Thunder Force

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A Shoot'Em Up series by Technosoft, which started with an obscure Japanese computer title in 1983 as a multi-direction overhead view shooter. It eventually become a side-scrolling shooter in the third installment, famous for its loads of Awesome Music.

The Excuse Plot puts player in shoes of the Galaxy Federation's pilot in the Fire Leo starfighter against the overwhelming cybernetic ORN Empire. Thunder Force V changes the focus to Earth when Earthmen discover the wreck of Thunder Force IV's Fire Leo (Rynex) and reverse engineer it. The Guardian, an AI designed to study Vasteel (as Rynex comes to be known), however, goes haywire on humanity, but not before they create their own Vasteel starfighter. Thunder Force V is also known for having more story than the previous games, which ties together the events of Thunder Force IV. The sixth installment was trapped in Development Hell for a decade, but eventually released.

The Thunder Force series spans six games:

  • Thunder Force (A variety of PC platforms, 1983) -- The first game in the series, and the least well-known. Comprised entirely of overhead stages.
  • Thunder Force II (Sharp X68000, 1988) -- Alternates between overhead sections and side-scrolling sections. Rereleased on the Genesis as Thunder Force II MD, with one less overhead-sidescroller pair and more balanced difficulty. MD itself was ported to Saturn via Thunder Force Gold Pack 1.
  • Thunder Force III (Genesis/MD, 1990) -- Completely does away with overhead sections. Ported to the Saturn via Gold Pack 1.
    • Thunder Force AC (Arcade, 1990) -- An arcade port of Thunder Force III (unusual in that ports generally go from arcade to console and not the other way around), but with altered 4th and 5th stages. Ported to the Saturn via Thunder Force Gold Pack 2, with an autofire feature that was not present in the original version.
    • Thunder Spirits (SNES, 1992) -- A SNES port of Thunder Force AC (making it a port of a port), with a new stage 5 and stage 8. The least-known of the three versions of TFIII, despite being on the most popular platform of the three platforms it appeared on.
  • Thunder Force IV (Genesis/MD, 1992) -- Released as Lightening (sic) Force: Quest for the Darkstar in North America. Ported to the Saturn via Gold Pack 2, with less slowdown and Thunder Force III's player ship as an unlockable ship.
  • Thunder Force V (Saturn, 1997) -- The first game in the series with three-dimensional graphics, and introduces the Over Weapon system, in addition to expounding on the plot of Thunder Force IV. Ported to the PlayStation as Thunder Force V: Perfect System, with less slowdown (but reduced visuals) and some Omake content.
  • Thunder Force VI (PlayStation 2, 2008) -- A whopping 11 years after the initial release of Thunder Force V and one failed attempt to bring it to the Dreamcast. Due to the low quality-to-anticipation ratio, it was not well received.

Tropes used in Thunder Force include:
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Main plot of Thunder Force V. Humanity built a super computer named Guardian to study the wreckage of Rynex, the 4th game's Fire Leo. It then built a large fleet of starships based on the data. Then Guardian's AI damper program mysteriously disappeared, and it turned against humanity with said fleet. Subverted. Guardian is still loyal to humanity. Chaos/Khaos (the Big Bad from the previous game) escaped its destruction by transferring its program to Rynex, which deleted the AI damper after Guardian accessed its history logs. In the end, Guardian reveals that it helped humanity by purposefully spreading its forces thin and leaving critical flaws in its tactics, allowing the protagonist, Cenes Crawford to destroy the fleet.
  • Always Accurate Attack: The Free Range in Thunder Force V worked like this: anything entering the green wireframe area would be in for a world of (unavoidable) hurt.
  • Artificial Human: Cenes Crawford, Player Character of Thunder Force V is actually a clone of a dead Ace Pilot. Same as C CTNs C of Thunder Force VI.
  • Attack Drone: The CLAWs for the Fire Leo series.
  • Awesome but Impractical: In Thunder Force V and Thunder Force VI, you can make your ship do rolls. It does nothing but look stylish.
  • Battleship Raid: The Cerberus in Thunder Force III and Thunder Force VI.
  • Big Bad: Chaos/Khaos is pretty impressive one. After harassing The Federation for two games, we've finally blown it up in the third. Only to find it program was transferred to secondary system in the forth. And even reveal to be the one behind Guardian's rampage in fifth.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Thunder Force IV has the Rynex being crippled in the escape from the explosion following the defeat of Khaos and being abandoned to drift in space, while the scientists of the Galactic Federation admit that sending it in the first place was a mistake in the first place. It also hints at another threat named "Faust" is on its way. Yet they still have hope for humanity's future.
    • Thunder Force V has Cenes Crawford, pilot of the Gauntlet/Vambrace learn that the Guardian was on Earth's side all along, and that it did what it could to help her fight Khaos who was behind the corruption. Cenes destroys herself and the Vambrace so that another incident like that can not happen again.
  • Blind Idiot Translation: Many, many examples.
  • Boring but Practical: Twin Shot and Back Fire, the only weapons you don't lose when you die.
  • Boss Dissonance: Many bosses in Thunder Force III die within seconds of exposure to your weapons, especially the Sever. In contrast, the stages themselves have many deathtraps that demand twitch reflexes and R-Type-style memorization.
  • Boss Subtitles: Thunder Force V and Thunder Force VI.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The fire planet levels throughout the series.
  • Cool Starship: The Fire-Leo series for the Galactic Federation and the RVR series for Earth.
  • Crosshair Aware: The Sky Raid stage in Thunder Force IV.
  • Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: The default ship in Thunder Force VI doesn't lose its weapons when you die.
  • Death Is Cheap: Subverted in Thunder Force V. The reason why Cenes Crawford can afford to effectively "respawn" in a new body again and again is because of technology reverse-engineered from Vasteel, which is in turn reserved for the best pilots Earth had to offer. With the Guardian destroying the facility allowing her to "respawn", however, she's aware that there'd be no going back on this one.
  • Deconstruction Game: To a degree, Thunder Force V. Given the premise of a One Man Army going up against a rogue AI menace. Except that the Guardian, the AI in question's still loyal to humanity despite its compromised programming and deliberately left gaping holes for the protagonist to exploit, making it possible to go after said AI at all and deliver a Suicide by Cop.
  • Every Ten Thousand Points: The series is known for cranking out tons of extends.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Vasteel Original (the Rynex) in Thunder Force V and Vasteel Nocht in Thunder Force VI.
  • Excuse Plot: Most of the series. Though it starts getting elaborated upon starting with Thunder Force IV, which continues further in Thunder Force V.
  • Fallen Hero: The player's ship in Thunder Force IV, "Rynex", comes back in Thunder Force V as a Sequential Boss that you have to fight against and destroy.
  • Fan Sequel: Broken Thunder, released after Thunder Force V and before Thunder Force VI. The good news: Hyakutaro Tsukumo worked on the soundtrack. The bad news: it was so ill-received that it is theorized that Tsukumo's involvement with it was why he was left out of Thunder Force VI's soundtrack.
  • Fetus Terrible: The ORN Emperor in Thunder Force VI is an extremely ugly and monstrous infant with 3 eyes and varying number of irises in each of them. Apparently, the design was lifted from a character from a manga the project director had once drawn.
  • Final Boss Preview: Thunder Force IV had ORN Faust at the end of the Battleship Raid level. Your team of ships try to destroy it and get their asses completely handed to them, forcing the remaining members of your squad to resort in giving you the Mid-Season Upgrade. Thankfully, you get your revenge in the final level.
  • For Massive Damage: Many of the bosses in the series requires you hitting a weakpoint
  • Genre Shift: Across two games; Thunder Force II adds some side-scrolling areas to go with Thunder Force 1-style overhead areas, and Thunder Force III does away with overhead areas completely.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The ORN threat in Thunder Force VI forces Earth to rediscover Vasteel technology and even rebuild the Sword Fleet. Effectively rendering the sacrifices Cenes Crawford and the Guardian made moot.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Two in Thunder Force VI: an obscure and obsolete offshoot of Chinese called Tangut, and Mongolian.
  • Harder Than Hard: "Very Hard" in Thunder Force II for the Sharp X68000, "Mania" in Thunder Force III, and "Maniac" in Thunder Force IV and Thunder Force VI.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Lampshaded in Thunder Force V. As this is intentional on the Guardian's part and how Cenes Crawford manages to even make it to the final confrontation with the AI at all.
  • Homage: Some of the boss names in Thunder Force V: Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and A3 (for Alabama 3).
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The boss for Stage 5 in Thunder Force IV.
  • Human Aliens: The Galactic Federation seems to be made of this, judging from the cutscenes seen in Thunder Force IV. Averted in Thunder Force V as it's set on Earth.
  • I Let You Win: The Guardian in Thunder Force V. Cenes Crawford in her last message even lampshades this by stating that had it not done so, the odds of just surviving those battles wasn't even in single digits.
  • Internal Homage: Thunder Force VI has many references to past games in the series. Perhaps too many.
  • It's Up to You : ORN's forces are so much greater than the Galaxy Federation's that if the Fire Leo fails, their regular forces won't stand a chance.
    • Subverted in Thunder Force IV where other Galactic Federation fighters team up with you to take on the Cerberus battleship before the trope gets played straight in the boss fight immediately following and for the rest of the game.
    • Subverted in Thunder Force V in that your character leads a squad of RVR-01 Gauntlets (named "Thunder Force", incidentally). Played straight later on as only the protagonist goes off to space following the battle at Babel; this is justified in that only one RVR-02 Vambrace was completed in time and that Cene Crawford's remaining squadmates drew straws.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Thunder Force V explained it as a cloning system called "Circulate Death".
  • Leitmotif: And the Wind Blew All Day Long for Styx, Lightning Strikes Again for Rynex, and Beginning of War for Vambrace.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The fire planet levels throughout the series.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me
  • The Many Deaths of You: Cenes Crawford's log in Thunder Force V brings up some of the times she underwent "Circulate Death" because of dying. At one point, she didn't even die in combat, but was blown up with the ship she was on while having coffee. But with the Guardian wiping out the means to undergo "Circulate Death", it's dawning on her that she's not coming out of her imminent and final death.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade:
  • Multiple Endings: Thunder Force IV just changes what song plays during the ending depending on the difficulty, but Thunder Force V's ending is decided by whether you beat the final boss fast enough, and Thunder Force VI has three endings depending on what ship and difficulty you chose and whether you used a continue.
  • Nintendo Hard: Thunder Force II. Especially the X68000 version.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your fighter, though three more hitpoints are generally added with the shield power-up.
  • One-Winged Angel: Gargoyle Perfect in Thunder Force VI.
  • Player Mooks: You can unlock the Rynex-R, the main fighter of the Galactic Federation, in Thunder Force VI.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Thunder Force II, when you lose your last life, the robo-voice exclaims "Shit!".
  • Raising the Steaks: Iron Maiden from Thunder Force V is an undead animal of sorts (complete with flies, rotting flesh and blood). Its description? "It was dead, but alive at the same time."
  • Real Time Weapon Change
  • Recurring Boss: Gargoyle starting with Thunder Force III, and ORN Faust in Thunder Force VI.
  • Redshirt Army: The Galactic Federation in Thunder Force IV and Thunder Force VI.
  • Robo Speak: Any time you collect a weapon power-up.
  • Roboteching: The Hunter weapon. Your ship shoots out blue energy balls of doom that home in on the enemies.
  • Sequential Boss: Many of them. Of note is Armed Armament Arm from Thunder Force V, who has three different forms. Same applies to UNKNOWN II, the Final Boss.
  • Single Biome Planet: The sole exception is Thunder Force V which occurs on Earth. The ocean planet in Thunder Force VI is justified, it's post-global warming world, and you will get pass the submerged city at one point. The jungle is really an abandoned space colony, with overgrowth forest took over residental area.
  • Space Zone: Thunder Force VI plays with this by having the background move around with no effect on gameplay at times.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: The PlayStation port of Thunder Force V was called Thunder Force V: Perfect System.
  • Surprisingly Good English: All the English in Thunder Force V was there in the Japanese version as well. It kinda explains why the Guardian sounds slightly "off" compared to a native speaker.
  • Theme Naming: The ship names: Styx, Rynex, Syrinx as well as the Gauntlet, Vambrace and Brigandine
  • Transforming Mecha: A3 (Armament Armed Arm) and Guardian's Knight from Thunder Force V and B3 (Barbaric Berserk Beast) from Thunder Force VI.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: From Thunder Force III onwards, dying takes away your current weapon. This can lead to situations in which you avoid using the most effective weapon for the situation, lest you die and lose it.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: As a presentation upgrade starting with Thunder Force V.
  • Video Game Lives
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Rynex's Thunder Sword.
  • What?: The name of the BGM for the second half of Stage 1.