Let's Rank Some Technosoft Shooters In 20XX

I still remember the time ignorant, 12-year-old-me walked into a used game shop and had to decide between Phantasy Star IV for $6 or Lightening Force for $6, and picked the former purely on the strength of the cartridge label.

Now that I've developed a shmup fetish later in life, I've managed to revisit many of Technosoft's legendary titles, including what many consider to be their best work, the Thunder Force series.

But are the TF games really the top of the heap? How well have they actually stood the test of time?

Let's find out.

(Yes, I know Technosoft made some other things but I'm ignoring those for the sake of focus)

List items

  • The Saturn release is the better one. Man, I did not start off liking this game, but now that I've played through it, I think it *might* be the Thunder Force game I actually enjoy playing the most.

    The early 3D doesn't impress like TFIV's pixel art does, but for my money this game has better design, a better difficulty curve, and is just generally more fun to play than even TFIV, especially nowadays.

    Unfairly maligned and overlooked by people that only have eyes for TFIV (which it might be better than) or TFIII (which it is definitely better than).

  • Lightening Force AKA Thunder Force IV. If you care about the Genesis/MD, you should own this game, it's a visual and aural tour-de-force.

    This one and TFV are the best of the Thunder Force series, full stop. This one has a sharp difficulty curve, and while it features less of the "memorize the moving walls/oops you didn't memorize the stage layout, dead end" annoyances from TFIII it still has IMHO too much of that, especially in later stages.

  • This is one of TechnoSoft's best 2D horizontal shooters, and it's not even a Thunder Force game!

    The Saturn version was retooled with better graphics, sprites and music, and this is full-stop the best-looking and best-playing 2D shmup on the Saturn.

    Stands up there shoulder-to-shoulder with TFIV and TFV. Saturn version is insanely expensive (~$500) at the time of this writing, but that's not just because of the low print run. It's because this is one of the best Technosoft shmups ever made.

  • This game was a visual and aural feast when it hit in 1990, and it still looks and sounds great. However, it doesn't really play great, due to the reliance on "gotcha" stage layouts that insist on memorization.

    And the presentation pales in comparison to TFIV. This one was huge for the time, but frankly has not aged as well as the latter two in the series.

  • The legendary, weird, maybe-first-ever-RTS-ever-created. Troop management coupled with Thunder Force 1/2 style overhead shooting/base attacks.

    I need to actually spend time with this one, so far I haven't actually put enough time into this one to start enjoying it.

  • This is one of Technosoft's few vertical shmups. Sadly, it has so far left me cold. This is Technosoft at "average". Not bad, but not amazing either.

    Like Hyper Duel, the Saturn version is pretty much the only one there is, and it's $$$. I would go for Hyper Duel over this in a heartbeat though.

  • Meh. A vertical shmup on the Genesis where you press one button to shoot in front of your avatar, and another to shoot behind.

    Nothing to get excited about.

  • Mostly notable for being the point at which the Thunder Force series moved from a top-down Herzog Zwei style of gameplay into actual horizontal scrolling.

    Actually, the move wouldn't fully happen until Thunder Force III, in this game half the stages are unpleasant-feeling top-down affairs and the other half are meh horizontal shmup levels.

  • The SNES had an extremely weak main CPU compared to the Genesis, which is a big reason why the SNES became the home for nice looking and sounding but relatively slow-paced RPGs, and the Genesis got a buttload of fast, fun shmups that synergized well with the higher clock speed.

    Thunder Spirits was a port of Thunder Force AC, which was an arcade port of the aforementioned Genesis original Thunder Force III.

    Unfortunately the SNES version is appreciably worse than both of its parents. Slowdown, downgraded graphics, and butchered music are the order of the day here.

  • I've not played this one, but the buzz is not good. Technosoft proper didn't exist anymore by the time this came out, and it shows.

    If you feel the urge to check this one out, I'd suggest TFV instead.