Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Thunder Spirits

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Thunder Force Spirits/Thunder Spirits
Developer: Technosoft
Publisher: Seika
Release Date: 12/27/1991
System Released On: Super Nintendo
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up

Who Nominated The Game: The 7th Level

Why Was It Nominated:

I nominated Thunder Force Spirits for SNES, for being a port of Thunder Force AC in the arcades, a supposedly superior version of my beloved Thunder Force III for Genesis, but instead was a gimped mishmash that had fewer levels, no level select, washed out rush port graphics and changed all the music to the point where, even though the SNES had a better sound chip, still ended up sounding worse. It was the biggest disappointment in my SNES library.

All in Favour:

The 7th Level: My first introduction to 16 bit side scrolling schmups was Thunder Force III for the Sega Genesis. It is, to this very day, my favorite side-scrolling schmup. I can hum entire tunes from this game.

When I was in high school I went multiplat and bought a Super Nintendo to compliment my Genesis. The day i bought it, I also bought Thunder Spirits, the SNES port of Thunder Force 3, because I figured if I loved it on the Genesis, I would adore it on a more powerful platform.

As you can see by my nomination, that was not the case. Thunder Spirits is nothing short of a vile, soulless insult to the original’s greatness. I liken it to comparing Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes to the original film, Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra as opposed to Dead Kennedys WITH Jello Biafra, Uncle Jesse’s OTHER nephews compared to Bo and Luke. I could go on for days.

The best levels were scrapped and replaced with garbage. There was slow down and flicker everywhere. The graphics somehow managed to look LESS detailed and LESS colorful on a system that was capable of displaying greater detail and more colors. The music was either a tinny, shoddy copy of the original tracks, or new tracks altogether that paled in comparison to the original. Even the level select was removed!

There are those who will shoot this down simply because it’s on the SNES, a system not known for its stellar shooters. but I say NAY to their NAYS! Crap is CRAP, regardless of what system it’s on! It they knew the SNES was bad for shooters they shouldn’t have sullied the original’s reputation by porting it to a system that couldn’t handle its kickassedness. besides which, the SNES hardware had nothing to do with the awful music replacement, the two best levels missing from the game, no level select mode, etc.

All Opposed:

Alex Lucard: Although people still bicker about which system was best for what in the 16 bit era there is one universal truth that everyone has agreed on: The SNES sucked for Shoot ‘Em Ups. For some reason games of this genre suffered from slowdown and the controls weren’t as tight as on the TG-16 or Genesis. Shooter fans learned to steer clear of the SNES for this genre, but yet some publishers and developers still tried and failed) to make quality games for this system.

I can’t deny that Thunder Force Spirits was a bad game. It pales horribly compared to Thunder Force III or Thunder Force AC. Spirits suffers from slowdown, is missing the two most popular levels (replaced with crap) and the level select is gone. It’s not a good game.

However, I have to say no to THS as this is a hardware issue rather than a software issue. Again, making a good shooter for the SNES was pretty much deemed impossible and inducting TFS in would be like inducting some generic 3-D platformer for the PSX simply because there were a lot of bad ones for that system. Thunder Force Spirits is indicative proof that the SNES just wasn’t made for this type of genre, as many consoles have had a genre they just kind of couldn’t pull off properly. The game isn’t a good one, but it’s not the worst shooter on the SNES nor is it really a game that hits HoS level awful.

Chris Bowen: Imagine that you’re a child living in the early to mid-90s. Imagine that you are able to own one video game system, and to the converging factors of fate, your parents not spoiling the hell out of you and Mario, you owned a Super Nintendo. It wasn’t a bad little system. You had many games in the previously mentioned Mario series, in addition to new games for Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, some brand new series such as Star Fox and Pilotwings, and even these so-called “role playing games” coming over from Japan and being translated. You’re doing OK, game-wise.

That is, you’re doing OK game-wise unless you like either sports games or shoot ’em ups.

Let’s face it: the SNES choked on any game that required speed. EA’s sports titles were all inferior on the SNES, as were any shooting games they saw. As Lucard notes, just about any shooting game that system got was crippled by either slowdown, flickering, or a combination of the two. Even otherwise good games like Gradius III and U.N. Squadron were hurt – badly – by the games constantly slowing down.

However, as gamers, we didn’t care. We still played the hell out of them. I played – and beat – U.N. Squadron, despite the fact that it flickered more than a black and white television set that needed a new tube. I played Gradius III for months despite the fact that it gagged on later stages like an inexperienced hooker taking on Mister Ed. In fact, I remember sometimes using the slowdown to my advantage in rough stages. It sure as hell beat one of those third party controllers with the “Slow” function that just paused and unpaused the game all the time, which annoyed the piss out of everyone in the house on games with pause jingles.

I played all of these games before I was ever able to play their vastly superior counterparts, and I’m willing to bet the majority of people who played Thunder Spirits were the same way. Was it a good game? No. Was it inferior to its Genesis counterparts? That’s not even debatable. But did most people care? Absolutely not. Yes, SNES gamers were dealing with slim pickings in the arcade shooter category, but they played – and enjoyed – them anyway.

I actually just recently played this game, just to see if it was as bad as Mike and Alex say it is. It’s not *good* – the flicker is strong with this one – but it’s not really what I’d call atrocious, either. I would hesitate to even call this a quote-unquote “bad” game, much less one of the worst of all time.

While I won’t spend hours beating it, I probably would have at thirteen years old. Like a starving man eating a cracker, I’d have enjoyed it like it was a buffet.

Mark B.: Thunder Force 3 is one of the better shooters to be released during the 16-bit era, I find, and apparently so did Technosoft, because they decided to bring it to the arcade after its release on the Genesis. The arcade port, Thunder Force AC, changed around a few elements from the Genesis game and removed the stage select option, but apparently was generally well received in Japan all in all, as Technosoft decided to port the game to the SNES, thus bringing us the target of today’s nomination, Thunder Spirits, which was… not one of the better shooters to be released during the 16-bit era, shall we say. The lack of the level select screen in the beginning of the game was the least of the game’s problems, as the SNES game chugged a bit and just wasn’t especially impressive in comparison to the Genesis game on, well, really any level at all.

That said, I’ve played shooters a lot more disappointing or terrible than Thunder Spirits. Off the top of my head, Super Real Darwin was borderline unplayable and drastically more frustrating as an experience, and Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy doubly so on top of being far more bland and disappointing, and I’m fairly sure I could come up with other games that were worse all around. I mean, the SNES didn’t handle shooters as well as it could have, certainly, and Thunder Spirits is a disappointment given the source material, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings the same way as the aforementioned two games do and, honestly, you can play the game for the most part, so I can’t get behind this.

Result: 1 In Favour, 3 Opposed, 25% Approval = REJECTED

Conclusion: Make excuses for this one all ya want fellas, it’s a festering piece of shit for the same reason that shoddy ports of today are festering pieces of shit. You don’t hear people defending the PS3 version of The Orange Box by saying “Well, it was still a good game, you can’t blame the game for being on PS3.” No, it gets torn apart because the shoddiness of the port made it nigh unplayable in some areas, and Thunder Spirits is certainly no different. The game is one of the worst shooters of that generation, and stands as an example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Next Week: The first ever fan request for a Hall of Shame nomination which came off of our Ravenloft: Iron and Blood HoS piece.

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