Thunderground was an oddity from Sega; clearly this game has some serious arcade potential, but was never released in the arcades. This game exists solely on the 2600, which is rather unfortunate since I think this could have gone on to be a hit, both in arcades and on the other home consoles. I was lucky enough to find a Taiwan Cooper version of this game that goes by the highly generic name of ‘Tank Mission’. The odd thing about the ‘Tank Mission’ box is that it seems to have been repurposed from another Taiwan Cooper release, the release in question is ‘Base Attack’ which is in actuality Z-Tack from Bomb, it’s no use trying to find an NTSC version of the Taiwan Cooper variation since they’re all PAL, it seems the only way to play it on U.S. systems is to pony up the cash for an official Bomb cart. Well ain’t this strange, even for Taiwan Cooper, it seems they sank to the utter depths of laziness when they didn’t even bother to change the blurb on the back of the box before selling the game. The only difference between the ‘Base Attack’ boxes and the ‘Tank Mission’ Boxes are the names on the front, how utterly stupefying. I will however still transcribe the blurb for all to enjoy (you can read it off the actual box in Monday’s post but this will be easier to see).
In 2100 year, spaceships are attacking
the unknown space station. The important
point is to break the secret fortresses.
Also be careful to the white point and
ballon coming from fortresses which will
destroy spaceships. If four spaceships
are destroyed up, all is gone. The game
I have no words that could express my utter dismay at reading this.
Thunderground is not a powerhouse of graphics, but it’s no slouch either, I’d say it’s more technically impressive than anything. Thunderground resembles Dig Dug, in that you carve passageways through… the underground, leaving plenty of tunnels behind, but this isn’t Dig Dug, it’s Dig Dug but with tanks. The Taiwan Cooper variant does have modified graphics but only to remove Sega’s nave from the startup screen, otherwise the rest of the game is intact. Simply that you can remove sections of the screen without the game screwing itself up into a ball and combusting is extremely impressive, and because of that I will grant leniency on the rather simplistic visuals, at least the tanks look like tanks, which is more than I can say for some tank based games I’m lookin’ at you Tank Brigade (and only you). The score area is rather unique; it shows an enemy tank moving slowly towards three of your vehicles, which decrease as you lose lives in-game, and when the enemy tank reaches the vehicles you explode in a gory and violent manner, it also acts an your bonus points since when you finish a stage your vehicles will advance on the enemy tank and the more distance they have to travel the more points you receive, it also keeps track of how many stages you’ve beaten, according to the manual there are up to 32 stages, good luck getting to 10.
To call this game light in the sound department would be an understatement, there are approximately five sounds, they are: you shoot, they get hit, you get hit, movement, and collecting a bonus item, there is probably a 1-up sound but I have never been alive long enough to hear it. The moving sound is an obnoxious low pitched buzz that plays continuously whenever you’re moving, much in the same way as Dig Dug, but Dig Dug had nice music, this is not nice music. Otherwise the shooting noise and explosion noises are delightfully chunky with the exception of the enemies getting shot since it’s more of a high pitched buzz instead of an explosion noise. I’d recommend keeping the TV on low volume or muted entirely just because of that awful moving noise.
This is a game of luck, strategy, and wits all wrapped up into a nice neat package. Your objective is to destroy the enemy bases (the weird white things) whilst avoiding destruction at the hands of the enemy tanks. The tanks come in two flavors, the white tanks can only move through preexisting tunnels while the blue variety can dig their own. You can dig tunnels as well, and you’ll need to dig them in such a fashion as to distract and lose the enemy tanks so you can shoot the bases unhindered by large explosive bullets. The enemy is cunning however, often behaving unpredictably which will lead to you being blindsided despite being able to see the whole playfield. I, and the manual, recommend not shooting the tanks all willy nilly, and vie to trap them in a maze of tunnels of your making, just don’t spend too long constructing them since time is short and death is eminent to those who find themselves procrastinating. The game will shake things up by sometimes presenting you with a completely open playfield or bases that will only appear after another has been destroyed which prevents you from becoming too reliant on a singular strategy and forces you to problem solve.
This is a very fun game, and is one that I wish everybody could have in their collection, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Since this is indeed a Sega release it is rather uncommon and is oftentimes the subject of scalping, you can find loose copies on Ebay for 12-15$ with varying levels of label destruction, and the only boxed copy that is currently listed is at a staggering 400 dollars and that’s with it being 20% off, full priced it’s half a grand. You could buy an R10 game for that kind of money, or better yet professionally construct your own Thunderground box and manual, actually don’t bother with the manual since you can buy it for cheaper than the game. If you can find a copy for about 10$ free shipping it would be worth it, otherwise its gonna go into the Collector’s Zone.