Thunder Force V – Review (Sega Saturn – Import)


Thunder Force V
Developer/Publisher: Tecno Soft of Japan
Platform: Sega Saturn (Japanese Import)
Japan Release Date: July 11th, 1997
U.S. Release Date: Never

Attention all Thunder Force fans. If you have been a fan of the Thunder Force series since the launch of the Sega Genesis, a big fan of Tecno Soft, or have at least remotely enjoyed some the Thunder Force titles, I’m happy to report that Tecno Soft is finally back in the saddle. After several disappointing games like “Hot Blooded Family” and “Fantasy Pinball” (these are import titles too), the people at Tecno Soft finally woke up and realized that they needed to go back to their calling: Making totally kick ass shooters. And what better way to do that than to use the super power 2-D and 3-D hardware of the Saturn to launch the overdue sequel, Thunder Force V.

Thunder Force V: A Full Review Article



A unmanned probe within our solar system detects an object on the surface of Pluto. After the probes investigation, it finds a object of unknown origin and returns it back to a lunar base in the star system for further analysis. Scientist discover that the object is made from an advanced technology, called Vasteel. 50 years later, the technology that was found so long ago has been studied and refined at a research center on Earth called Babel, by an advanced computer AI know as Guardian.

Several years later, the humans of Babel begin to colonize other planets throughout the solar system. New types of armor, weapons, and other technology are attached to everything used in the migration, however this information is known only to Guardian. All of a sudden, Guardian goes off-line and declares war on humanity by destroying and killing almost one-third of the population. Using the new technology Vasteel, the humans create several special fighters, the RVR-01 Gauntlet, and form a strike force to penetrate through the enemy lines to destroy Guardian, and liberate themselves from this terrible war.

While the story itself shares the all too common theme of “the advanced AI computer gains consciousness and begins killing everyone else to distinguish itself from humanity,” this is far from the primary reason to play a Thunder Force game. Ask anyone who has played this series and they will tell you that they could care less or don’t even know what the story probably was. They played because the game itself kicked some serious ass.




To keep true with the next in the Thunder Force series, part 5 is, once again, a 2-D side-scrolling shooter. However, Tecno Soft has gone to the extreme this time by using the Saturn’s 3-D capabilities as well, …and use them well they have certainly done. All enemy’s are rendered with polygons from the bosses all the way to the tiniest of enemies. Nothing has been compromised in this game by the graphic intensity. There is almost never slowdown the entire time you play. If I had to estimate, I have encountered slowdown in the game only about 2 times in a couple of areas and it lasted for about .37 seconds.



The weapons for this title are in the typical format for all Thunder Force titles. By default, your ship starts with the standard twin shot and back fire that the player can switch between. Power-ups are given at a set time during the level as players progress so they must make sure not to miss them because the next level may not offer it again or not for a long time. The claws (options) are helpers that rotate around the ship, providing additional fire in accordance to what weapon is currently selected and also absorb the standard types of enemy fire. There are 3 other weapons to obtain: wave, free range, and hunter. In addition, not only are there 5 weapons to select from total, each weapon has a very powerful overdive mode that can been engaged, if the player has any claws currently, and blast the enemies to hell. The overdrive lasts longer depending upon how may claws the player has (up to three). Once the claws are drained of power, the player must wait for the claws to regenerate before using the feature again.




The ships control is no problem at all. Speed can be adjusted manually as to how fast a person wants the ship to move around the screen with the touch of a button and it can be done at anytime. There are seven levels total in this game and three difficulties to select from.






Graphics in this game are absolutely top notch. Foregrounds, backgrounds, enemies, animations, and especially the bosses are all done with excellent quality. One of the most unique aspects of the game is that once you arrive at some of the bosses, the game will actually pause and take a panoramic view in 3-D all around the boss, your ship, and the environment you are in, giving a really nice perspective of the enemy. Presentations of the bosses in the game are typically done this way. Neat.


Weapons also look good, keeping the traditional look of the classic weapons from before. The newest weapon, Free Range, is probably the coolest weapon done yet. The ship will display a target range (shown in picture) from the ship going out and once a enemy is within its sight, the enemy is immediately attacked by powerful, auto-aiming lasers. The range of the weapon is all the way to the screen but not very wide, but the weapon can pivot around the ship 360 degrees. Also, the overdrive for all the weapons looks fantastic, having a very unique look for each weapon.



Music & Sound Effects

The Thunder Force series has always been know to have extremely fast-paced music with great themes for each stage all the way to the end. Part 5 certainly does have some of the most intense themes yet ever used and they certainly go well with each stage. The music still has the synthesized sound with the very techno-ish sounding beats. Unfortunately, I did find the music good, but I felt that this edition, listening to most of the themes outside of the game sounded to much the same and did not distinguish themselves enough from one another. They are good and fast paced, but are best enjoyed only playing the game this time (Unlike Thunder Force II – IV, when I used to listen to the music in the sound tests all the time.)


Difficulty & Options

The Options mode for this title is extensive. There are three levels of difficulty: Kids (easy), Normal, and Hard. Players can, like the past 2 editions of Thunder Force, select the first few stages (stage 1, 2, and 3 only this time) once they begin in any order. The number of continues can be changed, window displayed can be edited to whatever configuration is like during play, or even shut off completely (the status bar on the top of the screen can be removed or brought back at any time with the touch of a button). Stereo, music, and sound effects can all be altered to a players preference as to the intensity level it is heard at (for example: having sound effects louder than the music playing.) Button configuration for the control pad also has 2 preset options and 2 editable options for button placement. Music and sound effects can be accessed for all files used in the entire game (27 music tracks & 179 different sound effects.) A sound equalizer is also displayed to watch the intensity of the music.


One interesting option labeled “information” keeps a entire record of: (1.) Play Time (how long you have actually been playing the game from the moment you start, till the “game over” screen appears), (2.) Play Count (the number of times you have played the game.), (3.) Clear Count (number of times the game has been finished), and (4.) the Power On Time (Total time the system has been on with the Thunder Force V game in it.)


The next option menu is Ranking, which keeps a total of 20 scores made by people playing for each of the 3 difficulties for a grand total of 60 scores. When a person’s ranking score is highlighted, it will tell how long that person played, how many continues were used, was the game finished or not, and/or what stages were played up too (including the order of the first three).
In conclusion, there are quite a few extras added to the option for extra information and enjoyment for the title. The game is definitely a challenge and I recommend that veteran shooters fans immediately set the game on Hard for maximum enjoyment.




Without any question, Thunder Force V is a must own title for anyone who is into shooters and is also dying to have the next in the Thunder Force series. Graphics are fantastic, gameplay is solid and intense, music is good and sound effects are cool. The game is a great challenge and should be a welcome edition to anyone’s library.




Unfortunately, due to lackluster sales of the Saturn on these shores, the chances of this title being brought over for a U.S. release are extremely slim. Working Designs, under there new label SPAZ, was going to make an announcement around last June about this title, probably meaning that they were going to consider releasing it here. However, due to how Sega of America has treated one of its heaviest supports, (they pissed of Working Designs and Victor Ireland, the head man) they are no longer going to support the Saturn after their current projects are completed. A sad notion, but I and the rest of all the fans of Working Designs are pretty much in agreement that Sega screwed themselves and Victor Ireland was completely right in his decision.


Therefore, the only way to get this title now is to order it through an import retailer. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do this, because the only other likely candidate to bring this to the U.S. is Sega, and I doubt that will happen. Do not worry about not being able to understand Japanese as the entire game, including all of the options, are completely in the English language. The only item that isn’t in English is the manual, which you don’t need to read anyway. Just look at the cool pictures. Everything you need to know is in the options. Just buy a converter for your system from whatever company you buy the game from when you order it.



Another reason to buy the import version is that there are 2 different packages to choose from. The Thunder Force V Special Pack is about 75 to 85 bucks and comes in a nice double-jewelcase and with an extra CD that contains remixed music tracks from the entire Thunder Force series. The other package is simply the game itself for about 15 bucks less. I recommend getting the special pak because, as usual, the extra music CD will not come over to our shores, and is a unique extra item.



Rating: 8 out of 10


Thunder Force V (standard release)


Thunder Force V Special Pack
(double CD jewelcase includes game &
“Best of Thunder Force” music CD)

Best of Thunder Force Music CD
(Included only with Special Pack)


Extra Screenshots

Up, up, and away! Out of the atmosphere into space…

Woah! Look out for that level 3 boss!


Artwork & More…

Gauntlet flying toward light

Futuristc map of Earth


Ship with white background

Thunder Force Squadron #222 Logo


Cenes, the female pilot of Gauntlet

Gauntlet ship from title screen


The Rynex ship from TF4 & TF5

Japanese model of the Gauntlet


Wire-frame schematic of Gauntlet

Japanese Music Soundtrack CD


Japanese advertisement



Super Weapons:
Pause the game and press Up ten times, B, Down two times, and repeatedly tap B to fill the weapon meter. Press A for the Claw weapon, and resume game play. Note: This code may be enabled with each new life.


Other System Platforms



As of August 1998, Working Designs has released another shooter for the U.S. Sony PlayStation under their shooter label SPAZ. Hurray!  Thunder Force V can now be found wherever PlayStation games are sold. The game plays about the same, with some slight differences. So if you don’t wish to import the title or you don’t have a Saturn, this is probably the next best step towards playing this great shootemup!

Thunder Force V: Perfect System
Sony PlayStation
U.S. Release Date: August 31st, 1998


© Copyright 1997 Starbase 299, Inc.  All rights Reserved.

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