Sunday, 24 May 2015

GROW - Lords of Thunder

 Review by Clint 'ThoRn' Thornton

Developer(s)Hudson Soft, Red Entertainment
Publisher(s)Hudson Soft
Platform(s)TurboDuo, Sega CD
Release date(s)TurboDuo
  • 1993
Sega CD
  • 1995
Genre(s)Horizontal scrolling shooter

When most people think of 2D shooters they usually think of an outer space themed environment with a
futuristic shuttle blasting its way through a barrage of bullets and enemies.  And you would be completely correct too.  Ever since Star Wars was released back in 1977 we have been treated to a countless amount of space war type shmups.  But every now and then a shooter comes along which breaks the mold a little, sure it's still undoubtedly a shooter but when your main protagonist is an exposed human (type) character with wings or possibly on a broom you may think twice about playing it.  For some reason this type of shooter does not sit well with all of us and I am among those people.  I don't know why, I can't really explain it but it's just the way I have felt over the years and I know I am not alone with this.  But along comes Lords of Thunder and completely throws a spanner in the works when it comes to my set ways.  Maybe it's because it's set in a mysterious far off land with some really colorful environments, maybe it's because it's the perfect combination of challenge and enjoyment or maybe it's because it has a kick ass soundtrack that makes you feel like you are in a Man O War music video...  Or maybe it's a combination of all 3.  Let's go check it out to find out what makes this game one epic shooter.

Turbo Duo
The evil god Deoric has unleashed slithering vermin, mechanical dragons and phantom Viking fleets upon the lands mistral.  As the sole survivor of a dynasty of knights, you have inherited four suits of mystic armor that harness nature's most powerful elements - Earth, Water, Wind and Fire (and heart for all you Captain Planet fans).  Only you can use the elements to defeat Deoric's demonic horde.....  Now is that metal or what?!

Although Lords of Thunders is a horizontal shooter to its core it adds a few new elements of game play to the mix to help you get more out of it.  The best way to describe it is Fantasy Zone on Bull Shark testosterone.  Each enemy you kill will drop either red or blue crystals that you will want to collect so when you finish of a level (or die) you can visit the shop run by a sexy sorceress and stock up on bombs, life, power ups, shields and life restoring elixirs so when you enter in to the next stage you are fully loaded to defeat your enemy.  Unfortunately your health is not restored after each level so you will always want to refill your life before you purchase anything else.  My recommendation is that you will want to try and collect between 1500 and 2000 crystal dollars by the end of each stage as that will be enough for a full life refill, 3 bombs and the majority of your weapon power ups.
Sega / Mega CD

Lords of Thunder follows a similar level selection to Mega Man where you can choose what order you wish to play through but if you follow the natural selection of levels you will essentially start off at the easiest level and work your way up to the hardest.  As stated in the story you have four elements to choose from at the beginning of each level, each element offering a different type of offensive weapon.  Some people believe it's important that you avoid certain elements for certain levels, for example don't use the water element on a water stage as it will counteract and take longer to defeat the end of stage boss.  I for one do not think this is true, from my experience I will always just use the fire and water elements as they are strongest and the wind and earth are the weakest regardless what stage you are in.  But hey, I could be wrong?

Sega / Mega CD
I will quickly touch on the difficulty levels too....  There aren't any.  It's hard as steel balls all the way through so you will definitely be spending a lot of time learning patterns.  But if you are lucky enough to own both the Sega / Mega CD and Turbo Duo versions then you will want to go for the Sega version to start out with if you want the easiest possible difficulty.  Even though both games play almost identically you will find the Sega / Mega CD version is considerably easier than the original Turbo Duo version.

The best thing about 16 bit shooters is that 99% of them only require two buttons, shoot and power up and Lords of Thunder is the perfect example of this simple button configuration.  Having played both console versions I can say they both control almost the same with fluent but snappy directional controls and possibly the most important button setup for a shooter and that is auto fire...  Yes, both versions have default auto fire so you wont be getting an carpel tunnel from this game.
Turbo Duo

If you only know one thing about this game it will be its 'most excellent' soundtrack and that very few games retro and modern can compete with the high level caliber of music Lords of Thunder provides for the player.  It borrows beautifully from the 80's hard rock and metal era and I have no doubt Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and Eric Adams would approve of the music without giving it a second thought.

The visuals are pretty damn good looking too.  Both consoles offer bright and vibrant environments and well drawn sprites.  Although the Turbo Duo  does have a higher color palette over the Sega / Mega CD and does indeed use it throughout the game, in my opinion in doesn't make the Turbo Duo stand out that much more in the graphics department.  Let's not forget about the intro either, both consoles have an anime intro that is smooth, bright and not a single grainy pixel to be seen, so for those Sega CD haters out there that think it could only produce grainy animations, think again.

Sega / Mega CD - 32 colors
Turbo Duo - 65 colors
If you are looking for a hard as nails shooter that actually allows you to learn the game and the enemy patterns so that you may advance that little bit further each time whilst looking at some sweet graphics and listening to possibly the best metal soundtrack in any video game period, than Lords of Thunder might be the game for you.

It really is hard to say which is the better version as both have all the right boxes ticked where it matters.  If I had to call out the differences I would say the Turbo Duo is the better looking game but the Sega / Mega CD has some voice overs (mainly in the intro) that the Turbo Duo does not.

Good news is that it is available on the Virtual Console and PlayStation network so there is really no excuse for not giving this game a play through.

Until next time....  Stay Retro!


  1. great game.. although I think the Mega CD version is much better for me personally... because I can last more than a couple of minutes before dying :-)

  2. Nice review Clint. I love this game, but I really need to dedicate some more time to it so that I can get to see more of it - it's so damn hard ;-)