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Video Game / Thunder Force

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Legend of Wings continue.

A Shoot 'em Up series by now-defunct Japanese game developer Technosoft, which began in 1983 as an obscure multi-directional overhead shooter. It eventually transformed into a side-scrolling shooter from the third installment onward and became famous among the classic gaming community for its memorable synth-rock soundtrack.

The Excuse Plot puts the player in the shoes of a Galaxy Federation soldier piloting the Fire Leo series of starfighters against the overwhelming odds of the cybernetic ORN Empire. Thunder Force V shifts the focus to Earth wherein humans discover the wreckage of Thunder Force IV's Fire Leo Rynex ship, which they refer to as "Vasteel", and begin to reverse-engineer its technology for the betterment of mankind. However, things go very wrong when the Guardian, an advanced A.I. designed for the purpose of reverse-engineering Rynex, goes haywire and decides to use the military technology it created based off of the alien starfighter to try and wipe out the human race—but not before humanity manages to create its own Vasteel starfighter. Thunder Force V is also known for having more story than the previous games, which ties together the events of IV.


The sixth installment was trapped in Development Hell for a decade, but was 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 Construction (FM-7 and NEC PC-9801, 1984) — A port of the above featuring an added level editor.
  • 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 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. and later to the Nintendo Switch as part of M2's SEGA Ages series of ports.
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    • Thunder Spirits (SNES, 1992) — A SNES port of 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 III's player ship as an unlockable ship, and to the Nintendo Switch as part of the SEGA Ages series.
  • Thunder Force V (Saturn, 1997) — The first game in the series with three-dimensional graphics, and introduces the Over Weapon system. 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 V and one failed attempt to bring it to the Dreamcast. Due to the low quality-to-anticipation ratio, it was not well received.

The Thunder Force series contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: In VI, the Phoenix upgrades to the Syrinx for the final stage, resulting in a few weapon changes, most notably changing the Wave from a rapid-fire shot to a Wave-Motion Gun like in Thunder Force V.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Main plot of 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. Guardian is still loyal to humanity. 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.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In Stage 4 of VI, the Galaxy Federation's home planet is under attack by the ORN Empire. You must get in and stop the ORN Empire from destroying the planet.
  • Alliterative Name: Thunder Force V's Armament Armed Arm (also known as "A3") and Thunder Force VI's Barbaric Berserk Beast (a.k.a. "B3")
  • Always Accurate Attack: The Free Range in V worked like this — anything entering the green wireframe area would be in for a world of (unavoidable) hurt.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: V initially comes across as this, as it's set around 22nd Century Earth, though the story reveals a considerable connection to the events of IV. Especially since Vasteel is Rynex and that the Guardian was compromised by Khaos.
  • Arrange Mode: The SEGA AGES version of Thunder Force IV has a "Kids" mod of the game that adjusts weapon power and does not confiscate your current weapon when you die.
  • Artificial Human: Cenes Crawford, Player Character of V is actually a clone of a dead Ace Pilot. Same as C CTNs C of VI.
  • Attack Drone: The CLAWs for the Fire Leo series.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: In V and VI, you can make your ship do rolls. It does nothing but look stylish
  • Awesome, but Temporary: In V, when you reach Stage 5 you gain access to the Brigandine module, an attachment to a new ship you also get at the same time, the Vambrace. The Brigandine has infinite-use Twin Shot and Back Shot Over Weapons that can easily shred any non-boss enemy. However, it also has a Life Meter, and once it runs out or you proceed to the next stage, it's gone and you have to go on in just the Vambrace, which is still an upgrade over the Gauntlet but does not have the blatantly overpowered weaponry of the Brigandine.
  • Battleship Raid: The Cerberus in III and VI.
  • Big Bad: Khaos is a pretty impressive one. After harassing The Federation for two games, we've finally blown it up in the third. Only to find its program was transferred to a secondary system in the fourth. And it's even revealed to be the one behind Guardian's rampage in the fifth.
  • Big "WHAT?!":
    • The name of the BGM for the second half of Stage 1 in IV is What?.
    • Where!: The track title for the second half of the fourth stage of the same game.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Thunder Force IV has the Rynex getting crippled while escaping 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 off to battle was a huge mistake on their part. The "sweet" aspect comes to fruition in VI, as Earth and the Galactic Federation ultimately form an alliance because of Rynex ending up in Earth's hands and spawning Vasteel technology.
    • 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. As it turns out in VI, however, ORN Empire ends up finding its way to Earth, forcing Earth to resurrect Vasteel technology.
  • "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-Only Level: The final level of IV.
  • Boss Subtitles: V and VI.
  • Boss Warning Siren:
    • In II, a siren plays when encoutnering a midboss in a horizontal-scrolling segment. A lower-pitched and more distressful-sounding one plays when facing the stage's endboss.
    • In III, bosses are preceded by a siren and the word "EMERGENCY" scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
    • In IV, a siren sounds when a boss battle is about to begin.
    • In V: "ALERT! The enemy is (approaching fast) / (dead ahead)! Code Name: <boss name> - <boss description>". The Final Boss mixes it up by having the usual alert screen play out, only to suddenly be replaced by "ALERT!" repeated across the screen.
    • In VI, you get a siren and your ship's computer alerting of the boss in Tangut, followed by the name and description of the boss, both in English and Mongolian.
  • Break Them by Talking: In the "Bad" Ending of VI, a message from ORN Faust is played calling for Earth's surrender. It contains many parallels with Guardian's Last Message in V, albeit using bleaker analogies to make its points.
  • 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 IV
  • Dark Reprise: The Bad Ending of VI (which can be achieved by playing the game on Kids or Easy mode) is this to the "Last Letter" from V.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The default ship in VI doesn't lose its weapons when you die.
  • Difficulty by Region:
    • The Japanese version of AC (which is the version used in Thunder Force Gold Pack 2) is more difficult than the later World (dubbed "New Version" in the Sega Ages version of AC) release, Mostly, everything has twice as much health.
    • Lightening Force is easier than the Japan version of ''IV. Enemies and bosses have less health, bosses telegraph their attacks more and are not as fast and aggressive, and this version adds a cheat where the player can start with 99 lives by setting their life count to 0 in the option menu.
  • The Dragon: ORN Faust is this in IV and VI, serving as the penultimate boss in both of those games.
  • Dueling Player Characters:
    • Thunder Force V has you fighting the Vasteel Original / Rynex.
    • Thunder Force VI has you fight Vasteel Nocht, which assembles giant versions of the Styx, Rynex, and Gauntlet. Notably, VI has the Rynex-R as an unlockable ship, making it the closest in the series you can get to a Mirror Match.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first game, released in 1983, has no side-scrolling stages and plays more like a combination of Xevious and Time Pilot, and is similar to 1985's Raid On Bungeling Bay. It also features a Public Domain Soundtrack (Rossini's William Tell Overture) that plays throughout the entire game. The second introduces side-scrollers and the third game does away with overhead stages entirely.
    • The second game, the first one with side-scrolling segments, has no speed change function.
  • Easier Than Easy: Thunder Force IV has an Easy difficulty level, and the SEGA AGES version on Nintendo Switch adds a "Kids" version of the game which does not take away your equipped weapon upon death and still has the four difficulty levels available; thus, you can play the Kids version on Easy.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery:
    • The Easier Than Easy difficulty level in VI is called "Kids" difficulty. Apparently, not wanting to play the game at the intended difficulty means that one is as mature as a child. Furthermore, clearing the game on this difficulty results in a bad ending.
    • The SEGA AGES versions of AC and IV have an Arrange Mode where dying does not take away any of your weapons, but like VI's lowest difficulty, it is called "Kids" mode.
  • Every 10,000 Points: The series is known for cranking out tons of extends.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Vasteel Original (the Rynex) in V and Vasteel Nocht in VI.
  • Excuse Plot: Most of the series. Though it starts getting elaborated upon starting with IV, which continues further in V.
  • Fallen Hero: The player's ship in IV, "Rynex", comes back in V as a Sequential Boss that you have to fight against and destroy.
  • Fan Sequel: Broken Thunder, released after V and before 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.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Averted in V, which places the player in the pilot's seat of female ace Cenes Crawford.
  • Fetus Terrible: The ORN Emperor in 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: IV had Versus 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 to giving you the Mid-Season Upgrade. Thankfully, you get your revenge in the final level.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Sometimes when playing Thunder Force VI enemy bullets will either be pixelated or just plain vanish. For example, when fighting the ORN Emperor's final form, his fireball-like attacks will suddenly become invisible.
  • Genre Shift: Across two games; Thunder Force II adds some side-scrolling areas to go with TF1-style overhead areas, and Thunder Force III does away with overhead areas completely.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The impending invasion of the ORN forces in VI prompted Earth to reengineer Vasteel technology and even rebuilding the Sword Fleet. The same technology Cenes Crawford and the Guardian tried to seal in V.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Two in Thunder Force VI — an obscure and extinct language spoken in the Western Xia dynasty (now China) called Tangut, and Mongolian.
  • Happy Ending Override: V overrides the Bittersweet Ending of IV, revealing that Khaos transferred itself into Rynex, remaining dormant even after Earth discovers "Vasteel." It's when the AI known as the Guardian attempts to access the history logs that Khaos truly sets the game's events into motion.
  • Harder Than Hard: "Very Hard" in Thunder Force II for the Sharp X68000, "Mania" in III, "Master" in the PlayStation version in V, and "Maniac" in IV and VI.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Many bosses in 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.
  • History Repeats: In the bad ending of V, this trope is why the Guardian begs Cenes to destroy the Vambrace that she's piloting. However, she's unable to because it's too crippled to self-destruct.
  • Homage: Some of the boss names in Thunder Force V: Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, and A3 (for Alabama 3).
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Versus for stage 5 in Thunder Force IV.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: The Guardian, whether because it's designed that way or because Khaos has compromised the AI. This is also why the Guardian, which is still loyal to mankind, intentionally makes tactical errors and implicitly goads Cenes Crawford into Suicide by Cop.
  • 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.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The Galaxy Federation would only know of the existence of Earth thanks to Rynex finding its way there by chance and the crew of Rynex vouching for the trustworthiness of the people of Earth. Granted, Earth forces do not disappoint and end up becoming The Cavalry for the Galaxy Federation in VI, arriving just in time when the ORN Empire lays siege on the Federation's capital planet.
  • Interface Screw: In V, the Boss Warning Siren glitches out upon encountering the Guardian.
  • 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.
    • In IV, other Galactic Federation fighters team up with you to take on the Cerberus battleship before being cut to ribbons in the boss fight immediately following.
    • In V, your character leads a squad of RVR-01 Gauntlets (named "Thunder Force", incidentally). Later on, after the battle at Babel only the protagonist takes on the Guardian as only one model of the RVR-02 Vambrace is operational; Cene Crawford's report mentions that her squadmates essentially 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. In VI, ORN Faust has KIN3-COOL, which is a remix of Director Cool's theme from Segagaga, or if you use the Rynex or Syrinx, KIN3-CERB, which is a remix of "His Behavior Inspired Us with Distrust" from III.
  • Layered Metropolis: Stage 3 of V, Human Road.
  • Later Installment Weirdness:
    • In the fifth and sixth games, Twin Shot and Back Shot are no longer replacable weapons, that is, they cannot be replaced by another weapon that you pick up. The most that is done to them is that in V, they get replaced for plot reasons in the second half of the game.
    • Unlike the prior four games, VI gives you all of your weapons at the start and does not take any of them away upon death, but only if you're using the default Phoenix ship or its 11th-Hour Superpower counterpat, the Syrinx.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The fire planet levels throughout the series.
  • Mecha Expansion Pack: Brigadine booster for Gauntlet and Vasteel Original's own much-bigger and much-more-bizarre add-ons in V; in VI, Vasteel Nocht would "mimic" player ships from previous instalments this way as well.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade:
  • Multiple Endings: IV just changes what song plays during the ending depending on the difficulty, but V's ending is decided by whether you beat the final boss fast enough, and VI has three endings depending on what ship and difficulty you chose and whether you used a continue.
  • Noodle Incident: Cenes Crawford's previous "deaths" in V.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • Stage 5 in Thunder Force AC and Thunder Spirits is a recreation of Thunder Force II's Stages 5-2 and 6-2 (4-2 and 5-2 in the Genesis/MD port, respectively).
    • Thunder Force VI's second stage, the fire stage, looks a lot like Gorgon from Thunder Force III, being a Lethal Lava Land with fire pillars and even a 1-Up in the exact same fireball hazard.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We never get to use the Phoenix's Brigandine in VI, which was featured in the opening.
  • One-Man Army: In most of the games, but deconstructed in V. As it turns out, the reason Cenes Crawford was even able to take on the Guardian's forces, let alone the Sword Fleet at all was because the Guardian, still loyal to humanity despite Khaos compromising the AI's control, intentionally pursued Hollywood Tactics and left open gaping holes for Cenes and her squadmates to exploit. All so she could commit what amounts to a Suicide by Cop.
  • One-Winged Angel: Gargoyle Perfect in VI.
  • One-Woman Wail: The opening and ending of Thunder Force VI.
  • One World Order: Earth in V and VI, though its armies crumble before the rogue Guardian AI in the former and are struggling against the ORN Empire in the latter.
  • Orbiting Particle Shield: The Craw powerups soak enemy bullets and can fire a few of their own.
  • Player Mooks: You can unlock the Rynex-R, the main fighter of the Galactic Federation, in VI.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Thunder Force II, when you lose your last life, the robo-voice exclaims "Shit!".
  • Promoted to Playable: The Mass Production Styx, seen as NPC allies in Thunder Force IV, was backported into the SEGA AGES version of Thunder Force AC as a playable ship.
  • Raising the Steaks: Iron Maiden from 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: You can instantly change weapons at any time by pressing the weapon change button, or the button of the weapon you want in V if Direct Control is enabled.
  • Recurring Boss: A good chunk of the bosses in III and V get another shot in VI, but the most recurring boss character in the series is Gargoyle, who is the first boss of III and its adaptations, IV (as Gargoyle Diver) and VI (as Gargoyle Perfect).
  • Recurring Boss Template: Gargoyle starting with III, and ORN Faust in VI. In addition, the Gaia Beast from the second game's third horizontal stage comes back as Dust Egg, the seventh boss of the fourth game. The main difference is that Dust Egg has a second, much more active phase where it rises up on some sort of tendril and lunges all over the place.
  • Redshirt Army: The Galactic Federation in IV and VI
  • Reporting Names: In V, the people of Earth don't know that the wayward ship that landed on their planet is called the Rynex, so they christen it as Vasteel.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Halfway through IV this becomes the motivation for Rynex's pilot for going after Faust.
  • Robo Speak: The voice that announces power-ups.
  • Roboteching: The Hunter weapon. Your ship shoots out blue energy balls of doom that home in on the enemies.
  • Secret Character:
    • Styx is unlockable in the Saturn and Switch versions of Thunder Force IV. In both case, you need to beat the game once on the stock settings with the former also require the player to input a code note  after the unlock condition is met.
    • The Sega Ages versions of AC adds three additional player ships unlocked in the same way: Rynex, Rynex with the Thunder Sword attachment and the Mass Production Styx, which differ from regular Styx in its ability to speed up the rotation of its CLAW drones.
  • Sequel Hook: The Good Ending in VI shows a new Fire LEO ship flying off into the horizon followed by the words "Thunder Force VI: The Legend of Wings - To Be Continued". Whether Thunder Force VII will happen or not has yet to be seen, though.
  • Sequential Boss: Many of them. Of note is Armed Armament Arm from V, who has three different forms. Same applies to UNKNOWN II, the Final Boss (effectively a Fusion Dance of the Khaos and Guardian A.I.s. With Khaos in charge).
  • Single-Biome Planet: The sole exception is V, which occurs on Earth. The ocean planet in VI is a post-global warming world and you will get to pass the submerged city at one point. The jungle is really an abandoned space colony, with overgrown forests having overtook residental area.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: VI has unusually cheerful music for Stage 5 (a Battleship Raid against the Cerberus 2) and Stage 6 (the ORN stronghold), if you're using the Rynex-R or Syrinx. Both tracks are by Motoaki Furukawa, who composed several Gradius soundtracks that also include holiday-esque final stage music.
  • Space Zone: VI plays with this by having the background move around with no effect on gameplay at times.
  • Suicide by Cop: The Guardian in V, in order to save humanity from Khaos/Vasteel's influence.
  • 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 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.
  • Too Awesome to Use: III (on Normal and Easy), IV, V, and VI (Rynex-R only) all take away your current weapon upon death, which can lead to the player having to use inferior weapons in difficult spots if they want to keep that awesome-but-difficult-to-get weapon.
  • Transforming Mecha: A3 (Armament Armed Arm) and Guardian's Knight from V and B3 (Barbaric Berserk Beast) from VI.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: From 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.
  • Version-Exclusive Content: Thunder Force AC, an arcade port of III, replaces the Haides and Ellis stages with new stages, one being some sort of space junkyard and the other being a replica of Stages 5-2 and 6-2 from Thunder Force II (4-2 and 5-2 in the Genesis/MD version). Thunder Spirits adds another modification in the form of a new capital ship in Stage 6 in place of the original Cerebrus.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: As a presentation upgrade starting with V.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Rynex's Thunder Sword.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: The Mass Production Styx in SEGA AGES: Thunder Force AC can use its engine exhaust to attack enemies by pressing the speed change button. Using it to destroy enemies nets a lot more points than using your proper weapons.

[Troper/Human], May Fortune be with you...

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