of selling power (i.e. not very well at all).

I wonder how many people in ten years time will remember how great side shooters were or will it be forgotten?

- Jim Wai

Ryan - 19 Aug 2008, 13:54 GMT

I remember Thunderforce III because it was one of my very first game for my Megadrive way back in highschool! I was an old Gradius/ fan back then and was dazzled by TF III then awesome graphics and very hard (for me) gameplay. Seeing a review of this classic is a huge nostalgia trip for me.

Bob - 16 Oct 2008, 07:56 GMT

I remember showing this game to a friend of mine with an Amiga and he was absolutely drooling! I forgot all about it when Thunderforce IV showed up but every now and then I still take out for a spin.

Edward - 31 Oct 2008, 12:08 GMT

I visited this page because last night I played Thunder Force III again, in preparation for the awesomeness of the upcoming Thunder Force VI for the PS2. Still a great game, great graphics, great music. It looks incredibly nice even by today's standards. Technosoft FTW!

"a classic case would be how R-type Final did in terms of selling power (i.e. not very well at all)."
Well, R-Type Final didn't go well because it's not a good game by any means. It only appeals to R-Type dihard fans (the music is awful, for instance).

Dan - 25 Feb 2009, 17:10 GMT

This was what the Megadrive was about, blowing things up and doing it in style. This game was freakin brollyant, destroy, destroy, destroy, bang, smash, boom, crash, parallax scrolling, big boss, force field, wave-it, kerpow, big mudder-ship, pazzam, ka-minto-broll-ace-pie. Classic SEU.

Curtains - 26 Oct 2010, 15:23 GMT

Thunderforce III was, and still is, my favourite MD game of all time. I liked IV too, but it seemed to over egg the pudding somewhat. A bit of slow down and flickery sprites too compared to the clean solid III. And the music..... wow.

Gaz - 04 Dec 2011, 22:38 GMT

This is the best shooter ever - period!!!

I have TF4 also but for some reason that doesn't feel as special as this. Pure magic and I still play it now.

To top it off this must be easily in the top 10 soundtracks for a game ever!

James - 21 Dec 2011, 06:22 GMT

I played Thunder Force III on sega megadrive back in the early 90's. always cleared the game (mania level) to the end without taking any hit...;)
last year I found and downloaded thunder force III and some megadrive emulator for pc which works great. played it all night loooooong....i was tooooo excited my body's trembled, my heart's beat fast and there were tears in my eyes when the opening theme started to play on my be able to lay my hands on this awesome game again...very nostalgic moment ...and about the music........BEST EVER....!!!!!!! (I also downloaded the complete sountrack in .vgm format) just google should find the soundtrack, the emulator (I used fusion364) and the game itself pretty easy.....


Mean Machines Issue 13 - October 1991
Shoot 'Em Up Sega Megadrive
Buy today!

Thunderforce 3

Thunderforce 3

Thunderforce 3

Thunderforce 3

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