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Thunder Storm, also known as Cobra Command, was made in 1984 by Data East for the arcades. In the original game a cross hair is shifted over a full motion video background. In this episode I am reviewing the light gun version which was released in 1987 for the Takara Video Challenger. The video you are going to see is recorded from the original VHS tape, transmitted to my capture card via YPbPr. As such the video might be the highest quality version of the footage in the whole internet. Please remember that video on VHS is stored in an s-video like fashion but with much more compression using a color under technique. As such the video quality is not very high.
Even though the Video Challenger version vastly predates the Sega Mega CD and more so the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn versions of the game, it's not the first home port of Thunder Storm. Already in 1985 versions for MSX and Sharp X1 micro computers were made which ran the full motion video from Video High Density Disc, which is better known as VHD. VHD is an eighties video disc format bearing some similarities to CED.
In the game's story the player fights an international terrorist group in an LX-3 combat helicopter in locations scattered all around the globe. The original game has 10 levels whereas the Video Challenger version just consists of four levels. In the latter sometimes portions of original levels were bound together to form the new levels, without paying attention to the original order. Preserved were the New York level, which was appended by portions of the sea level, the Easter Island level, the jungle level and finally the Himalaya level which was appended by portions of the terrorist base level. The final portion of the game shows a Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope like, possibly death star canyon inspired scene.
The animations were done by Toei Animation, which is a very influential Japanese animation studio. To Toei's more famous pieces belong titles such as Dr. Slump, Tiger Mask, Dragon Ball and its successors, Sailor Moon and its successors, the original Transformers series and various of its successors , Yu-Gi-Oh!, One Piece and Digimon. Other than that Toei did movies such as Daft Punk's electronica opera Interstella 5555.
Thunder Storm isn't Toei's only connection to light gun gaming. Prior to Thunder Storm Toei Animation drew the Galaxy Express 999 material which was later used in the almost light gun like game "Escape from Cyber City" for the Phillips CD-i. In 1987 Toei animated Transformers: The Headmasters which, as I showed in episode 84, featured the Takara Video Challenger in fife episodes and had Video Challenger compatible segments in the anime's intro after the thirteenth episode. Another Video Challenger game uses full motion video animated by Toei. It's called Road Blaster and I will show it in another episode.
Personally I like the game. Compared to other Video Challenger games the lack of explanations and a training segment at the start is very noticeable. I adore the wonderful drawings and I like the style of the game. The targets are thoughtfully placed and the game plays well. Considering the original play mechanics of the arcade game, a light gun port wasn't a bad idea in my opinion. The choice of levels offers variety and helps the game to stay fresh. Some cuts however were very harsh and I felt they were impeding the flow of the game.
I like the box design a lot. It uses the same artwork as the MSX and Sharp X1 versions did before.