theuselessgod's Rolling Thunder (Nintendo Entertainment System) review

For the hardcore only.

The Short


- Relatively faithful port of the arcade original

- Simple yet addicting game of shooting your way to the ending

- Really encourages you to be careful and take your time

- Unlimited continues

- Ten levels

- The art style is a bit bland, but I like the thin pixelated characters

- That box art is pretty freaking awesome


- Excruciatingly difficult, but doable

- Only two hits (really just one if they shoot you)

- Jumping controls (and shooting controls) are limited and clunky

- Music is lame

- The relentlessness of this game (coupled with cheap deaths) will put a lot of people off

Time to shoot multicolored hooded guys

The LongAh, Tengen, you and your unlicensed Nintendo games. You brought us the best version of Tetris. You brought us Klax. And now you brought a port of Rolling Thunder, an arcade action game that reminds me a bit of Contra, though in truth it sort of is its own thing.

One thing is for sure, though, I hate their stupid off-brand cartridges. I'm guessing with a top-loader it wouldn't be a problem, but with my new tight pin connector it's impossible to pry their stupid cartridges out!


Anyway, Rolling Thunder was an arcade hit way back in the day. The core concept was simple: you are Agent Albatross, and the bad guys stole your attractive female sidekick. Your mission (which you choose to accept) is to bust in and blast everything in sight, since this is before stealth games so spies just murdered everything that annoyed them. Kind of like James Bond.

Aim for the face!

At its core, this game is incredibly simple. You kill the guys with bullets, and don't let them kill you. Most enemies are melee. Others take cover behind boxes and shoot you. Even more annoying ones lob grenades. You still gotta shoot them all, no matter what.The trick is the fact that your guy can defy gravity, and by pressing up and jump at the same time you leap super high to the floor above (Sunset Riders totally stole this idea for their game), and down and jump drops down. This allows you to dodge enemies and perform more a point.

Going into doors gives you more bullets, or machine gun (MG) shots

There are two main things you need to be aware of before giving Rolling Thunder a shot. First, the game controls rather clunky. You have to be pressing a direction and then jump in order to jump forward/backward (meaning no in-air jump trajectory changes), which can take a lot of getting used to. You also can't shoot any direction but forward, and can't shoot in the air. Your only options are shooting while standing or shooting while ducking. Compared to games like Contra, this is very limiting.The other big thing to be aware of (probably the biggest) is the fact that this game is very, very difficult. You are given two hits per life, but in truth they might has well have just not given you a health bar. Sure, enemy melee attacks take one hit off so you get two of those, but any projectile weapon (grenade, bullet, etc.) kills you instantly. Yeah.

Expect to see this a lot.

I can actually sort of understand the idea here, if I allow myself a little speculation (that is probably incorrect). Ignoring this fact that this is clearly an arcade game meant to eat quarters, if anything this game is realistic. No, seriously. It's hard to aim accurately with any weapon while jumping, especially in the heat of combat (though I would imagine he could aim up, for crying out loud). Also, while you might survive a punch, taking a grenade to the face would pretty much kill anybody. Enemies in this game don't respawn, so if you play like an actual spy, moving slowly and carefully, your odds will be much better.Granted, it's still stupid hard even if you think of it this way, but filing it under "realism" actually sort of works, and changed the way I played the game. It's more Castlevania than Contra, essentially.

Between the levels you see the bad guys doing...uh...stuff to your captured agent.

The game luckily provides unlimited continues, though its checkpointing system is a big obnoxious. I only found one checkpoint per level, and considering how frequently you die, you'll be probably doing the same segments over and over. Continuing drops you back to the beginning of the stage, but since the checkpoints are kind of useless they might as well just be lives.

You also lose all powerups on death, but since all the powerup rooms recharge, it's just the matter of getting to them a second (or third, or fourth) time. Again, it can be frustrating, but I honestly feel this game has a level of fairness to it. You have to be perfect or else those bastard grenade throwers will ruin all your hard work, but if you are both quick and careful (and good at memorizing enemy placement) you'll walk through whole levels without getting a single hit.

I really freaking hate those grenade guys.

Graphics look decent. They're a far cry from the arcade version, but that's pretty much to be expected. I actually kind of like the super lanky, almost stick-figure look of Albatross, and the enemies are color coded based on their attacks, which is helpful.

Music is...really poor. It isn't obnoxious like Loopz, but there is a limited number of tracks and none are particularly compelling. This game could have done good with some serious spy music going down, but instead it's just kind of background noise.

Seriously, the whole "almost raping the woman" thing between levels is a bit much, Tengen.

With ten levels, Rolling Thunder will take a great deal of your time to beat. Despite my initial frustrations with the game (I was about ready to throw it against the wall, but I couldn't get the damn thing out of my Nintendo) I actually got into a sort of Rolling Thunder groove and really began enjoying it. Putting on the Mission Impossible soundtrack would probably help, but the fact of the matter is that, while the game certainly has its shortcomings, if you like old arcade-style challenges than this game is very much worth looking into.

Plus, I got it for $1.50, so I'm really not complaining.

Three out of five stars, BUT if you are the kind of person who really hates hard games with somewhat clunky controls, feel free to knock a star (or even two) off the final score.

At least it has a happy ending, even if she never does get her red sweater back.

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