3D Thunder Blade (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 18.06.2015

Review for 3D Thunder Blade on Nintendo 3DS

It has sort of become a tradition by now - something expected month after month: that SEGA would put forward another revival in stereoscopic 3D of one of its great titles from the past. Arcade and SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis games have kept coming out in a timely fashion, gracing the Nintendo 3DS with a stream of consistently quality ports. Back in May, the arcade classic shoot 'em-up, Thunder Blade, finally landed on Western shores in all its stereoscopic 3D glory. This is yet another leaf out of SEGA's impressive portfolio of awesome full-body experiences - arcade machines designed to immerse people completely by making the entire body move, in this case inside a helicopter cockpit, controlling everything with a realistic helicopter joystick. However, as strange as it may seem, and contrary to others in SEGA's back catalogue, the arcade version was never re-released on any compilation released so far. It got ported to home systems of its era in downgraded form, but that's about it. That was until this release for the 3DS eShop, though. It's now time to check out if this one will join its brethren, reaching the same heights in terms of top notch quality.

The idea behind 3D Thunder Blade is fairly simple: to pilot a combat chopper through a series of missions, destroying everything in sight to the sound of hard rock music and explosions... dispensing peace, freedom, and democracy to a bunch of barbaric people through the power of missiles and mini-guns. Think of any movie or TV series of the '80s, featuring an Apache-styled helicopter, and that is the vibe. Each mission has the player-controlled pilot taking off and adjusting the throttle to fine tune the speed of the scrolling to fit their liking. As the scenery passes by, enemies fire bullets at the craft, trying to take it down, while fire is abundantly returned to destroy everything on the screen. This is a typical shoot 'em-up set-up, the kind of which was found everywhere in the arcades of that period.

Naturally, SEGA had to make things different and give it an edge over the rest, so it's essentially a full-body experience version of the same thing, enhanced by its impressive super-scaler technology, giving the whole thing a 3D taste, much like what could be enjoyed in its predecessor 3D After Burner II. Therefore, in order for things to not taste like that all over again, now a chopper is controlled and, most importantly, the view is not always placed behind the machine, but also on top of it.

Screenshot for 3D Thunder Blade on Nintendo 3DS

Indeed, each level is split into sections that scroll just like they would in After Burner, viewed from behind as things zoom towards and past the camera, but also scroll vertically as the chopper is seen moving forward from up above and shooting things lying on the ground below. Needless to say, such scenes are now even better appreciated thanks to the depth effect this 3DS version now benefits from. It makes things even more impressive than the original and even more enjoyable as the depth of field can now be judged far more efficiently.

Each mission ends with a boss down below that has to be destroyed as it moves forward, the player being able to adjust the throttle of the helicopter to more or less navigate around the boss, keeping up with its movements, and destroying every part of it until nothing remains and, once it is destroyed, it is on to the next stage. Now, by default, adjusting the throttle, which is basically determining how fast the game scrolls forward, is done by swiping a finger upwards or downward on the touch screen, while the Circle Pad controls the movements of the chopper. Although these can be inverted, though, controlling movements via the touch screen feels a lot worse.

Screenshot for 3D Thunder Blade on Nintendo 3DS

The L and R buttons allow an increase or decrease of the throttle, but feel like they lack the kind of sensitivity that would allow fine tuning things for precise and optimal comfort. The ideal set-up is to either hook up a Circle Pad PRO to use the second stick as a throttle control, or simply to play on a New Nintendo 3DS that has the second stick built in. This is a bit unfortunate for those who own neither, as the game, while not catastrophic to be played without, simply doesn't control quite as well in this case. The L and R buttons will do the trick, but aren't quite as comfortable to use for this purpose. The gyroscope can also be used as an additional input solution, but it ultimately doesn't do the trick quite, as well, and, unlike in 3D Super Hang-On, turns out to be the worst option, not to mention that it kills the 3D effect on older models of the 3DS, and gamers will want to keep that on most of the time, since it's pulled off incredibly in this title. M2 did what it could with the control options offered by the hardware itself, however, so it is not to be faulted. Helicopter controls are simply hard by nature to map to anything other than a proper joystick and power lever, as featured in the original arcade machine.

Screenshot for 3D Thunder Blade on Nintendo 3DS

The action can either be fast-paced, if wanting it that way, or slow-paced depending on the throttle, which is a defining edge of Thunder Blade and one of the things that gives it its uniqueness. However, ultimately the game feels short. Only four missions, each lasting just a couple minutes, make up the game and everything is finished within just under an hour if those in charge are good enough. Last, but not least, the game is definitely not easy, at least on default difficulty options, and gives only three credits to play with. Fortunately, the difficulty can be adjusted, along with the number of lives, and a Stage Select exists to avoid having to replay through the same ones all over again after a Game Over. Once the basic arcade mode is done, another special mode unlocks that adds a section to some of the stages and mixes a few things up, but this is still very much the same game, and not exactly something most people would look forward to. The lack of length and replayability... once again worsened by the lack of an online leader-board system, are ultimately the only real thing where 3D Thunder Blade falls short, and that's unfortunate given the high level of quality of the rest of the game.

Screenshot for 3D Thunder Blade on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although slower-paced than the likes of After Burner, and less flashy at first glance, 3D Thunder Blade offers a more varied selection of environments and more visual details making the setting of the game more visually appealing, if not by the sensations it provides. The different viewing angles are also there to bring variety in terms of gameplay, making this an interesting mix of vertical scrolling shooting with a view-from-behind shooter à la Star Fox. It is best played on a New Nintendo 3DS or with a Circle Pad PRO accessory attached to any older iteration of the hardware, though, as controlling the throttle via the touch screen or L and R shoulder buttons isn't advisable due to lack of comfort. The fact that this is the first proper port of the arcade version to any system capable of handling it speaks volumes about the value that this should have for any fan of the original, or of classic SEGA games in general. However it ultimately falls just a bit shorter than its cousins in terms of value, due to a much too short length. It's not any less good than those, it's just shorter.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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