Developer: Technosoft / M2
If you?re not familiar with the SEGA AGES line of releases for the Nintendo Switch, this port of Thunder Force AC is a pretty good excuse to jump in. So far we?ve seen a good mix of both arcade and console releases from SEGA?s past, expertly re-crafted and emulated by developer M2. Thunder Force AC encapsulates that work, by simultaneously being a console game and an arcade game all at once. That?s due to the original arcade release of Thunder Force AC actually being a ?port? of Thunder Force III from the Sega Genesis. I?m putting port in quotations only because there are some differences between the two, but in general this is one of the rare instances of a home console release coming before the arcade version. It also ended up getting ported to the Super Nintendo under the name Thunder Spirits. That?s right, it was a Genesis to Arcade to SNES port, making Thunder Force AC pretty unique overall.
It?s also a pretty darn good Thunder Force game in general. Thunder Force is a beloved shoot ?em up (shmup) series that began life on the Sega Genesis, competing for shelf space with a number of other excellent shmups released on the same platform. Thunder Force III, and thus Thunder Force AC, was a slight change for the series when it was released, dropping the original top-down free-roaming approach in favor of the side-scrolling horizontal style that remains popular today. In all, the switch between styles was a good approach, as Thunder Force III and IV are generally the more well-regarded entries in the series.
This port of Thunder Force AC from M2 is about as flawless as you?ve come to expect from their line of SEGA releases so far. In addition to the game itself, you?ve got a few screen ratio options, a nice looking scanline filter, a number of different backgrounds, and some customizable difficulty options. There are also online leaderboards for the different difficulties, which can be further broken down depending on which ship you begin your game with. You can also download replays directly from the leaderboard to see how the top-ranked players managed to do it. Thunder Force AC on the Switch also has a number of save states available, helping you quickly restart level runs in an effort to get your pattern memorization down pat.
Again, it?s also a plus that Thunder Force AC is a really good shmup in general. There are 8 stages, additional ships to unlock, five weapons to collect, and a fantastic soundtrack attached. Visually it doesn?t have a lot of added flair or effects going on, but the stages still hold up pretty well, and the game runs smoothly throughout, even when things on screen get a little hectic. It?s also not the hardest shoot ?em up out there, I found Thunder Force AC?s difficulty curve to be pretty on point, ratcheting up the difficulty in a way that doesn?t make the game feel insurmountable on the standard difficulty.
So yeah, if you haven?t checked out one of these excellent SEGA AGES releases so far, Thunder Force AC is a pretty good place to start. It?s one of those games that rarely gets ported, certainly not to current consoles, and is a neat little bit of video game history in its own right. I would highly recommend picking it up when it hits the Switch eShop today.
Note: SEGA provided us with a SEGA AGES Thunder Force AC Switch code for review purposes.