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Video Game: Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is an arcade game released in 1986 by Namco. It is a side-scrolling action game where players controls "Albatross", a member of WCPO's "Rolling Thunder" espionage unit, who infiltrates the hideout of a terrorist cult named Geldra, led by a green-skinned humanoid alien named Maboo. Unlike other action titles, it is a little more slower paced, and is more about taking cover from enemy fire and conserving ammo than mindless running and gunning. You often have to find cover, hide behind doors (some which hold more ammo for your weapons) and leap up and down between floors.

An NES port was released in 1989. Although an official Famicom release in Japan, the NES version of Rolling Thunder was one of the few Namco games that were localized in the U.S. by Tengen without Nintendo's license along with Pac-Man and R.B.I. Baseball (a localization of Namco's Family Stadium), resulting the game being released as one of Tengen's black cartridges. The original arcade version has also been re-released in various Namco Museum compilations.

Two sequels were released: Rolling Thunder 2, an arcade sequel released in 1990 that featured better graphics than the original and 2-player co-op (with Leila as Player 1 and Albatross as Player 2) with a Sega Genesis port in 1991; and Rolling Thunder 3, a Genesis-exclusive final entry centered around a new agent named Jay.

There is also an officially sanctioned webcomic, Rapid Thunder, that continues the plot of the games.

Not to be confused with the unrelated 1977 action film of the same name.


This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Leila in RT2. Ellen is also playable by a cheat code in RT3.
  • Actually a Doombot: Dread pulls this on you in the third game when you face him for the first time in the underground base. It's not until you beat Stage 9 do you find out he's still alive.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Genesis version of Rolling Thunder 2 added three extra stages where you get exclusive new weapons and fight new bosses.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Dread in the third game, which is the only one to have cut-scenes with dialogue.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Hiding behind doors. Besides wasting time, enemies will keep appearing and sometimes they will stay around the door until you come out. The second game required this in the last level, but that's only because you need to conserve ammo for Gimdo, the final boss. Unless you like firing Painfully Slow Bullets that is...
  • Blatant Item Placement: The doors that supply you with more ammo when you enter them. You can easily tell there's one when a sign is nearby. Some doors also hold time bonuses and extra health, but those are less obvious.
  • Blush Sticker: This happens in the NES version of the first game when Leila kisses Albatross on the New Game+.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted with everything but your pistol. If your pistol runs out of ammo, you'll fire slower "ghost bullets" until you find more ammo or die.
  • Bottomless Pits: The first two games have them.
  • Captain Ersatz: Maboo looks a bit too much like Piccolo Daimaoh, while his successor Dread resembles the reincarnated Piccolo wearing a monocle.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Some robot bosses in 2 and 3. 3 also had the cracker grenades which explode this way.
  • Crosshair Aware: The sniper and spider robot in the third game. There's also the first and third bosses of the Genesis version of Rolling Thunder 2.
    • For really good and obvious reasons, this is averted in the third game's bike level, jetski level, and plane level (you're on a hijacked plane and you can virtually see the whole plane interior).
  • Code Name: Your agents.
  • Collision Damage: The only damage you can take that isn't a One-Hit Kill. Averted in sequels, where the enemy has to actually strike you to do damage, otherwise you just bump off of him with no damage.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Woe to you if you die, you'll go back to your pistol and lose any extra ammo and your machine gun (if you had one) when you restart from a checkpoint, or worse, the whole level. Rolling Thunder 3 subverts this problem by resuming from where you die, thankfully, and you keep everything you have unless all your lives are lost, in that case you start the stage over from the beginning.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Subverted in 3, where you can fire at an angle upwards and in midair. This only works with your pistol, though.
  • Distressed Damsel: Leila in the first game.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Played straight in all three games. In the original arcade game, when you beat the first five stages, Maboo laughs at you and you go through a Hard Mode Filler. The NES version, along with both Genesis games, gives the player a password after completing the normal difficulty which restarts the game on a harder setting. The full ending of each console game can only be seen by completing their respective hard modes.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: All games have at least one, but the first one was pretty much where it took place.
  • Evil Laugh: Maboo does this when you either get a Game Over or complete the first five levels.
  • Floating Timeline: A weird example. The first game was an intentional period piece set in the late 1960's, but Rolling Thunder 2 moved the game's setting to the 1990's. The sequel even establishes that it's the same Leila and Albatross from the original game, not just different agents who inherited the codenames.
  • Goomba Stomp: Starting in the second game, jumping onto an enemy will knock him back and briefly stun him without damaging you, making this a semi-legitimate attack.
  • Hand Blast: Maboo in the NES version of the original, Gimdo in the Genesis version of Rolling Thunder 2 and Dread does this in the second phase of his final battle.
  • Hard Mode Filler: The latter half of the first game, which feature redesigned versions of the first five stages with more elaborate traps (except for Area 9, which is entirely original).
  • Kill It with Fire: The Flamethrower weapon in the Genesis version of Rolling Thunder 2 and Rolling Thunder 3.
  • Licensed Game: It's a little-known fact that the Rolling Thunder series is actually based on a manga from Hong Kong. The characters in the game are unusually tall and skinny because that is also how they are drawn in the manga.
  • Life Meter: The arcade version's was pretty ridiculous. Your life gauge had eight bars when your character actually had only two hit points. Getting shot once killed you, and touching an enemy decreased the life gauge in half. This was corrected in the arcade sequel and all the console versions.
    • In Rolling Thunder 3, you get three hit points if you play on the normal setting, but the harder difficulty gives you the standard two hit points. Some unmarked doors actually have life expansions, or the special weapon door if you didn't pick an alternate weapon in the pre-mission menu.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: After killing Dread in the last level of Rolling Thunder 3, He tells Jay that a self-destruction mechanism is wired to his heart and destroys everything in the base, including Jay. When you beat the game on the "Hard" difficulty, It's confirmed that Jay survives, through you can probably tell from the silhouette during the credits where he rises from the rubble.
  • Mooks: The Maskers in all three games. The sequels turned them into Mecha-Mooks, possibly due to them resembling a certain hate group...
  • Mini-Mecha: When you face Dread in the last level, he fights you in one in his first phase.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Leila in the first few games. Even more so with Ellen in the third game, where making her a playable character has her dressed in a rather revealing outfit. For example, look at her animations as well as her Game Over screen.
  • Mission Control: Ellen in Rolling Thunder 3. A cheat code makes her playable.
  • Nintendo Hard: Especially the first game.
  • Not Completely Useless: The knife in 3. Not only is it helpful for close range combat, but it's helpful against Dread's second phase in your final battle with him.
  • Nostalgia Level: In Rolling Thunder 3, one of the secret stages is an abandoned cobweb filled version of the first level from the original Rolling Thunder.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Played With. Getting shot even once kills you, but you can take two physical attacks before dying. In the third game it's two shots and three punches unless you play on the Hard setting.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: Rolling Thunder 3 takes place during the second game, where Jay goes after Dread, Gimdo's second-in-command.
  • Respawning Enemies: The Maskers keep coming out of doors constantly.
  • Robotic Reveal: Gimdo in Rolling Thunder 2.
  • Shock and Awe: How Leila is tortured in the arcade version of first game.
  • Stalked by the Bell: In Rolling Thunder 3, a sniper appears and fires at you if you take too long to finish a level. The sniper stays until you lose all of your lives, beat the level, or reach the boss. Jay also won't hide behind doors and will step out as soon as opens one.
  • Take Cover: One of the earliest games to use this mechanic.
  • Timed Mission: The first two games.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Stages 3 and 6 of Rolling Thunder 3 take place on a motorcycle and a jetski, respectively.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: Applies to Gimdo in Rolling Thunder 2, where he gets away in a sub at the end of the first half. Dread does this a couple of times to Jay in Rolling Thunder 3 as well.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The robot boss in the Genesis version of Rolling Thunder 2. His crosshair will slowly move back and forth and fire at you. Unless you can take advantage of a certain blind spot close to him early on in the battle, you'll lose a few lives and see the continue screen once or twice until you figure it out.
    • The third game's first boss isn't any better. It'll move back and forth and fire shots at you, and will also jump in the spot where you're currently standing. What's worse is that when half of it's health is gone, it'll switch to a crosshair which fires explosive shots.
  • A Winner Is You: The first game's ending when you finally kill Maboo. The second game is a little better, but not by much. The 3rd game averts this trope.
  • With This Herring: You always start with a pistol with limited ammo, and have to find more ammo or other weapons (usually a Machine Gun) behind doors. Rolling Thunder 3 gave you a knife if you chose not to start a round with any special weapons.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: While Leila is a brunette in the actual game, the promotional illustrations for the first game and the packaging illustration for the Mega Drive version of 2 depicts her with blue hair.

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alternative title(s): Rolling Thunder
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