Just as the Sega Master System’s version of After Burner was disappointing, so too was its port of Thunder Blade, Sega’s 1987 arcade shoot ‘em up. Having not played any version of Thunder Blade beforehand, I lack a reference point for the game although I feel confident in asserting this was an underwhelming port. Its portrayal of two separate styles of gameplay was competent but bland. After encountering early difficulties, I decided against devoting too much time towards the game’s completion.
About two-thirds of the game’s stages automatically scrolled forward and were viewed from a traditional top-down perspective. Piloting the Thunder Blade attack helicopter, I shot down numerous enemy choppers with a 30mm chain cannon and destroyed less common tanks with an unlimited supply of air-to-ground straight line missiles. At least early on, enemies were reserved and rarely fired upon me as they flew on-screen in attacking waves. With airborne and ground-based enemies, as well as a slower pace, these stages seemed heavily inspired by Xevious.
The other third of the game’s stages were viewed from a behind-the-back perspective which offered pseudo 3D gameplay, akin to After Burner. I still dealt with the same types of enemies, but the weapons fire of the tanks was definitely tougher to dodge. Naturally, these stages were visually striking but I preferred the more traditional stages despite their lackluster nature. That’s not to say the 3D stages weren’t lackluster. They featured bad pop-in that granted me little response time to deal with tanks. All the while, buildings passed by with a laughable amount of frames.
After roughly an hour with Thunder Blade and the completion of the first quarter of stages, I was satisfied by what I played. At best, it was competent in its portrayal of different shoot ‘em up styles. That competency didn’t translate into enjoyment however and I thought the game was boring. I won’t say I’ll never play it again but at this point, I’m comfortable retiring it back to the shelf as I move onto other Master System games.