Rolling Thunder (NES)

Rolling Thunder Box Art

Rolling Thunder

System: NES

Release Date: October 1989

Developer: Tengen

Publisher: Tengen

Genre: Action

Tengen brings another coin-op game to the home console with Rolling Thunder. For the love of god, I wish that these companies would have realized that they didn’t need to bring every arcade cabinet to the NES. Especially when they don’t balance it for consoles. Rolling Thunder demands pumping more coins when it is impossible to do so.

Agent Leila is captured by the Evil Society led by Mabu. You are called in to infiltrate the enemy and save her. As the best agent of Rolling Thunder, it’s up to you and you alone. There are ten levels of side scrolling, jumping, and shooting action in store for you. And let me tell you, you’re going to die. A lot. It took me ten minutes to trial and error my way through the first level. You are granted a couple continues, but once they’re gone, it’s back to the first level. You do earn passwords at the end of later levels, so you can come back if you have to.

Your main type of enemy is a hooded figure. They can either walk up to you to damage you, shoot guns at you, or throw grenades at you. Depending on the color outfit they wear, they may take two or more shots to kill. They either appear as you trip them on screen or come through doors as you walk by them. You can also enter doors, most of which are empty and do nothing for you, but some of them refill your handgun bullets or give you machine gun bullets. Occasionally, an unmarked door can add to your time limit or refill your health.

You have two hit points, but any shot from a gun will automatically kill you. This is frustrating, because enemies will shoot the instant you reach their plane of sight. If you are jumping or falling, you’re already dead. This is another one that I tried playing straight for awhile and then resigned to cheating my way through. Honestly, if it’s an arcade port, it should have unlimited continues to simulate walking into the arcade with that sweet $20 bill.

After the first five levels, they loop with some minor changes to the layout. You have to watch out for little satyr looking dudes and panthers that are shorter than your shot. There are living fire dudes that come back for a second round attack once killed. Birds fly back and forth at the top of the screen before dive bombing you. It would be cool if you could shoot while jumping, but that isn’t to be. If you make it to the end, you face off against Mabu and are best off alternating high and low shots until you break through his defenses and finish him off.

Graphics: 1.5

I’m torn on the graphics here, I think the character sprites are pretty bad, but the animations are pretty decent.

Sound: 1.0

I’m not torn on the sound. The music isn’t very good and the sounds are also lousy.

Gameplay: 1.0

I think this game would have benefited from the ability to shoot while jumping. It’s otherwise incredibly bare. Move forward and hope an enemy doesn’t spawn on top of you, spoiler: they will.

Difficulty: 2.0

This is an incredibly difficult game. If you play it long enough, you’ll memorize all the enemy spawns and helpful doorways, but it’ll take ages to learn all ten levels.

Fun Factor: 1.0

If you like games that seek to kill you without much chance of success, you might enjoy Rolling Thunder. I did not.

Overall Grade: 1.3

Rolling Thunder earns a D+. In the end, the gameplay experience doesn’t translate to the NES, I’d pass on this one.