Let’s NOT Talk About Thunder Fox

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If you’re going to model your latest idea on something, you want to base it on something good. You don’t want to model your latest car on the German Trabant, for example. For the uninitiated, the Trabant, colloquially known as the Trabi, was an East German car that was supposedly made of cardboard (it wasn’t but it was about as useful as it) and was supremely underpowered to the equivalent of something like a patio pressure washer. It’s also subject to plenty of hilarious jokes about how bad it is.

Jokes like: what’s the best feature of the Trabant?

There’s a heater at the back to keep your hands warm while you push it.

Thems the jokes, people.

The reason I mention this is that Thunder Fox is an example of modelling yourself on something equivalent to the Trabant. It is REALLY not a good idea. Why would you make a Trabant if you could make a Porsche or a Ferrari? On the surface, Thunder Fox looks like a slightly – SLIGHTLY, I ADD – upgraded version of Last Battle/Hokuto No Ken. And if you’ve seen my review of that, you will realise that HOLY SHIT, WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

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Let’s be super clear here, it ISN’T technically based off Last Battle but the two games share so many similarities that you’d be forgiven for thinking that. Delving deeper into the nitty gritty and the similarities between the gameplay elements of both, perhaps you can understand why my first thought goes to Last Bloody Battle even though there are probably plenty of alternative games like that one that they could have based this off.

But if they’re anything like this piece of crap, then we’re not exactly on to any winners here, are we?

But for the sake of not finishing the review here by saying “this is Last Battle but with guns”, let’s try and explain the shenanigans of this romp, shall we?

Firstly: the story.

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So the year is the unspecific 199X, a year that has long since passed and unless the papers covered it up, this event obviously never happened.

“IT’S FICTITIOUS.”

That’s the joke. I could have made a Megaman reference there but you sorta ruined my comic timing so well done voice in the corner of the room wanting to spoil the party. Hope you’re happy with yourself.

“I’M NEVER HAPPY.”

Good.

In 199X, terrorism has gripped the land, sea and sky and the anti-terrorism team are out to stop it: Thunder and Fox. Hence the title- OHHHHHHH. That’s… really… really not genius at all, is it?

Anywho, that is the story and you’re basically given missions to follow to beat the bad guys by using all of your available resources such as guns, knives, other guns and… er… guns.

So is this just a really bad version of Contra instead?

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The way the game is set up from the off draws instant comparisons to Last Battle though, with a walled background, occasionally showing a glimpse of a tattier other background, and hordes of enemies waltzing across the screen to attack you with whatever weapon they’re sorta carrying, only to be dispatched for the most part in one hit by your knife. And you’re doing ALL OF THIS WHILST RUNNING AROUND SHIRTLESS IN A TERRIFYING, GREYING, TERRORIST-STREWN LANDSCAPE LIKE IT’S JUST THE DONE THING.

It is the 90s, people, and we did go through this ‘shirtless dudes being shirtless dudes’ period of film-making. So of course the two blokes are insanely buff. Of course they’re only wearing silly cuffs around their wrists. Of course they’re wearing different coloured trousers to differentiate themselves from each other. Of course they are. Because it’s the 90s and that was a dark time.

And of course one of them is blonde and one of them has brown hair.

And of course they’re the EXACT SAME CHARACTER.

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Traversing the levels in an arcade-style ‘go right only’ kind of way, Thunder or Fox go on a rampage against the plethora of enemies, some of whom wear silly Nazi-like coats, some who wear scuba-gear and throw knives at go, and some of whom wear coloured gilets and carry guns around.

AND ALL OF THEM ARE BETTER ARMOURED THAN YOU ARE. You have knee-pads.

Let me just re-iterate that: you have knee-pads.

“Hey Fox, I think we need to get our protective gear on for this mission!”
“Yeah, let’s get the knee-pads on!”
“Yeah! Let’s get th-wait… what?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Shouldn’t… shouldn’t we put on a bullet-proof vest or something?”
“But how will the enemies see our manly chests with bullet-proof vests over them?”
“You totally have a point there! KNEE PADS FOR THE WIN!”

These are the good guys. We’re all doomed.

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So levels are set out in a very formulaic fashion in that you generally press right, shoot or knife the occasional bad guy and then keep going until you reach a boss or a stopping point. For the most part, bosses can be taken down fairly easily once you notice that there’s a guy there throwing grenades at you and GRENADES ARE USEFUL. Kill him, grab his grenades and bring that fucker down.

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And then repeat until you’re seriously worried about why you’re playing this stupid game. Thunder Fox has nothing original to speak of, no two-player mode, no life, no charm and nothing remotely interesting about it. And before you say “you’re being a trifle too harsh there, methinks,” no, I’m not being mean for the sake of being mean. I’ll tell you why this all is.

I’ve mentioned the comparison to Last Battle before and I will probably continue doing it until I’ve made my point clear enough. In both games, enemies are killed in one hit, the enemies run at you, attack you and you probably kill them first because that involves pressing the A Button to knife their soul out of existence. Knifing enemies is a painful process because you often need to get quite close to the enemies, most of whom give you far too long to attack them but by the same token, the range of the knife is so short, you properly have to get up in their grill as they’re winding up to jump kick the shizzle out of you and if you miss, you’re fucked. They’ll jump kick you and you’ll lose quite a lot of your life bar: a life bar that is made out of small sections and very rarely does anything take off just ONE bar, meaning there really isn’t much point to it being that way.

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Now, here’s something that’s really not good enough for a game called Thunder Fox, which is so-called, as I’ve already said, because the two main characters are called Thunder and Fox: YOU CANNOT PLAY WITH ANYONE ELSE. You have Thunder and Fox. two characters. Two characters who together make the name of the game. BUT YOU CAN ONLY PLAY AS ONE OF THEM.You have no two-player mode, WHICH WOULD HAVE EASY TO PUT INTO THIS GAME and as such, it makes a total mockery of even having the two characters. If games from the 80s can include two players, then blimey, guys, you can totally get two players into this piece of crap. It’s not so much of a wasted opportunity though if you think about it. I mean, if I asked someone to play this with me, I’m fairly sure they’d never want to be my friend again so it’s saving lost friendships. This game’s one-player mode saved your relationship. Probably.

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I mention how this game has no life and it is as bland as the bland could be. Graphically, it is severely lacking. The colours and backgrounds are incredibly messy – you take a look at some of the skies on offer in some of the stages and you’re really not getting a sense that the developers knew what a sky… looked like. I don’t mind the fact that the colours are being used and they tried to give off that cloudy look about things but… well… they really didn’t get it very well at all. The greys are harsh on the eyes and the identikit clouds are charmless and dull. Even the fiery backgrounds on some levels do not really looks right. Is the whole sky on fire? It there something in the background on fire? Is everything in the background coloured orange too? Are we in an orange forest or orange trees? What even… is that?

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And if you’re a follower of any of my reviews, you’ll know – and I’ve hammered home the point even bloody times – that I love charm. I’m an absolute sucker for it. Which is why I’m really not even sure where to begin with this one because I can’t even see it. It has no quality to it. No characterisation, no life, no excitement… I don’t feel bothered when I’m hit by enemies because I genuinely couldn’t give a monkeys about any of the things happening. Which is bad because the whole game is based on being anti-terrorist and that is totally a thing to give a monkey about. But they can’t tell the story very well, given it only lasts about four panels of the intro, and the only other exposition comes from knowing what your mission is in each level: DESTROY THING/GET TO END OF THING.

Which is the typical storyline of the ‘go right until the level ends’ game that this typifies.

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And that is the main problem that this suffers from: it doesn’t offer ANYTHING new to the table at all. It’s a badly told story, and not even much of a story at that, given no oomph, no excitement, no point, and no effort. There’s so little animation to the characters or the weaponry that they can’t even add any impact to what you’re doing. Bullets appear from the gun without any recoil, they just happen to be there after you press the right button. Characters realistically walk with four frames of animation, shoot with none but at least the jumping looks silly enough. There isn’t a victory animation or sound from the characters after they reach the end of a level. The weird, not-even-remotely-sounding-like-a-victory victory music doesn’t fit the mood and you really don’t get the sense that you’re actually doing ANYTHING.

“Guess what? The gun shot a bullet!”
“Did it?”
“WHO EVEN KNOWS!”

Now, isn’t that nice?

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Thunder Fox is a slightly – SLIGHTLY – more tolerable game than Last Battle. It does at least do a little bit more than that game did. It doesn’t have you getting stuck in dungeons for hours, backtracking over nonsense and it doesn’t feel wholly unfair all of the time. It’s not exactly fair given the poor collision detection at times and the distance your character has to cover to be able to knife someone in the face, but it’s at least playable. The controls are fine, there is a bit of variety in the levels and they do at least attempt to make things more challenging as the game progresses as opposed to shoving the same type of enemies at you every level. Plus there is a small element of strategy to think about because the number of bullets available in the guns is not endless and other weaponry is harder to come by. So… there is that. At least it’s not holding your hand through the game by giving you endless bullets to make it super easy.

But let’s be clear here: Thunder Fox is not fun. It is not a good game. It is essentially the Americanised version of Last Battle.

Modelling your new game off the back of the Trabant of games…

Here’s another Trabi joke for you: how do you stop a Trabi?

Put chewing gum on the Autobahn!

How do you stop these jokes?

Unplug my keybo

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