Thunder Force III

Last updated
Thunder Force III
Thunder Force III cover.jpg
North American cover of Thunder Force III
Developer(s) Technosoft
Publisher(s) Technosoft
Series Thunder Force
Platform(s) Sega Genesis, Arcade, SNES, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch
ReleaseSega Genesis
  • JP: June 7, 1990
  • NA: 1990
  • JP: December 1990
  • WW: 1991
Sega Saturn
  • JP: September 27, 1996
  • JP: December 6, 1996 (AC)
Nintendo 3DS
  • JP: December 22, 2016
Nintendo Switch (AC)
  • JP: May 14, 2020
  • NA: May 28, 2020
  • EU: May 28, 2020
Genre(s) Scrolling shooter
Mode(s) Single-player

Thunder Force III (サンダーフォースIII) is a 1990 scrolling shooter game developed by Technosoft for the Sega Genesis. [1] It is the third chapter in the Thunder Force series. It was then retooled into an arcade game named Thunder Force AC. In 1991, Thunder Force AC was ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System under the title Thunder Spirits.



Gameplay screenshot. MD Thunder Force III.png
Gameplay screenshot.

For Thunder Force III, the free-directional, overhead stage format featured in the previous two games is removed and replaced entirely by the horizontally scrolling stage format. [2] The horizontal format became the new standard for the series.

The player is allowed to choose which of the initial five planets (Hydra, Gorgon, Seiren, Haides, and Ellis), to start on. After the first five stages are completed, the game continues for three more stages into ORN headquarters.

The weapon system from Thunder Force II returns in this game, with some modifications. Some weapons from Thunder Force II are reused or modified slightly (the enhanceable Twin shot and Back shot remain the defaults), while others are completely new and exclusive to the game.

This time, when the player's ship is destroyed, only the weapon that was currently in use is lost (unless it is a default weapon and assuming the game is operating at the default difficulty settings). On any higher difficulty modes than the default one, all weapons are lost when the ship gets destroyed. CLAWs also make their return and have the same behavior and functions, except now when the player collects the CLAW item, the ship automatically receives its maximum two CLAWs (again, CLAWs are lost upon ship destruction in every difficulty modes). Also, when using most weapons, the CLAWs will mimic the ship and fire the same weapon (similar to the Options in Gradius games). The final new addition is that the player's ship now has a speed setting, which can be increased or decreased across four levels at the press of a button.


Thunder Force III takes place about 100 years after Thunder Force and directly after Thunder Force II . Despite their successes, the Galaxy Federation has not been faring well in their battle against the ORN Empire. ORN has installed cloaking devices on five major planets in their space territory that conceal their main base, making it difficult for the Galaxy Federation to locate and attack their headquarters. Also, ORN has built a remote defense system to protect itself named Cerberus, which is especially efficient at neutralizing large ships and fleets. Knowing this, the Galaxy Federation creates the FIRE LEO-03 Styx; a craft small enough to avoid detection by Cerberus, yet equipped with the firepower of a large starfighter. The Galaxy Federation deploys Styx (which is controlled by the player) on a mission to destroy the five cloaking devices, infiltrate the Empire's headquarters, and destroy ORN emperor, the bio-computer "Cha Os".


Screenshot of Thunder Force AC, showcasing planet Haides retooled with new level design. ARC Thunder Force AC.png
Screenshot of Thunder Force AC, showcasing planet Haides retooled with new level design.

Thunder Force III was released on June 9, 1990, in Japan. [1] Due to the success of the game for the Mega Drive/Genesis, it was decided that the game would be brought to the arcade scene under the name Thunder Force AC. Ported to Sega's System C-2 hardware, Thunder Force AC is almost graphically identical to its Mega Drive counterpart, with only very minor and often unnoticeable differences.[ citation needed ]Thunder Force AC has been described as a retooling of Thunder Force III because it borrows enemies and stages from the earlier Thunder Force II as well as adding some original content.[ citation needed ]

Thunder Force AC was also ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991 as Thunder Spirits, by Toshiba. [3] The SNES version does away with level selection, changes several levels, and features a modified soundtrack.[ citation needed ]

In 1996, Thunder Force III was re-released in Thunder Force Gold Pack 1 for the Sega Saturn. Thunder Force AC was re-released in Thunder Force Gold Pack 2 , also for the Sega Saturn. [4]

With Sega buying the rights to the series in 2016, Thunder Force AC was re-released on Nintendo Switch worldwide in May 2020 as part of the Sega Ages line. This version includes an easy mode, online leaderboards, improved sound, and various other improvements. [5]


The original Genesis version received much praise. GamePro called it "a straightforward flying shooter with gorgeous graphics", particularly mentioning the large, detailed enemies and "intricate backgrounds". They described it as extremely difficult, most suited for hardcore shooter fans. [2] MegaTech magazine praised the use of parallax, as well as the sound and gameplay. [9] In 1992 Mega placed the game at #17 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time. [10] In 1997 Electronic Gaming Monthly listed it as the 59th best console video game of all time, calling it the best shooter on the Genesis. [11] Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave it a score of 31 out of 40. [1]

In Japan, Game Machine listed Thunder Force AC on their February 1, 1991 issue as being the sixteenth most-successful table arcade unit of the year. [12]

Famitsu gave Thunder Spirits version a lower score, giving it only 23/40. [3]

Related Research Articles

<i>Thunder Force</i> (video game) 1983 video game

Thunder Force is a free-roaming scrolling shooter computer game released by Technosoft in 1983. It is the first game in the Thunder Force series. It was initially released for the X1 computer, and later appeared on the Sharp MZ-1500, PC-6001 mkII, and in 1985 on the PC-8801 mkII. In 1984, it was released for the FM-7 and PC-9801 computers as Thunder Force Construction, featuring an add-on that allowed players to create custom made areas, like a level editor or game creation system.

<i>Raiden</i> (video game) Vertically scrolling shooter arcade game released in 1990

Raiden is a 1990 vertically scrolling shooter arcade video game developed by Seibu Kaihatsu and published by Tecmo in Japan. The game's story takes place in the year 2090, when an alien species known as the Crystals invaded Earth. Players assume the roles of the Vanquish Crystal Defense pilot duo, taking control of two state of the art Fighting Thunders aircraft to defeat the Crystals and save the Earth.

<i>Truxton</i> (video game)

Truxton is a 1988 vertically scrolling shooter arcade video game originally developed by Toaplan and published in Japan and Europe by Taito, as well in North America by Midway and Romstar. Set in a future where the Gidans alien race led by Dogurava invaded the fictional planet Borogo, players assume the role of fighter pilot Tatsuo taking control of the Super Fighter ship on a last-ditch effort to overthrow the alien invaders.

<i>Gunstar Heroes</i> 1993 run and gun video game developed by Treasure and published by Sega

Gunstar Heroes is a run and gun video game developed by Treasure and published by Sega. It was Treasure's debut game, originally released on the Sega Genesis in 1993. The game's premise is centered around a pair of characters, the Gunstars, in their efforts to stop an evil empire from recovering four powerful gems. The characters can fire guns and perform a series of acrobatic maneuvers to fight enemies across each stage. There are four weapons in the game which can be combined with one another to create different shot types.

Technosoft was a Japanese video game developer and publisher based headquartered in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Also known as "Tecno Soft", the company was founded in February 1980 as Sasebo Microcomputer Center, before changing its name to Technosoft in 1982. The company primarily dealt with software for Japanese personal computers, including graphic toolsets and image processing software. Technosoft's first venture into the video game market was Snake & Snake, released in 1982, before seeing success with titles such as Thunder Force (1983) and Plasma Line (1984).

<i>Contra: Hard Corps</i>

Contra: Hard Corps, released as Contra: The Hard Corps in Japan and Probotector in Europe and Australia, is a run and gun video game released by Konami for the Sega Genesis in 1994. It was the first game in the Contra series released for a Sega platform and serves as the first entry in the Hard Corps series, itself a subseries of the Contra franchise. It was re-released in June 2019 as part of Contra: Anniversary Collection for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows, and was also included in the Genesis Mini dedicated console that same year.


Mercs, originally released as Senjō no Ōkami II, is a run-and-gun shooter arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1990. It is a follow-up to the 1985 arcade hit Commando. While not as successful as its predecessor, Mercs was generally well-received by critics and was a moderate commercial success. It was followed by Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 in 2008, a downloadable game.

<i>Thunder Force II</i> 1988 video game

Thunder Force II (サンダーフォースII) is a scrolling shooter developed by Technosoft. It was first released in Japan on October 15, 1988 for the Sharp X68000 computer. A year later, it was ported to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game console and released in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Thunder Force II was one of the six launch titles for the U.S. Genesis release. The Genesis port was later included in Thunder Force Gold Pack Volume 1 for the Sega Saturn. It is the second chapter of the Thunder Force series.

<i>Thunder Force IV</i> 1992 shoot em up video game

Thunder Force IV, known in North America as Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar, is a shoot 'em up video game developed and published by Technosoft for the Mega Drive in 1992. It is the fourth installment in Technosoft's Thunder Force series, and the third and final one created for the Mega Drive. It was developed by the team at Technosoft that ported Devil's Crush to the Mega Drive rather than the team that developed the previous Thunder Force games. Like its predecessors, it is a horizontally scrolling shooter, but it also features extensive vertical scrolling with large playing fields.

<i>Thunder Force V</i>

Thunder Force V is a 1997 Japanese side-scrolling shooter video game developed by Technosoft for the Sega Saturn. It is the fifth game in the Thunder Force series. Unlike previous games in the series, Thunder Force V uses polygons to model the larger enemy ships and some of the scenery, in addition to sprites. In 1998, Thunder Force V was ported to the PlayStation as Thunder Force V: Perfect System.

Thunder Force is a series of free-roaming scrolling shooter type video games developed by the Japanese software company Technosoft. The franchise is recognized for its distinctive gameplay, graphics, and synthesizer-based chiptune music soundtracks.

<i>Hellfire</i> (video game)

Hellfire is a 1989 horizontally scrolling shooter arcade video game originally developed by Toaplan and published in Japan by Taito and North America by U.S.A. Games. The first horizontal shoot 'em up title to be created by Toaplan, the game takes place in the year 2998 where a space matter known as Black Nebula created by robot dictator Super Mech spreads and threatens to engulf human-controlled galaxies, as players assume the role of Space Federation member Captain Lancer taking control of the CNCS1 space fighter craft in a surprise attack to overthrow the enemies with the fighter craft's titular weapon.

<i>Wardner</i> (video game)

Wardner is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Toaplan and published in arcades worldwide by Taito in 1987.

<i>MUSHA</i> 1990 video game

MUSHA is a vertically scrolling shooter developed by Compile and released for the Sega Genesis in 1990. An entry in Compile's shooter series, Aleste, MUSHA places the player in the role of a flying mecha pilot who must destroy a large super intelligent computer threatening planet Earth. The game had a working title of Aleste 2 and featured a style similar to the first game, but it was redirected to a Japanese aesthetic and speed metal soundtrack.

<i>Hyper Duel</i>

Hyper Duel is a Japanese video game developed by Technosoft and released in 1993. It is a horizontally scrolling shooter which takes inspiration from the Thunder Force series. The game has the player take control of a ship that can transform between a humanoid mecha and a space ship. The game was released in arcades in 1993, running on the TEC442-A hardware, then was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1996. It has never been released outside of Japan.

<i>Galaxy Force</i> 1988 shoot em up arcade game

Galaxy Force is a third-person space combat simulator game developed and released by Sega for arcades in 1988. The player assumes control of a starship named the TRY-Z, as it must prevent the Fourth Empire from taking over the entire galaxy. Gameplay involves shooting down enemies using either a laser shot or a limited supply of heat-seeking missiles, all while avoiding collision with projectiles or obstacles and making sure the ship's energy meter doesn't fully deplete. It ran on the Sega Y Board arcade system, and was released with a motion simulator cockpit arcade cabinet version like previous Sega Super Scaler games.

<i>Lords of Thunder</i>

Lords of Thunder is a shoot 'em up video game by Hudson Soft and Red Company, released for the TurboDuo in 1993. It was ported to the Sega CD in 1995. It is the unofficial follow-up to Gate of Thunder. The game features a heavy metal soundtrack.

<i>Thunder Force VI</i> 2008 shoot em up game

Thunder Force VI is a 2008 horizontal-scrolling shooter video game developed and published for the PlayStation 2 by Sega. The game places the player in the role of a starship that must eradicate the Orn Faust empire before they destroy all of Earth. The player must complete each stage by shooting down enemies and avoiding collisions with them and their projectiles, using an arsenal of powerful weapons to destroy them. It is the sixth and final entry in the long-running Thunder Force video game franchise, and the only one to not be developed by series creator Technosoft.

<i>Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire</i> 1995 video game

Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire, commonly abbreviated to Sapphire in English, is a shoot 'em up developed by CAProduction for the PC Engine CD-ROM² System. It was published in 1995 by Hudson Soft exclusively in Japan. The story follows an all-women police force in 2092 traveling through time to intercept terrorists committing crimes across the past and future. The player takes on the role of a police officer and controls their spaceship through waves of enemies and powerful bosses.

<i>Thunder Force Gold Pack</i> 1996 video game compilation

Thunder Force Gold Pack is a 1996 video game compilation duology developed and published by Technosoft for the Sega Saturn. Part of the Thunder Force series, the first release includes Thunder Force II and Thunder Force III, while the second release includes Thunder Force AC and Thunder Force IV. In each game, players assume the role of Galaxy Federation pilots taking control of a space fighter craft to defeat the Orn Empire and the Vios threat. Both compilations were released in the mid 1990s to gauge interest for the then-upcoming Thunder Force V. Each compilation were met with mixed reception from critics since their release.


  1. 1 2 3 "サンダーフォースIII [メガドライブ] / ファミ通.com". Archived from the original on 2018-07-27. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  2. 1 2 Slo Mo (November 1990). "Genesis ProView: Thunder Force III" (PDF). GamePro . No. 26. pp. 108–109.
  3. 1 2 "サンダースピリッツ [スーパーファミコン] / ファミ通.com". Archived from the original on 2018-07-27. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  4. "Thunder Force V: The Classic 16-Bit Shooter Returns". Electronic Gaming Monthly . No. 100. Ziff Davis. November 1997. p. 58.
  5. McFerran, Damien (16 April 2020). "Sega Says Thunder Force AC Is Hitting The Switch eShop "Soon"". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  6. "NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: サンダーフォースIII". Famitsu (in Japanese). No. 103. ASCII. June 22, 1990. p. 17.
  7. MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 81, May 1992
  8. "Thunderforce 3 - Sega Megadrive - Mean Machines review". Archived from the original on 2016-11-11. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  9. Thunder Force 3 Review. United Kingdom: EMAP. June 1992. p. 81. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  10. Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992.
  11. "100 Best Games of All Time". Electronic Gaming Monthly . No. 100. Ziff Davis. November 1997. p. 122. Note: Contrary to the title, the intro to the article explicitly states that the list covers console video games only, meaning PC games and arcade games were not eligible.
  12. "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 396. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 February 1991. p. 21.