Game Info:

Developed By: M2
Published By: SEGA
Released: May 28, 2020
Available: Switch
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone: mild fantasy violence
Number of Players:
Price: $7.99

Thank You SEGA for providing us with a review code!

As SEGA has been around the block for quite some time and certain hardware soon becomes outdated, they always take the opportunity to revisit their lengthy library and rerelease games to a new audience, as well as to preserve their history. This time, we’re taking a look at Thunder Force AC, the eighteenth entry to the Nintendo Switch’s catalog of SEGA AGES titles. In particular, these set of Sega Ages entries are ports of Sega Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, and Arcade versions of many of Sega’s IPs.

Thunder Force AC is the arcade “port” of Thunder Force III (hence the AC in the title). It adds and removes some features from the original Genesis title and makes the experience more difficult due to the arcade’s nature of bullying your wallet. The Thunder Force series (starting from Thunder Force II) is a title of horizontal-scrolling shoot ‘em ups where you take your ship and go through fast-paced stages shooting anything and everything that comes across your path.

What separates Thunder Force AC from other shooters is their usage of the weapon system. In TF AC, you have up to five different weapons that can be collected throughout the stages and you switch between the ones you have at the press of a button. The twin shot is your standard two-shot energy beam that shoost directly in front. The back shot makes it so that one stream of shots is in front while two streams come from the back. The wave is a large wide stream of shots that shoot forward. The fire shot is unique where it shoots missles directly above and below your ship. If terrain is available, the missiles will trail along the ground and ceiling. The last and most elusive shot variant is the hunter. They are a set of homing energy balls that pierce through terrain and home in on enemies.


Strong Points: Lots of additional options to tailor your experience; fast-paced arcade gameplay that has aged well
Weak Points: Doesn’t include the “other” version of the presented game (Thunder Force II) like many other SEGA AGES titles do
Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence and explosions

The key to mastering Thunder Force AC is knowing when to use each of these shot variants as different weapons excel in specific situations. At first glance, the wave shot would seem to be superior to the twin shot due to its wider area, but some enemies (namely bosses) can have invulnerable areas and small weak spots, making the wave shot hard to damage those kinds of enemies. Using the right weapons at the right time can make it so that you can even shred through bosses in mere seconds. There are also standard upgrades alongside the weapon system such as the CLAW that enhances your shots as well providing a bit of defense by blocking some weaker shots from enemies. By default, AC grants 6 credits per playthrough and three lives per credit. If you lose all credits, the game ends no matter what.

As with many Sega Ages titles on the Switch, this one introduces numerous options at hand. A player has the ability to swap any buttons that are used to any function with the exception of the plus and minus buttons. So if you happen to not like the default controls, you can change them around as you see fit. There are also visual options such as changing the border display, changing the screen size of the game, emulating scanlines to give that retro CRT look, and settings such as changing the difficulty or the number of lives each credit starts with.

Saving and loading features exist for over ten save files in this title and you can save or load from any point of Thunder Force AC. Maybe you want to replay certain stages over and over again without going through most of the game. Or maybe you want a slightly easier time and don’t want to start over from the beginning if you lose all your credits. For an even easier time, there exists the kids mode separate from the arcade (original) mode. Kids mode lets people start with 9 credits, a shield on every respawn, and the ability to keep the weapons you’ve acquired as dying in arcade mode loses the equipped weapon, with the exception of the twin shot (but you will lose any upgrades granted on twin shot).

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The leaderboards include two separate rankings for expert and freestyle. Expert rankings are when you play the arcade mode with no changes outside of changing the difficulty from normal to hard or expert. Freestyle rankings are for any options changed in the settings. For the top scores, you get to download the replay data to see how (Japanese) people play.

With all the features that Sega Ages titles tend to add, I’m a little disappointed that this enhanced port didn’t include Thunder Force III unlike many others including arcade/console versions of their respective titles. There are significant enough differences between the two versions (such as entire levels) so neither are superior or inferior to each other and both are worth playing. It’s even stranger considering that the first Sega Ages title, Sonic the Hedgehog provides its arcade/Mega Play port as it is inferior to the original console version as it completely removes some stages. (Well, I guess it might be superior to some as Marble Zone, special stages, and such are the levels missing.)

Even so, Sega Ages Thunder Force AC might just be the definitive version of Thunder Force AC. After beating the game, you get the option of using the ship from Thunder Force IV with its own set of weaponry. A nice touch that didn’t need to exist but does anyway. After playing through TF AC, I can see why the series is held in such high regard. A nice shoot ‘em up that stood the test of time and additional optional features that don’t take away from the overall experience. In terms of morality, the only notable thing is spaceship violence and explosions as all semblance of a plot are relegated to after the final boss is defeated. Whether you’re a hardcore purist or a casual player of shoot ‘em ups, this version of Thunder Force AC is well worth checking out.

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Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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