Rolling Thunder fans know what they like -- sharp shoot-and-scoot action, crisply moving graphics, and doors, lots of doors. They get all that and a teeny bit more in Rolling Thunder 3.
Albatross and Leia took a vacation from this game, but Agent Jay's a stalwart stand in. This game has hidden levels, and unlike other RT adventures, you can input passwords to change game configs, such as the number of lives Jay has. The third time may not be a complete charm, but who wants an incomplete set?
If that's a pistol in your right hand, a door handle in your left hand, and a Geldra robot in your face, this must be Rolling Thunder 3 by Namco. This capable installment of the classic shoot-to-thrill series offers run-n-shoot game play, graphics, and bad guys that will be old hat to Rolling Thunder vets.
Thunder on a Roll
Like its predecessors, Rolling Thunder 3 dishes out thumb-burning, multi-scrolling, run-and-gun action. Agents Albatross and Leia are off chasing Gimdo, leader of Geldra, so you play Agent Jay in this side-view, single-player game. Your nemesis is a green skinned, pointy-eared Geldra freak named "Dread." He wears a classy uniform, but his face -- ugh!
As usual, you start out armed with a pistol and a knife. You must be quick on the draw as you march into Geldra-held territory, where robo-assassins lie in ambush throughout the multi-tiered areas. You pop into and out of the famous Rolling Thunder revolving doors, which hide ammo, life power, and bad guys behind them. As in the other RT games, your rewards and the boss antagonists are few and far between.
ProTip: If an enemy appears behind you on the left, move quickly right until he disappears off-screen. He almost never reappears. Also, stop when an enemy's toe or nose appears at the right edge of the screen. You can shoot him, but he'll rarely fire at you.
RT 3 offers 10 regular rounds and three hidden minirounds. Your mission takes you to Las Vegas, Easter Island, Geldra's Underground Base, and the Castle of Dread. You also race to the death across the Pacific Ocean and ride an airliner to take out skyjackers at 30,000 feet. Passwords will keep you on pace to victory.
You can't reload during the gunfight with the hijackers in Round 9, so be quick with your dagger and use it as often as possible.
The skill level's preset at Normal, which is no problemo for RT vets. Beat the game, and, as in RT 2, you enter the Second Quest. Here the challenge pumps up considerably. The rounds are the same, but the bad guys take more hits.
Overall, the graphics and sound are standard RT issue. The characters and bosses look good and move crisply. The backgrounds are scenic, if unremarkable. The cinema scenes feature Japanese-style cartoony drama. The sound effects do their job by pitching in with ear-shattering gun blasts and an agonizing scream whenever Jay loses a life.
Rolling in the Hem
Innovations to this RT adventure include two new moves, a cache of nine special weapons, and two vehicle rounds. If that doesn't set your world on fire, too bad: Remaining the same is the name of this game!
The new moves are the Jump and Shoot and the Angle Shot. The Jump and Shoot is a long-awaited addition. The cool Angle Shot, which enables you to shoot up at a 45-degree angle, nicely multiplies the precision sharp-shooting challenges that made Rolling Thunder famous.
- You can use your Angle Shot to hit ceiling-mounted robot lasers and attacking bats.
Rolling Thunder 3 even enables gunners to roll their own weapon, which adds a nice thought-provoking bit of strategy to the game: Once you use it, you lose it. At the start of each round, a Special Weapons screen presents nine instruments of destruction, including a Laser, a Fire Gun, and Hand Grenades. Of course, some weapons are better suited for certain rounds than others.
- A Shotgun blast at close range equals two shots from your pistol.
- Save a rapid fire weapon with a relatively long- range, such as the Laser or the Assault Rifle, for your battle against Dread in Round 10.
- If you don't select a Special Weapon at the beginning of a round, Special Weapon Doors replenish your life bar.
- Hand grenades are effective Special Weapons on Easter Island, Round 7.
The two vehicle rounds are a great idea and they're good- looking, but they're easy (almost gratuitous) additions. You ride a motorcycle and a jet ski, but you merely slide forwards, backwards, and side-to-side, positioning yourself for an easy pistol shot at a Geldra rider's back.
Happiness Is a Warm Gun
The Rolling Thunder series has hit upon a video game formula that works. RT 3 falls nicely in line with its predecessors. Despite a lack of pizazz, the RT hard core will be satisfied, and the game will treat you to a few surprises: Passwords (if you discover them) change some game configurations and add a new character. With only a few additions, Rolling Thunder just keeps rolling along.