Thunderforce is Serious Business

It is hard to convey the experience to someone unfamiliar with the concept, but I used to play videogames and then walk around imagining myself from the 2-dimensional sidescrolling angle or the top-down, old-school RPG angle. I’ve talked with some friends about this, and it’s a fairly common phenomenon. You heard a badass video game jam and you wanted to run around, jumping over stuff while humming the song, punching imaginary enemies. You were in the game, son. If you played Shinobi or Thunderforce, this probably happened like every 5 minutes. You probably had parents who kicked your ass on a regular basis because of it. And rightly so. Those were the days…

Thunderforce is a classic side-scrolling space SHMUP (shoot-em-up) series. Thunderforce II, III and IV were all Sega Genesis/Megadrive games and Thunderforce V was on the original Playstation. I remember I borrowed Thunderforce II from a much older kid on my bus in Switzerland when I was 8 or 9, who always had sweet-ass games like Jungle Strike or Sonic 3, but only lent me really ancient games (Thunderforce II came out in the 1980s). It was practically a Genesis launch title. But it was not a bad game, just very hard, especially for a young pecker-wood like myself.

Anyway, Thunderforce II was fine and had some good music, but it was Thunderforce III that really started dominating the grand staff– if you ‘numsayin’. This is the kind of old-school videogame music that really changed my ear. It changed my whole life. I can only imagine what sort of rich internal life these composers led that their day-job as a video-game composer yielded such fruit.

And Thunderforce IV really upped the ante. They started emulating heavy metal guitar sounds on the Genesis which was so. Fucking. Beautiful. Thunderforce IV includes the cult-favorite staff roll music, “Stand Up Against Myself.” I love that title, and I can’t tell if it’s just a poor translation from japanese or if it’s because the original japanese uses some esoteric Kanji that expresses a state of mind that does not translate adequately to english. But often the most charming japanese-to-english translations are the ones that are completely straightforward and show no part of interpretation or cultural transportation/localization on behalf of the translator.

Examples: Exile’s “For Muscle” and “The Cathedoral,” or “His Behavior Inspired Us With Distrust” from Thunderforce III. It seems the older the games were, the more interesting the localization. Phantasy Star II has titles like “Excite Town” or “Death Place.” Outrun even has a song called, “Magical Sound Shower.”

This is understandable, as videogames now are serious business and have huge localization teams. There’s no time for fun and games anymore, and especially not humor. But honestly, I find it endearing more than anything else, because it really spoke to me as a kid and seemed to be a more creative way of using language because the choice of vocabulary and grammar was so limited to the translators, just like my own situation at the time. Old localization teams were tiny, often one or two people. Sometimes it was translated in Japan. The credits to Castlevania 1 are great.

I’m leaving y’all with some essential Thunderforce music. I’ve seen the whole soundtracks posted in forums and the soundtracks are not hard to rip from Genesis sound files with Winamp conversion plug-ins. Thunderforce V is another story altogether – it’s in stereo and the soundtrack takes it a step further and is just hardcore Shrapnel shred. Think Tony Macalpine or Jason Becker fighting for the good of the universe.

Thunderforce games are no joke either. They’re not as drawn out as Gradius or Ikaruga, but way more stuff comes at you at once, and faster. TF IV and V probably tie closely as the best ones. I’m probably going to pick up V this month.

Thunder Force III – Seiren
Thunderforce IV – Attack Sharply
Thunderforce IV – Stand Up Against Myself

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on July 11, 2007.

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