Despite having six main games, three particular entries seem to hog all the glory in the Thunder Force series – the third, fourth and fifth. We can see why the first and last don’t get so much love, as they’re Japan-only and the original is wholly top-down, but the second game feels like a bit of an abandoned child. It’s a status the game doesn’t deserve, as it’s not the prettiest Mega Drive blaster but a fine one all the same.
Like its predecessor, Thunder Force II begins with a free-roaming section played from a top-down view, in which you’re tasked with taking out ground-level bases while dodging both air-to-air and surface-to-air attacks. It’s an intense experience, especially as one lapse of concentration will send you hurtling into a barrier and result in your death. Once you’ve completed your mission, you’ll move into the horizontally scrolling gameplay familiar to fans of the later games in the series. Both sections offer a wide range of power-ups with which to blow away your foes, and the tradition of nice audio accompaniment is alive and well here. However, it’s a game with some very basic visuals – they’re not a patch on most Mega Drive games, let alone the sumptuous pixel art of Thunder Force III and IV.
So no, it isn’t quite as good as its successors, but Thunder Force II is an interesting game in its own right and one that should keep you satisfied thanks to its blend of two shooting styles.