Combat flight simulator games are not everybody’s cup of tea. However, for some gamers, they allow the closest experience to actually piloting jets and helicopters. What better experience is there than deftly soaring between buildings or trees whilst evading enemy fire until you hone in on the enemy and blow them out of the sky?
Super Thunder Blade is a combat flight simulation shooter game and follow up to the 1987 arcade game Thunder Blade. It was developed and published by Sega and released on the Mega Drive in 1988 in Japan, 1989 in North America, and 1990 in Europe. It would later be released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and was part of the Sega Genesis Collection (2006) for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
After the events of Thunder Blade 1987, your helicopter returns battle hardened from its battle with the renegade troops. However, from their secret base in the East, it is not long before the renegade troops regroup and re-arm with even more devastating weaponry at their disposal. Their aim is still to conquer the free world and deploy their forces on land, sea and in the air. With a refitted attack helicopter with state-of-the-art weaponry, you take to the sky once more and set about dismantling the enemy forces.
There are two aspects to this game. The first is a third-person view which sees you flying through landscapes firing your gatling gun and AATM missiles at enemy jets, helicopters, and tanks. At the end of the stage, the view shifts from third person to bird’s eye view. You then proceed to fight an end of level boss.
In the option menu, you can choose whether to have the controls as up being up and down being down, or you can invert these controls. The ‘A’ button fires the gatling gun and missiles at the same time, ‘B’ activates the air brakes and allows you to slow down and hover, and the ‘C’ button fires your Vulcan cannon and missiles at the same time.
When you earn 500,000 points, you will gain a life. You can gain more for every 1,000,000 points you accrue after that.
The game consists of four stages:
Desert and Caves
How Does It Handle?
There’s really not that much to learn. There is steer, fire, and hover. There is a slight delay when change direction, but this adds to the realism of the game and just takes a bit of practice to get used to. The key to this game is knowing when to advance quickly and when to hover. There is no time limit so you can take your time. You also have infinite ammo, so there is little in the way of strategy to conserve ammo. You’ll find you always have the fire button pushed down.
I thought the graphics were pretty good. After checking out other combat flight sims, released around the same time, I don’t think they’re any better (or worse) than the likes of After Burner II (1987), Air Diver: F-119 Stealth Fighter Simulation (1990), or Space Harrier 2 (1988). They’re good…but not great. The first level, flying through the city looks very good. There are buildings on the skyline, the greenery of the trees, and buildings to evade. I particularly like how Stage 2 looks where you see mountains in the distance until you enter the caves and the background changes colour making the Stage darker, emphasising that you are flying through a dark cave. The sprites look good too, but they fly by so quick or are destroyed in the distance that you don’t often see them up close.
Music & SFX
The music really takes back seat in this game and is overpowered by the monotonous white noise-esque weapons fire and explosions. I found myself turning down the sound very early on as it is not essential to the game and was giving me a headache.
There are three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard. You can also change the number of lives from 3, 5 or 7. The game is very tough and so won’t be beaten straight away. The game is quitre short too, and so I’m sure a second and third run through would be worth your time.
Did I Complete The Game?
No, I couldn’t get past Stage 2 (which seems much longer than Stage 1).
What The Critics Thought:
Computer & Video Games: “The best version of Thunder Blad on any system, and features colourful and effective 3D graphics and decent gameplay as you fly your helicopter against a heavily-armed enemy force. If you like the coin-op, this is a must. Overall 80%“.
The Games Machine: “Not quite as super as the title makes out, Super Thunder Blade nonetheless proves a playable, if tough, shoot-‘em-up. The pace and challenge is enough to test the mettle of may an arcade expert. Overall 74%”.
Sega Power: “A spruced-up version of the slotty, but not very super. The 3D is too ambitious, and the scrolling screens are too average. It it’s trigger fingering fun you want, look elsewhere. Overall 2/5.”
“This game is short, but tough. Perhaps a little too tough. The gameplay is simple with slightly sluggish controls, but the game looks good. Probably not a game you’ll return to much though.”
What are your memories of Super Thunder Blade? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Guide – Super Thunder Blade’. Computer & Video Games (Complete Guide to Consoles). (October 1989). :74.
 ‘Super Thunder Blade’. The Games Machine. (June 1989). Issue 19:108.
 ‘The Hard Line – Super Thunderblade’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:54.