Lords of Thunder is supposedly the follow-up to the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM/TurboDuo world famous, critically acclaimed, super mega hit, fan-favorite, and ultra intense shooter Gate of Thunder. Of course, the only real thing they seem to have in common is that they are both horizontal shooters that have the word “Thunder” in the title. By this logic Gate of Thunder could be a follow-up to Thunder Force III. Anyway, the games are not directly related to each other and if you want to insist that they are, well more power to you I guess. Lords was released first for the Turbo (the term this article will use to refer to both the TurboDuo and the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM with the upgrade card, which I personally prefer over the Duo), and after awhile Hudson released a version for the world-renowned and much loved Sega CD. How do they compare? Which version should you buy? Let’s find out!
Presentation: They both have approximately the same presentation. The stages are presented the same way and the levels and whatnot all have the same design. You can choose which level and which armor you want and other such nonsense. Each has an opening cinematic cut scene, although on the Sega CD it is presented after the title screen instead of before like on the Turbo. After you beat the first six stages, you’re presented with another cut scene on both systems. The loading time is approximately the same on both systems as well. In the Sega CD version, the mid-bosses do not flash when you hit them in their weak point, not like it matters much in the long run. I am under the impression the Sega CD version was a quick and sloppy port and had very little new 68000 code programmed for it. Want me to go into more detail? Fine, read the stuff about graphics, sound, and gameplay below!
Graphics: To the untrained eye, both the Sega CD and Turbo versions will look extremely similar. They both run in low resolution (256×224) and each system is capable of better resolution than that. However the Turbo version generally has almost twice as many colors onscreen at any given time during the game, but not necessarily always. In the animation-style cut scenes, both systems display the exact same amount of colors and they both look 100% identical. Both versions have multiple overlapping layers of scrolling, which is always amazing to see on the Turbo. Since the Turbo is only capable of displaying a single background layer onscreen, sprites must be used for any of the overlapping parts. That’s a lot of sprites, and sometimes the scrolling layers will flicker in the Turbo version as a result of this. It seems some of the backgrounds in the Sega CD version are also made up of sprites (you’ll see the occasional flicker), which reinforces my opinion that this was a quick and sloppy port based on the Turbo code. But there are a couple of spots where the Sega CD has an extra layer or two of scrolling, so I guess they spent ten minutes doing this port instead of five. All in all, the Turbo version has better graphics due to more color, even though it is limited to wimpy composite video which results in the hated rainbow effect in certain parts of the scrolling. I have my Sega CD hooked up with component video and that made the comparison a bit unfair. But soon my Turbo will join my Genesis in the component world and I can’t wait to see this game then, and it’ll clearly stand above the Sega CD version.
Edge: Super CD-ROM2
Sound and Music: Oh man, where do I start? First of all it is widely known that Lords of Thunder has some of the most kick-ass guitar-thrashing music around, period. Both versions feature the same musical soundtrack… kind of. For some reason beyond my comprehension, they rearranged the music for the Sega CD version. It received new, louder drums and more reverb, as well as a few other touches here and there. The guitar is also re-performed, mostly in the same manner as the Turbo version. First of all, the drums on the Sega CD are a bit too loud and they kind of sound annoying after awhile. And even though the original Turbo music already had some synth here and there, they added a bit more for the Sega CD version. It doesn’t ruin anything, but it can sound a bit weird if you’re used to listening to the Turbo version all of the time. The music in the Sega CD version is in no way bad by any means, it just sounds different. I have heard some people praise how great the music is in on the Turbo Grafx and then turn around and say how much the music sucks in the Sega CD version. This makes little sense, as the Sega CD soundtrack is almost like a “live” version of the Turbo music… not a ton of difference. There was also some cool-sounding narration added to the opening sequence and the cut scene before the final stage on the Sega CD. It sounds cool and I kind of like it, but it in no way make the Turbo game less cool without it. The shop keeper on the Sega CD also talks and she sounds like she wants you.
As for the sound effects, the Turbo original has loud, cool screams and yells whenever a large enemy is defeated along with lots of other cool sounds. The Sega CD has a quiet yell when a boss or large enemy is defeated but not a lot of sound during the stages, despite the Genesis/Sega CD combination having about three times as many sound channels as the Turbo and also three times the RAM. Quick and sloppy. Speaking of sloppy, I must mention the shooting sound effects which are made whenever you fire most weapons. They sound bad. And I mean BAD! Most are super loud… enough to overpower the music completely, like the level two fire armor. The Turbo does not suffer from any problems like this. Instead, the weapons sound like quiet buzzes and hums.
Check out these short samples of the music and sound I have provided specifically for you and nobody else below! First is an example of the gameplay sounds in stage one from each version. Both are at the same exact point in the game with the same weapon (fire armor powered up to the second level) and doing the same thing. No, that’s not distorted music in the Sega CD file, that’s the fire weapon firing! On the model one Genesis, you can turn this sound down without affecting the music or voices, thankfully. If you have a a model two Genesis, you’re screwed.
Edge: Super CD-ROM2
Gameplay: Both games play almost exactly the same. The Sega CD port has some slowdown for some odd reason (quick and sloppy, remember), and it can be very annoying. Also when you get hit in the Sega CD game, you cannot control your character for nearly a second as he hovers there, paralyzed. You retain full control at all times on the Turbo. And although both versions are super easy to complete, I’d have to say that the Sega CD one is much easier. The game is super-baby-easy on the Sega CD, whereas it might take a toddler to beat the Turbo version. The Sega CD rendition provides you with many more crystals (re: money) and offers much larger bonuses at the end of the stage for some reason. Did they feel that the Turbo game was too hard? What gives? Be sure to go into the options and increase the difficulty if you plan on playing this on the Sega CD. The final stage seems to run at a quicker pace on the Sega CD, but maybe that’s just me.
Edge: Super CD-ROM2
Other: There’s not much to write about in this category, except that I think Hudson handed the Sega CD version off to a company called Eleven to do the quick and sloppy port, whereas Hudson had Red (of Tempo 32X fame) do the Turbo original. You always get a crappier version when someone else does the work. Lesson learned: Don’t trust other people! I guess the packaging would fit into this category as well. I certainly like the Turbo game much better here as it comes in a CD jewel case with some nice artwork, whereas the Sega CD version comes in a retardo-sized giant case with worse artwork, by far.
Edge: Super CD-ROM2
Don’t listen to the goofballs out there who say that the Turbo version is miles above the Sega CD in graphics and especially music. It isn’t. But it is better in just about every area, that’s for sure. The differences just aren’t as super-extreme as some people would have you believe. The music is still completely awesome in the Sega CD version. And if you don’t have a Turbo (why not?) I suggest you pick that one up. But if you have both, go for the Turbo version.