Imagine Shinobi's Joe Higashi losing a bit of agility, donning a pistol holster, and mowing down baddies with a submachine gun to some snazzy tunes, and you get Rolling Thunder 2 for the Sega Genesis, a conversion of the run-and-gun arcade side-scroller by the same name. Its simple, two-tiered levels and shooting mechanics make it an easy game to learn, but its sometimes cheap enemy placement and repetitive stages will have you gnashing your teeth as you continually restart levels. It's not as smooth or maneuverable as its Virtual Console peers, but it's got some personality that makes it worth checking out--if you've got a willing partner for cooperative play.
In Rolling Thunder 2, you'll travel through a variety of well-rendered locations. The desert is appropriately bright yet gritty, the mansion sports chandeliers and nude statues, and underground caves appear rocky, dank, and moody. For all their detail, however, the graphics tend to repeat themselves and lead to dull level structure. The personality lies in the audio: Jazzy fare plays throughout, mitigating the visual tedium with upbeat and strangely catchy audio--despite how out of place it may seem. In one humorous instance, the apocalyptic Game Over screen is accompanied by a snappy ditty.
One of the most notable aspects of the gameplay is how its stages are separated into upper and lower levels, yet the majority of attacks are strictly horizontal. You can't shoot enemies above or below you, and the same applies for them--though a few can still drop grenades on your head. Many thugs take cover behind crates, peeking out to fire a potshot or two, while others try to sneak up and shoot you in the back. You'll have to be exacting with your shots and memorize the pattern of enemy placement; expect to be caught off-guard by an impossibly fast grenade or a sneaky shot to the kneecaps, all while being surrounded.
Unfortunately, your mobility is limited. You walk very slowly; you can only jump the height of a single crate; and you can't even fire while doing so. It helps that you're able to duck into doorways to evade fire, and sometimes you'll come out with extra ammo, life bonuses, or a special weapon. Getting the submachine gun or flamethrower vastly increases your rate of fire and range, adding a hint of variety to the shooting, but the game could have used more than two extra weapons. All of this combines to create a slow, rigid, monotonous feel to the shooting action. You may enjoy the tactics of timing your jumps between levels and hiding behind doors to stay out of harm's way, which keep the game from feeling completely shallow.
Rolling Thunder 2 becomes significantly more enjoyable in the two-player cooperative mode. Much of the rigid feeling is lifted when you have someone watching your back or keeping the top level clear for you, and the pace picks up considerably as you plow through the same enemies with double the firepower. The only problem is that you're now sharing an already paltry arsenal. Oddly, if someone goes down with lives remaining, that player resurrects only at predetermined checkpoints.
On its own merits, the game's plodding action can grow tiresome easily, even more so when stacked up against other shooters in the Virtual Console lineup. Thus, spending 800 Wii points on Rolling Thunder 2 is a stretch, but it does make sense if you've got a committed friend or a penchant for more deliberate shooting.