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Video Game / Rolling Thunder

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Rolling Thunder is an arcade game released in 1986 by Namco. It is a side-scrolling action game where players control "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.

A Famicom/NES port was released in 1989. Although the Famicom version was an official release in Japan, the NES version 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 RBI 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. See also its Spiritual Successor, Time Crisis.

This series provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Big Bad: Maboo in the first game. Gimdo in the second game.
  • 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 Plus.
  • Boring, but Practical: The knife in 3 may be a downgrade compared to your other weapons, even the pistol, but it does have infinite uses and allows you to save your special weapons for later stages.
  • 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.
  • Character Select Forcing: In 2, whether you control Albatross or Leila depends on whether you're player 1 or player 2.
  • 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.
  • The Computer Is a Lying Bastard: The original game. You see that 8-segment Life Meter? You only ever lose 4 or 8 HP at a time, so in practice you only have two hit points. The NES version is more honest about it, showing a two-segment meter instead.
  • The Computer Shall Taunt You: Maboo laughing derisively when you have lost, encouraging you to put more coins in and try again.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Damsel in Distress: Leila in the first game.
  • 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: Gimdo, when defeated.
  • The Dragon: Dread in the third game.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: All games have at least one, but the first one was pretty much where it took place.
  • Emergency Weapon: If you run out of bullets, you can actually still fire. The catch is that the emergency bullets are snails compared to your normal bullets.
  • Everything Fades: The mooks in the first game melt.
  • 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.
  • Game-Over Man: Maboo in the first game.
  • 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 in Rolling Thunder 3 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.
  • 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, with the exception of emulated re-releases, 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 will destroy 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.
  • 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.
  • Mooks: The Maskers in all three games. The sequels turned them into Mecha-Mooks.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Ellen in RT3 if you use a cheat code to make her playable, her outfit has a plunging neckline.
  • Nintendo Hard: Especially the first game.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Playing as Ellen in the third game has no cutscenes and the ending remains unchanged.
  • Nostalgia Level: In Rolling Thunder 3, one of the secret stages is an abandoned cobweb filled version of the first level warehouse from the original Rolling Thunder.
  • 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.note 
    Using the knife also spares your special weapons, as completing a stage with a particular special weapon prevents it from being chosen again for the rest of the game.
  • 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.
  • Promoted to Playable: Leila, the Distressed Damsel in the first game that Albatross is tasked with rescuing, becomes one of the player characters in Rolling Thunder 2.
  • 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.
  • Too Awesome to Use: 3 has this problem with its special weapons, because once you take a special weapon into a stage, you cannot use it anymore for the rest of the game. You might find that a weapon will be useful for the next stage, but you may find it more useful for a later stage, so you look at another weapon instead...or just forego special weapons altogether and use the knife, which can never be "used up".
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Rolling Thunder 2, Rolling Thunder 3