Most who know me, know that I'm a huge fan of the Shinobi video game series. Issue #2 of RetroFused touches on that love when recapping Sega's 1987 Arcade Hit! Of course, it was only a matter of time, that the successful formula that helped propel Shinobi as one of the all-time classics, would be attempted to be duplicated. And yes, several attempts were certainly made, and today I've found one that has gotten pretty close to that quick, addicting gameplay that keeps you coming back for more.
I'm no stranger to the first installment of Rolling Thunder Arcade game. As a matter a fact, it plays very similar to Shinobi in terms of gameplay which was very good. What many may not know, however, is that the first installment of Rolling Thunder predates Sega's Ninja arcade blockbuster by roughly a year! Ironically, both stories sound awfully familiar. In Rolling Thunder, you play as a Ninja, er, I mean a Secret Agent and must rescue children, oops, I mean his female partner from a terrorist organization. Hmmm, so who really got their inspiration from who? Ok, we're not here for that, I'll let you do the research on the Shinobi vs Rolling Thunder debate. Lets just stick with its successor, Rolling Thunder 2
Rolling Thunder 2 was released in Arcades in 1990 by Namco, and shame on me for missing it back in the 90's! But rediscovering games like this, thanks to MAME, has given me a second chance at playing some elusive lost gems. Rolling Thunder 2 for the most part, plays identically to the first game with the added 2 -player co-op and improved graphics.
For 1990 this game looks the part. Running on Namco's own System 2 hardware, graphics don't look revolutionary, but still visually pleasing. Backgrounds show great detail, and with a 24-bit color pallet, overall levels give no indication of dullness. It was nice to see hardware scaling effects being utilized on various backgrounds, and side-scrolling is butter smooth.
This is an area that cannot be praised enough. All the digital effects on this game sound outstanding. Explosions and voice overs are clear and fit ideally. The soundtrack has got to be some of the best of the decade! Mrs. Ayako Saso, a long time Namco audio developer, has done a marvelous job creating upbeat, music that fits the Rolling Thunder genre. Surely you have heard some of her well-tuned music in hits like Ridge Racer and Street Fighter EX series. She does not disappoint, as I will attest, the music in Rolling Thunder 2 is a large reason I come back to this addicting game.
Rolling Thunder 2 is not a very difficult game. The difficulty curve is gradual and knowing when to save ammo and restock makes things even easier. Playing this game won't leave you frustrated, which is challenging when a game is designed to suck quarters out of your pocket. It's a mutual relationship where you are rewarded with such fun and fast action you almost forgot you need to insert another coin.
Both Rolling Thunder games can be found on MAME and various Namco collection releases. Rolling Thunder 2 was also ported to the Sega Genesis. Although I haven't played the 16-bit port, I heard its just as delightful. Genesis also got the third installment of this game with added new game mechanics, which of course, is for a later review. Until then, if you get around to playing this great title, feel free to let me know what you thought below.