Thunder Blade is a single-player helicopter combat game that debuted in arcades in 1987, courtesy of Sega. It combines overhead shooting sections with third-person, ‘over-the-shoulder’ shooting sections and it features lots of impressive graphical scaling effects on the buildings and enemies.
The original Thunder Blade arcade cabinet had a flightstick (with triggers for the chopper’s cannon and missiles), and a separate throttle that you could move up and down to increase/decrease speed.
The aim is to blast your way through waves of incoming forces and take out all the bosses on the way. Hazards include ground forces (tanks and anti-aircraft batteries), and air forces (oncoming enemy helicopters, et cetera), all of which send bullets in your general direction, making survival somewhat tricky. You can, however, keep putting money into Thunder Blade and carry on where you left off.
Graphically, Thunder Blade is quite marvellous. The third-person sections feature fast, smooth scaling of buildings, trees, and other ground objects, and give a good feeling of depth as you move. In 1987 these fast, scaling graphics were truly something to behold.
Special mention must go, though, to the overhead sections, which feature beautifully-drawn and coloured, classic 2D graphics. The only issue I had with the overhead sections was that the chopper I felt was maybe a touch too big, making it a more prominent target for enemy bullets.
Thunder Blade is still worth a blast nowadays. It’s not the most varied arcade game ever, but it does what it does extremely well and is capable of delivering some fun.