Back in the late 1980s, Sega was all about using 2D graphics to make three-dimensional shoot-'em-up games. Two of those games, Space Harrier and After Burner, were very well received, so much so that the Sega Genesis versions have been repackaged multiple times in various classics collections. Another game, Super Thunder Blade, wasn't as fortunate. It wasn't all that hot in the arcades, and it became a choppy, nearly unplayable mess when it was later ported to the Sega Genesis. Now, that cruddy Genesis port has appeared for sale on the Wii's Virtual Console service.
Thematically, Super Thunder Blade isn't much different from Space Harrier. As your helicopter moves forward in the pseudo-3D environment, you have to dodge the scenery, avoid enemy rockets, and blow up as many enemy tanks and aircraft as possible. You can press the fire button to unleash a constant spray of machine-gun fire, but you'll find that most of your targets meet their fate at the hands of the seeker missiles that automatically launch every couple of seconds while you're holding the button down. The other button lets you hover, which comes in handy when you're about to ram into a building or need an extra moment to move out of the way of a bullet barrage.
The two main sections of each stage, as well as the mid-boss battle, employ a behind-the-chopper viewpoint that fakes a 3D perspective by scaling the two-dimensional graphics so that objects grow larger as you move closer to them. Even today, the juxtaposition of perspectives and the way 2D graphics are used to depict a 3D world is quite refreshing. The rock-inspired music and constant explosions aren't bad, either. Mid-boss battles are satisfying because the targets tend to be large tank vehicles that you need to wail on until they explode. On the other hand, end-level bosses are actually kind of boring. The game switches to a more traditional top-down viewpoint for these skirmishes, which are merely survival runs in which you need to dodge rockets and blow up gun turrets until you reach an imaginary finish line.
Worst of all is the choppy frame rate. Instead of gradually moving toward you, objects appear to be teleporting. In the second stage, you'll move to the left or right to avoid a stone pillar that looks as if it's moving up the middle of the course, only to watch it suddenly appear directly in front of the spot you just moved to. Wham! You also run the risk of developing a headache as a result of the eyestrain brought on by trying to keep track of so many flickering, teleporting objects.
Other little annoyances add insult to injury. The hit detection is unreliable, the boss battles are all very similar, and most levels seem downright impossible until you discover the one repetitive flight pattern that makes them a total breeze. If you play the game long enough, you'll be able to get through the levels without paying much attention to the choppy graphics, but that's no fun. Furthermore, the game lasts only four levels, so it's also short-lived. Super Thunder Blade wasn't worth the 50 dollars it cost when it was originally released, and it's not worth the 800 Wii points ($8) that Sega is asking now.