Games of Summer: Lords of Thunder
If there’s a genre that got a great deal of attention in the 16-bit gaming era, it was the shooter, or the “shmup”, if you will. A number of great games came out during that time, including Space Megaforce on the SNES, Lightening Force on the Sega Genesis, and, of course, superb Wolfteam efforts like Gaiares. Then there was the Turbo Duo, and surprisingly enough, Hudson Soft was able to keep up with a series of their own top-notch “shmups” Gate of Thunder helped set the pace in the early 90’s for the CD-based system, but it’s that game’s follow-up, Lords of Thunder, that helped cement Hudson’s reputation with the system.
Rather than taking place in outer space like the previous Thunder, Lords instead focused on a medieval universe, similar to the Asgard world from the movie Thor, except obviously without a big guy around swinging a hammer. In the game, you battle through the world of Mistral, battling the evil god Deoric and his dark generals, who have basically torn the world apart making it their personal playground. As the legendary knight Duran, you must travel through seven levels of peril, facing each of these dangerous gods while choosing from four different types of armor, each based on a natural element, such as Fire, Water, and Earth.
Lords of Thunder set itself apart from the rest of the pack in a number of ways. First off, the visuals, at the time, really set the standard for a side-scrolling shooter, with multi-layered backgrounds, impressive visual effects (firing off a super Fire bomb led to a flying dragon scorching everything on-screen), and hardly any slowdown, even when things were getting nuts. Secondly, the soundtrack. Lords of Thunder represents pure heavy metal with its thrashing guitar riffs and amazing melodies, especially the rockin’ boss theme, which really makes you feel like you’re challenging the impossible. We still blare it in our iPods to this very day.
Furthermore, Lords of Thunder required you to level up by picking up orbs scattered throughout the stage in order to a. keep your firepower at a minimum level and b. stay alive, obviously. These would usually appear after defeating bigger enemies, though you’re also required to avoid incoming fire and smaller enemies to pick them up, or risk losing even more energy. This game was definitely challenging for its time, and it still is today, though dedicated “shmup” fans will have no problem reaching its conclusion.
Like any good shooter, Lords of Thunder also featured a virtual Shop, where you could pick up extra bombs, power up Duran to his maximum potential, and buy other goods to help you reach the boss fights at the end of each stage. You just don’t see shop levels in games anymore, and it’s a trend we could definitely stand to see again.
Lords of Thunder for the Turbo Duo is still a quality shooter, and if you can’t track down a game system and copy of the CD, you’re in luck. The game is available on the Wii Virtual Console service for a mere 900 points ($9), and you can also snag it in the Japanese PlayStation Network store (on PS3) for around 800 yen. (It’s real easy to open up an import account and buy a yen card, and the game doesn’t require that much English translation to get to shooting.)
Oh, nice little trivia fact here. Sega also released this game for the Sega CD, and though the visuals remained mostly the same, they re-recorded the soundtrack with even heavier guitar beats. Though we prefer the nature of the original beast, this version isn’t half bad either, if you’re a collector of that sort of thing.
And with that, we’ll see you next week on Games of Summer. Thunder on!