Thunderforce 4 review - Sega Megadrive

Read Original Review PDF for Thunderforce 4

Thunderforce 4 box artSo here it is. Thunderforce IV! All of those souls left blubbing for more after completing the third episode in the on-going galactic saga can at last throw away their Kleenex and get back to some furious shoot 'em up action. It is two years since the devastating battle of Thunderforce III and Ohn Empire are on the move again, plotting the extinction of all human life. So once more it's down to the ever-faithful Thunderforce pilots to save the world, the universe and everything.

There are quite a few differences between this new edition and its predecessors. Where II and III were four megabit carts, Thunderforce IV is eight. This means there are more levels and more weapons. The parallax scrolling has also entered new realms, with the shoot 'em up fun going higher and lower than the screen itself. Following in the best traditions of the genre, there are no end of weird alien spacecraft to destroy, no end of bosses to overcome, and no end of power-ups to collect! Belt up and blast off! Here we go!

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" I know what you're thinking! It is better than Thuderforce III? Well, to put your worries at rest, it is. The real question is how much better? Here the answer is less definite. The graphics are state of the art, with plenty of minutely detailed sprites, some breathtaking backdrops, and stunning weapon presentation. The animation is fast and smooth, and there is so much of it, what with hordes of attacking sprites and weapons, that the game suffers from slow down at times. Despite this, the game still plays as well as its predecessors, and the method of control is just as easy to get into. The most impressive feature though was the vertical scrolling, which succeeds in evoking a sense of vastness. As well as that, it is the only complete departure from Thunderforce III, and that prompts my only criticism of the game; originality, or rather the lack of it. In spite of its superb graphics and gameplay, there is nothing especially unique in this game. While it is visually a new experience, conceptually it isn't. I suppose you could call it a Thunderforce III re-spray. Obviously for those who haven't got the third one, this is the best you'll get on the Megadrive currently. But for those who have, I can't help thinking they ought to wait for something a bit different before they part with their cash. "

" Brilliant and challenging though it is, I found the lack of originality in Thunderforce IV a disappointment. Apart from the wider playfield, this is very much a traditional horizontally scrolling blaster where you simply shoot the baddies, pick up the power-ups and take out the end-of-level bosses. Even the weapons offer nothing new. Admittedly, the graphics and sounds are excellent, but the game basically boils down to being the same old shoot 'em up format taken to its extreme. I certainly enjoyed playing it, but because there wasn't anything new there I found that once I'd seen all the levels I didn't want to play it again. Thunderforce IV is definitely one of the most challenging and visually appealing blasters yet seen on the Megadrive, but to be honest I'd only buy it if I didn't have many horizontally scrolling shoot 'em ups in my collection. "


Overall Score87%

Retrospective comments


Whenever you engage someone in a conversion about Megadrive shooters, Thunderforce IV usually gets mentioned at some point or another. After the good work seen in the first two Megadrive installments, Tecnosoft really did pull out all the stops to craft one of the most gorgeous-looking titles ever to grace the console. The visuals are out of this world and proved that the MD could match the SNES in this regard. The speed of the game is also breathtaking, with loads of sprites and bullets on screen at once - yet there is very rarely any slowdown.

This game simply could not have been done on the SNES, the slower clock speed of the CPU would have resulted in a title rife with slowdown, but on the MD it was possible. I think the MM team were a little too harsh on the game, and it deserves at mark in the mid-90's at least. A classic shooter and no mistake!

Giorgius - 19 Aug 2008, 23:37 GMT

It's true, a Snes conversion could have been a "slowdown festival", while the faster Megadrive was capable to handle the Thunderforce 4 code. However, the work performed by Technosoft don't do justice to the rapid Sega console clock, given the CONSISTENTamount of slowdown occurred when the action is quite intense, that is frequently in some stages... What about playing the SAT version (slowdown free), added to Thunderforce Gold Pack 2?

gaditanomania - 17 Sep 2008, 00:23 GMT

87 is a poor score.TF4 is the best shot´em up ever and the best shoot´em up of Genesis.

Is the worst score than i saw in the web.Usually the overall score is 10(1-10 score) or 95,98...(1-100).

Bob - 16 Oct 2008, 07:36 GMT

I still play this game and I must say that when I first read the original review I was surprised with the score. Certainly one of the best shooters (if not games) ever.

Tris Wicks - 05 Nov 2008, 06:55 GMT

I do hope everyone involved plays the sound to TF4 through righteous stereo speakers at a volume to make neighbors frown

yoghurt_dog - 12 Nov 2008, 04:07 GMT

87%????? surely a joke! this is without a doubt one of the greatest videogames ever made!

just so much fun to play - maintain concentration, set to hardest difficulty setting, get into the zone, and let your hand eye coordination and reflexes do the rest! (i realise that's true of most shooter not just this one...)

also, how trippy and psychedelic are the visuals? i love it, absolutely beautiful, surreal textures, colours, and objects on screen. if you like that sort of thing like i do (i love art, graffiti and all that sort of visual feasting) then playing this game is totally stimulatiing! not in a sexual way or anything though. it's almost as trippy as bio hazard battle, which is officially the trippiest and most visually arresting game ever.

then the sound! what a classic game soundtrack! i'm a sound engineer, music student, and general music nutcase - and games like this and streets of rage have had a MASSIVE influence on the direction and focus of contemporary music in the past 15 years. a ridiculous statement? no, not at all - just go and listen to any underground techno, or drum and bass, or even pop records.

i love this game.

Dilgar - 20 Nov 2008, 13:28 GMT

I had a different version of this game as a hand me down from my uncle. It showed on the box Lightning Force. Fell in love with the game the first time I played it. Simply the best music in a video game EVER. Now to find copies of the music online.....

deano - 30 Dec 2008, 20:45 GMT

if you love thunderforce,s exellent music try this album out -DragonForce - Inhuman Rampage. this is a unbelievable album sure to please you no end.. i love this top game too.

Dan - 29 Apr 2009, 10:35 GMT

You can tell by the reviews that the lads were sick to the teeth of Megadrive shoot em ups by this point, shame they decide to let it soil their judgement of a quality blast.

I was of the same opinion by this stage and concequentially didn't bond with the game like I did TF3, but there was still no denying it's quality.

byron - 14 Jul 2009, 11:10 GMT

your score is a little out considering how good this game was, it has some of the best music ive ever heard on any console!
Every lvl looks brilliant, good weapons,good gfx through out.
what's not to like, it's a travisty that this game dont fetch £40 +
on ebay when you see crap like moonwalker,phantasy star's not to mention others going at daft prices. I think the ebay comunity has gone crazy rather like the score for this game...soz

khh - 30 Sep 2009, 01:53 GMT

theres a weird thing about the slowdown in this game or maybe im just going insane :P

as you increase the difficulty the numbers of shots and ships on screen increases by a good amount, however the slowdown doesn't, in fact i could even say that at maniac difficulty the game has less slowdown than at normal

makes me wonder if the slowdown is bug related, or i'm a bit looney :p

Ken Shean - 10 Dec 2009, 23:42 GMT

87%???????????? Are you serious???? AND 86% for TFIII ???
Forgive'em Lord....
Absolutely everything here is out of the ordinary....
Actually at that time I was all TFIII and missed TFIV as I was more into the Snes when this was released...
But I got it this year, and even nowadays I was pleased whith the gameplay, the grafics and OMG the MUSIC!!!!! So epic and emotional!!!!!!!!
I completely agree with the above comment by Yoghourt! I'm a beatmaker/producer/composer myself and this game is an INSPIRATION.

Edd Haddon - 08 Feb 2010, 12:47 GMT

Still my fave shooter of all time. Played it through so many times. Beautiful detailed graphics, some of the best music and sound effects in any game ever, tricky difficulty, hardly any slowdown....genius. Still not played TF II or III but plan to asap.

Laurie - 26 Jul 2010, 16:28 GMT

As much as one would not wish to argue with Giorgius, gaditanomania, Tris Wicks, yoghurt_dog, Dilgar and deano et al., Thunderforce IV is not a great videogame. Sure, the sound--from the explosive attract screen on--is awesome, the graphics brilliantly drawn and the gameplay overwhelmingly involving. The truth is, however, rather prosaic: take away the presentation and "[a]part from the wider playfield, this is very much a traditional horizontally scrolling blaster where you simply shoot the baddies, pick up the power-ups and take out the end-of-level bosses."

Leonard Norwood Jr. - 18 Oct 2010, 18:36 GMT

Thunder Force IV is still a awesome game nonetheless Laurie. Despite some flaws, it still makes it more than acceptable game for people to play and beat it several times. What can you say about other shooters that does the same thing besides Thunder Force? You still shoot enemies and blah blah blah. Even if you made a awesome plot, the gameplay still matters by a decent amount. And it would be downright boring if the level ends without a boss. You gotta give Technosoft a lot of cred for their effort. Game developers are trying to work out their bugs and make games better. You know you gotta cut them some slack. Besides a great game can't go without gameplay and a darn good one with that. A story won't always make the cut no matter how good it is without the gameplay.

Adam - 16 Feb 2011, 16:40 GMT

Of course there are rarely going to be a ridiculous number of added features to a game like this, within a series. What they did was take what WORKED and amped it up to make, for me, one of the most visually and aurally adrenaline fueled blasts I have played. It's subtle things like the revving sound that's played when a boss is incoming... Just too awesome. I just completed it again today and it still holds its charm. As simple as everyone seems to make the vertical scrolling out to be, it is SO effective at making things seem enormous that it really is a huge step up. It completely changes the feel of the game and its environment. Oh and since it had been about 10+ years since I last played this game, the occasionally brutal difficulty certainly took its toll with the bosses surprising me with their attacks :P (I think this game has a very well tuned difficulty gradient, whilst being fairly tough from the off). After a couple of game overs I really didn't think I was going to cut it in the later levels after I continued a couple of times, but managed to concentrate and pull through - THAT'S what it's all about. Of course I concur with the sentiments on the music. The awesomeness of the music simply cannot be overlooked, as it is in my opinion a good candidate for the best music in a Mega drive/Genesis game. Top stuff.

MrRetroStage - 09 Mar 2012, 14:43 GMT

Wow. TF4 is truly one of the most exciting Shumps ever created.... I enjoyed every couple of minutes playing this game.

And yes, it certainly lacks of innovation or "new elements", but this formula is presented flawlessly (in my humble opinion). MD at its best!

Dylan Barry - 20 Jun 2012, 15:50 GMT

breath taking , just stick ont he cheat for 99 lives and enjoy the ride... i dont think i ever actualy played this without the cheat ... but wow, stunning on every front. I used to record the music and listen to it on my tape walkman, thats how amazing it is

Rail slave - 21 Oct 2012, 08:42 GMT

hi, im making thunderforce zero

check it out

chris - 17 Nov 2013, 21:08 GMT

its actually not too hard without the cheat as long as you pick up extra lives and keep your score high, a great game, its the interesting bosses and weapons that make it so great, it almost tells a story with the actions that you see on screen, like when your friends come along and upgrade your ship and the huge mid boss you fight a few times in the game and eventually destroy just before the final boss, this and Herzog zwei have the best game music ever.

ncnxccxg cfbbfh - 26 Dec 2013, 12:51 GMT

MORONS, like seriously we all know this is one of if not THE best shooters of all effing time.. and they give it 87% and critisize its supposed 'unoriginality... BRAINDEAD! Like HELLO CLOWNS THE GENRE IS SHMUPS wtf do you expect!!?? There's only so much leeway in such a genre and Thunderforce 4 pushes that leeway to the dam limit! I seriously hope these guys look back in shame at their moronic 'unoriginal' commentries. SHAME

Thank you Techno Soft we love you for this game!

Anthony - 15 Oct 2014, 16:35 GMT

87%? you're fucking mad. At least 95%. Only drawback enemy bosses not so original

Retro Kid - 03 Aug 2015, 20:47 GMT

When people say the megadrive music sounds like crap compared to the SNES I bring up Thunder Force 4, Streets of Rage and Revenge of Shinobi. Although the SNES had great sound it could not do samples like the megadrive. The SNES could not have pulled off the TF4 soundtrack and when I heard it back in the 90's I couldn't believe it was coming out of console. The boss battles with the awesome soundtrack made those battles so intense.

Mean Machines Issue 24 - September 1992
Shoot 'Em Up Sega Megadrive
Buy today!

Thunderforce 4

Thunderforce 4

Thunderforce 4

Thunderforce 4

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