This weekly column looks at classic video games both in how they looked back in the day and how they stand up today. Though scores will be assigned, our tough review standards will be relaxed a bit for these games to give a general overview instead.
All retro games come courtesy of Retro Games Plus, located at 1761 Post Road East in Westport, CT. If you’re in the northeastern part of the United States, please give them a look.
Shoot ’em ups—SHMUPs for short—tend to age well if they’re worth anything. Action adventure games sell amazingly when they first come out but then end up on the bargain bin within a month, all but forgotten soon after that in most cases. However, a good shooter retains its value for years, and in some cases, multiplies it by several times. Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun, at the time they were re-released, retailed well over $100; Ikaruga is still around $100, and Radiant Silvergun is still about $200.
Thi sweek, we look back at the PlayStation One game, Thunder Force V: Perfect System. Originally a Saturn game, it was ported over to the PlayStation and brought over to America by Working Designs under their “Spaz” label. It’s the continuation of a classic series of shooters known mostly to Genesis players. Let’s see how it looks Then and Now.
Thunder Force V: Perfect System
Systems: Sega Saturn (JP), Sony PlayStation (JP, NA; reviewed), PlayStation Network (JP)
Developer: Techno Soft
Publisher: Working Designs
Original Release Date: August 31, 1998 (NA)
HOW WAS IT THEN: There was a lot to like about Thunder Force V. The 3D graphics, though inferior to the Saturn versions, gave a lot to look at; and there were plenty of goodies to unlock, such as ships, CG images, and more. There’s a story that dates back to the Genesis/Mega Drive games, but hell if anyone really cares; this is about picking stages and then going through those stages in that order. Thunder Force has always given flexibility in this regard, and TFV is no different, though there’s a set progression the game hints you should go through.
Ultimately, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Every stage is harder than Chinese algebra. Enemies aim right for your ship, and they come from all directions. The goal is to be able to take them out with either your twin or dual guns, the latter being able to shoot behind you. You can acquire other weapons as well, and in something that actually makes the game easier than previous editions, you keep your weapons so long as you’re not using them. The “CRAW” units, previously known as “CLAW” in non-Engrish, serve as options that can absorb bullets and fire a superior version of your weapon. Those absorb energy, though that can be replenished.
For its time, Thunder Force V was a competent shooter and a decent port of the Saturn game.
HOW IS IT NOW: While it’s still a playable game, TFV has been outdone by other PSX shooters that have aged better, such as Einhander and R-Type Delta. Those games have more to offer, better balance (while still being ridiculously hard), and the graphics are better. That’s notable with the PlayStation since these archaic 3D graphics sometimes get in the way of eyes more adjusted to better visuals.
Once you move onto other systems, TFV shows its age. Gradius V absolutely blows this out of the water with a much better game in every aspect. R-Type Final does as well with an absolute plethora of unlockable ships and the same style of gameplay, with a better difficulty curve at that. Then there’s the digital re-releases of Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun to consider, both of which are 1/10 the cost of their physical counterparts.
Retro Games Plus was selling TFV for $22, and online, the prices are higher; this averages about $40 on eBay. Ultimately, this is an average shooter that plays very well for fans of horizontal shooters. It’s comparable to G-Darius, another game that’s fun for fans but doesn’t set the house on fire. That’s good enough for SHMUP fans—and it is for me—but the cost might turn off people who aren’t either hardcore SHMUP fans or hardcore Working Designs fans. I’m both so I enjoyed this, but it’s still just average.