Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thunder Force III for Genesis (1990)

Thunder Force III for Genesis advertisement

Original ad published in the December 1990 edition of EGM (no. 17)
Press to view or download image in higher resolution. 

Historical Background and Graphical Analysis

Sega’s 16-bit juggernaut is widely accepted as the best console for shooting games, or “schumps”. Thunder Force III is one of the brightest spots in a long list of excellent games of the genre, such as Gaires, Truxton and Sol-Feace, and of course, other Thunder Force games. All were released at the start of the 90’s or the end of the previous decade. All were great.

Thunder Force III (1990) was developed by Technosoft, a now defunct Japanese company famous for Herzog Zwei (1989), the precursor of real-time strategy games. That game was also released for the MegaDrive/Genesis and is a sort of cult-hit. Some PC developers took note of its gameplay mechanics. The legendary Dune II (1992), for example, borrowed some conceptual elements of Herzog Zwei.

The third instalment of the series features incredible music, tight gameplay and very good graphics. The sound, like most Genesis games, is feeble. But that is just a kink in an otherwise rock-solid game that was the first of the series to embrace a full side-scrolling experience throughout the entire game, and not a mix of vertical and horizontal stages like Thunder Force II.

It’s interesting that most side-scrolling shooters--like Sol-Feace, for example--feature excellent artwork in their box-art or their marketing print material. The very attractive image you see here could easily be hanged on any gamer’s room or basement. Shooters have always approached their print material this way. Check out Atari 2600’s box-art for Vanguard (1982), one of the very first console games of the genre. 

I believe the reason is that most schumps are very simple in conceptual design and rarely feature a human as the main protagonist of the story. Instead, your space ship is the real star of the adventure. That liberates graphical designers to extend their imaginations as far as the wish, given that in most sci-fi settings practically anything goes. 

Those awesome mechanical phoenix you see in Thunder Force’s III advertisement are actual enemies in the game. Your ship maintains good proportions and the ad’s diagonals take your eyes from the main title to the action and lastly to the (weak) copy of the text and actual game-screens. Color contrast plays an important role in the ad: red, blues and whites dominate the entire frame and balance beautifully.

This is very good planning, exemplary for anyone interested in graphical design or editorial layout.

Thunder Force III for Genesis print ad copy

Thunder Force III
Just when you thought you had seen it all… 
A new challenge radiates forth from worlds beyond imagination. Surge through scrolling lava flows and the thrust of massive rock caves. Avoid losing control amid perilous bubbles in murky depths….to encounter even greater challenges in realms of deeper dimensions.  

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