Originally released in Japan in 1997 for the Sega Saturn, Thunder Force V is the latest installment in TechnoSoft's legendary series of shooters. While American Saturn owners watched helplessly as Sega of America passed on yet another highly desired piece of software, it came as no surprise to find that TechnoSoft was in the process of porting it to the PlayStation. Working Designs quickly saw an opportunity where others had not and subsequently announced it was bringing Thunder Force V to the States via its Spaz label. But which is better, the Japanese Saturn version or the PlayStation US version?
Fans of shooters gather round and behold the first episode of Thunder Force rendered in semi-3D glory. As with all previous Thunder Force games, you control your ship from the left side of the screen and proceed to dish out punishment on the endless waves of antagonists who swarm in from the right. Helping you avoid these nasty predators are analog control and the ability to alter your ship's speed from 50-100 percent. Along the way you pick up a large variety of weapons and power-ups from amongst the remains of the recently dispatched. Twin shots, hunter shots, wave, and other exotic weapons are available for the taking, which when powered up with floating energy balls called craw, can be triggered to unleash a massive attack, whose power level depends on the amount of craw obtained at the time. Usually these super attacks are reserved for the huge bosses that await you at the end of each level.
Considering that a little tweaking was necessary to improve the relatively basic gameplay, TechnoSoft was able to concentrate on the visuals. Although Thunder Force V plays in 2D, like any decent shooter worth its salt these days it incorporates 3D details and polygonal enemies and bosses. During introductory sequences, the camera will pan 360 degrees, but that's about it. For any real 3D action you'll need to wait until the bosses to see some polygonal power. One place the Saturn loses out to the PlayStation is content; the Saturn version is shorter since the PlayStation edition received some extra levels and a few other frivolous features/modes that really aren't worth anything.
The difference between the Saturn version and the PlayStation version of Thunder Force V, aside from the extra levels and stuff, are few but worth mentioning. Perhaps, due to the ease of rendering 3D on the PlayStation, there is very little slowdown, something that can be found (in small but noticeable amounts) during boss encounters on the Saturn version. The sound effects also seem much clearer on Sony's gray box for some reason. Although the graphics and textures appear a little bit sharper on the Saturn, there's no need for alarm as the two are almost identical to each other. Perhaps the only negative thing about the game is that it's basically the same as any other shooter when you really get down to it. Despite the eye candy and extra window dressing, this is still just a shooter. That having been said, it should be noted that it's an excellent shooter.
Though the PlayStation version is slightly better technically and in added content, regardless the game is excellent on both platforms with this Saturn addition easily being worth a Saturn owner's time. Thunder Force V is a shooting fan's dream come true.