The ORN Empire have been defeated by the Galaxy Federation. However, the battle carries on as the allies of the ORN Empire, who are collectively known as Vios continues the battle. Their forces are strong enough to defeat and drive back the Federations forces. Once again, the Federation organizes a plan to send in one of their powerful ships, this time code named Rynex to eliminate the enemy.-summary
The Thunder Force series will never win points for its story, and I doubt there's a soul out there who has ever come into it for that reason. Simply because the one area where it forever shines at is in the fast paced, action packed game play. Thunder Force IV, but better known as Lightening Force in the states, is the fourth sequel which was released in 1992. The game follows the style of Thunder Force III, but it expands on it in some areas. In any case, despite the minimum changes Lightening Force still delivers an over the top shoot em' up experience.
Lightening Force is still a one player horizontal shooter with the main mission to pilot Rynex, and blast through several stages and defeat an end stage boss. The game begins with four stages to choose from, and once these are completed, at least four more will appear leading to the final confrontation. The game has plenty of similarities to the previous game, being that once again, the ship is equipped with two weapons from the start; a twin blaster and a back shot that fires bullets to the front and rear. Increasing and decreasing the ship's speed is still intact, and now it's monitored in a 25% out of 100% gauge, that can increase by 1% by holding the speed button. This is one useless feature I have to admit, because I can't think of one time I ever used it. The weapons are basically the same, with the twin laser being replaced with a weapon that fires bladed missiles. However, weapons that have went on to become classics such as the Hunter (which fires blue homing bullets) and the Wave (which fires large wave like beams) are still intact, and the player can own many stages by switching between those two weapons.
There are some obvious improvements to the game play. For one the stages are now much larger with a dual like setting; which grants you far more space to navigate. This is very good because it can keep enemies from boxing you in easily, and this is something the game still has down to a science. There are some stages designed to take this element away from you in a way, plus the game still features many hazards such as crushing devices and enemies creeping up from behind to kill you. There really are some amazing stages to behold, and I think the joy of the game is being taken by surprise with them. Which is a good enough reason to avoid the spoilers.
Also once again, the game is very hard and your eye coordination along with memorizing enemy patterns and attacks will have to be at their peak. When your ship is destroyed, exactly like the previous game, you will begin right where you were killed, and you only lose the weapon that was currently in use. This is probably the only thing close to mercy you will find here.
The AI keeps you moving around with constant fire, and you can also crash your ship into many obstacles. This time around, the boss battles are very intense, far surpassing everything you witnessed in the previous games. Some of these battles are bursting with imagination. The bosses possess a variety of weapons; a good example would probably be the third boss encounter, which is a pretty slow moving battle cruiser with a weapon mount on the top of it firing big rockets and energy attacks. Once the mount has been destroyed it reveals another weapon. Some of these battles are very over the top, with one battle taking place before the final stage with a very heavily armed ship. I mean this sucker is packing some firepower to waste you.
The action is as close to nonstop you will find in a shooter. Once the boss battle is over, then you're plunged into the next stage for more shooting mayhem; and this is what you get for around 45 minutes or so to complete the game. Which is very short by today's standards, but it's a fun 45 minutes, especially if you're heavily into this genre.
This is still an area where complaints are zero. It's simple guiding the ship around, and switching back and forth through weapons, and managing your speed still performs without the slightest problem.
The visuals are still outstanding with vibrant colors and very nice backgrounds. The first stage is beautiful with the mountain and ocean backdrops, and you have other stages like the third for example, that is littered with many ships trying to get you in their cross hairs. The stages for the most part move at a face pace, and at times, the game suffers a little slowdown when there's too much traffic.
In regards to the stage designs, I really can't think of anything negative to say because they possess a good amount of imagination. Character designs are very good too for the most part, with nice models for the bosses, that range from flying mecha like aircrafts, to heavily armed ships and cruisers. They are pretty well animated as well with some smooth movements. Sound effects are decent at best though, with some distinction between weapon fire; lasers sound quite different from bullets and explosions are pretty decent I guess.
Now, once again, the soundtrack is on point. The stages are made up of synthesized guitar and keyboard scores creating some incredible music that gives the game a nice flow, which heavily compliments the frantic pace. It also helps that the bosses have their own themes, and each one seems to be a proper fit for their style and level of threat. Lightening Force is the best space shooter I can think of, that properly meshes this amount of high tempo music with blazing action. Other shooters such as Einhander, Axelay, the R-Type series, and Darius Twin do a great job here as well, but I don't think they managed to pull it off quite like this. And on top of that, once the game is beaten and you go to the BGM list located in the options, you get to hear some additional tracks. I always wondered why some of those songs were left on the cutting room floor.
Normally, I would knock these type of games in regards to replay, because once they're beaten there's little reason to continue with them. But I found myself coming back to this one because of the challenge that rarely gets old. Plus to listen to the soundtrack. The music in this game is that good, and any fan will tell you that. I think it out does the third game in this area.
Still, if you own a Genesis or even a Retron 3 clone system, then this is one game that shouldn't be passed up. The challenge is pretty high, it looks great, the boss battles and stages are intense, plus that music score compliments it very well. My only gripe with this game is that it really didn't bring new ideas to the table. In a way, it feels like an updated version of the third game, but you will rarely see redundancy done this well though. Recommended.
Thunder Force IV is a side-scrollingshoot 'em up video game developed by Technosoft as the fourth installment of the Thunder Force series. It was released respectively in July and September 1992 for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis console in Japan and the United States, and in December of the same year in Europe. In the USA, Sega of America decided to rename the game as Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar [sic]. In Europe the name was left as Thunder Force IV.