SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Thunder Blade Review (3DS)

Another month, another SEGA 3D Classic to enjoy. May brings the 1987 rail-shooter Thunder Blade to 3DS, which will soon be followed by Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but now is the time for Thunder Blade to have its long-awaited day in the sun.

While a new IP at the time, it’s not hard to see the resemblance between Thunder Blade and older SEGA arcade shooters like Space Harrier or After Burner II (also available on 3DS eShop, mind you). It borrowed heavily from their pseudo-3D sprite-scaling action and breakneck pace, though Thunder Blade broke from tradition and incorporated top-down shmup-like segments that are seamlessly interspersed throughout levels, a refreshing change-of-pace that greatly diversifies the gameplay by turning an otherwise strict rail-shooter into something that’s a bit more of a hybrid.

The sense of pseudo-3D depth, however, is never compromised even during these top-down moments. Players are instead able to freely ascend and descend as they would in the 3rd person over-the-shoulder perspective in addition to moving left and right. While this may not sound too exciting on paper, the range of movement in Thunder Blade is absolutely liberating and offers an extremely high-level of maneuverability perfect for weaving in and out of incoming attacks or hazards.

Mechanically speaking, Thunder Blade isn’t too different from most shooters of its time as the helicopter can fire gatling shots and finite missiles to mow down airborne forces, tanks, and whatever else the game throws at you. But what’s really interesting is that players can control the speed of the copter at a moment’s notice, which can influence the game’s pace depending on approach.

At a crawl, players will be able to rack up points and avoid buildings with relative ease, but this means you yourself become an easier target. At max speed, enemies will certainly have a harder time keeping up, but don’t be too surprise when your copter runs right into the side of a skyscraper. Ultimately, it’s important to shift speeds depending on the circumstances each level presents and personally I think its clever how Thunder Blade forces players into a more strategic mindset by providing this free range of motion.

This lovingly crafted 3DS version of Thunder Blade was handled by none other than the wizards at M2, a studio long associated with supremely quality ports. Buyers of previous SEGA 3D Classics will have an idea of what to expect, but for those who haven’t taken the plunge yet, these ports include scalable difficulty, accommodating gameplay tweaks, customizable button configurations, and various other settings.

My favorite inclusion, however, is always the screen settings where you can select a moving HUD that looks like the game’s actual arcade cabinet that outputs to the correct resolution and everything. You just don’t see this meticulous attention to detail in arcade ports, or any ports for that matter. It’s pretty obvious that all these SEGA 3D Classics are developed by people who love the original games and want to replicate the experience on 3DS. Speaking of the 3DS, the 3D effect looks superb, especially with a game like Thunder Blade where there’s noticeable emphasis on depth integrated into the gameplay.

All in all, Thunder Blade on 3DS is a blast and for a measly $5.99, it’s hard to say no to its irresistibly good arcadiness. The sprite work exudes that classic late 80s SEGA look, the soundtrack is straight up funkadelic, and the game never falters in its mission to deliver high-intensity helicopter action (more games should operate under that premise, if you ask me). Not only that, but Thunder Blade serves as nostalgic reminder of when coin-op gaming was at its finest, a wondrous era when SEGA was king of pizza joints, Laundromats, and bowling alleys everywhere and not just those guys who do that hedgehog thing.

[Via eShop]
SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Thunder Blade Review (3DS)
Presentation 8.5
Lasting Appeal9
Slappin' Da Bass10
  • Great use of 3D and depth
  • Super gamey and fun
  • M2's contributions
  • Not exactly lengthy
9Overall Score
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About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.