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Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar

aka: Sega Ages: Thunder Force IV, Thunder Force IV
Genesis Specs [ all ]
Buy on Genesis
$70.29 used at eBay
Buy on Nintendo Switch
(prices updated 9/23 11:15 PM )


The Galaxy Federation has defeated the forces of the Orn Empire. But the former allies of Orn have united into a single powerful army known as Vios. The Galaxy Federation attacks their headquarters on the planet Aceria, but loses the battle. They then develop a new fighter spacecraft, the FIRE LEO-04 Rynex, and send a trained pilot to neutralize the Vios.

Quest for the Darkstar (Thunder Force IV in Japan and Europe) is, like its predecessor, a side-scrolling shoot-em-up. The gameplay system is similar to that of the previous game, upgradeable default weapons as well as additional ones that can be collected throughout the stages. Unlike the previous games, the player can choose between four different initial stages. It is possible to control the game's speed by tapping or pressing a correspondent button. Another new addition is a powerful Thunder Sword weapon, which the player acquires halfway through the game.


  • SEGA AGES ァンダーフォースⅣ - Japanese Nintendo Switch spelling
  • ァンダーフォースⅣ - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Genesis version)

27 People · View all

[ full credits ]



Average score: 91% (based on 27 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 28 ratings with 3 reviews)

Fantastic Genesis SHMUP - get it!

The Good
Ah, classic SHMUPs. My wife was watching me play Gradius III (SNES) the other day and she asked me, "Why do you like these games so much?" Well, how could you not like them? Try this - go pick up the GameCube release Ikaruga and play it for five minutes. Did you die? Of course you did! Modern SHMUPS throw ten billion bullets at you in an obscene mockery of gameplay. They're quarter eaters, plain and simple, designed so that arcade operators (what few remain anymore) can reap maximum profit per cabinet space.

Lightening Force is not like that. Is it spastic, like all good SHMUPs should be? Yes, of course. Will you die, and die repeatedly? Yes, of course. Will your deaths, however, be YOUR fault, due to subtle miscalculations that you COULD have prevented had you been more focused on the game? Yes, of course, and that's where this game is beautiful.

If you play Lightening Force (and other classic SHMUPs) skillfully, you will enter into a trance-like state. You will become completely immersed in the game, and only when you finally die will you be wrenched out of your communion back into the real world, only to marvel at the length of time you were able to avoid your inevitable death. You will curse your momentary mental infidelity with your mundane concerns and then shove them all aside so that you can finally beat this goddamn level already!

So yes, Lightening Force does this, and does it much better than the previous two Genesis entries in this semi-series, Thunder Force II and Thunder Force III (which are both recommended, though not as highly). The difficulty is high; expect to suffer quite a bit before you best that final boss (who's quite a doozy, I must say).

What's so cool about Lightening Force (indeed, the whole series) is that you have a lot of control over your ship. You never have to collect speed power ups, like you do in the Gradius games; you have complete control over whether you fly fast and zippy or slow and controlled. Plus, the weapon selection is fantastic - you will always be able to fire forward and backward, but the additional weapons you amass take the cake. I'm particularly fond of the Hunter weapon, which seeks out and destroys bad guys with aplomb. As a further bonus, when you die you lose only the weapon you were using at the time of your death - the rest you hold onto once you are reincarnated.

I could go on - the graphics are excellent, especially considering this is the Genesis. The music and sound effects are pretty good (again, considering this is the Genesis). In fact, there's really only one negative, and even then I must qualify it...

The Bad
Look, it's a fact - SHMUPs don't have good plots. Please understand, I don't have the manual, and it might have all the scintillating backstory that the actual game is missing - but I kind of doubt it. Video games have evolved considerably since 1993, and gamers today just expect that even the shoddiest actioner is going to have the rudiments of a story.

Such was not the case in 1993. Things were more visceral then - it was about the action and the visuals, baby, plain and simple, and who gives a shit about story? Show me Mode 7! Show me parallax scrolling!

In this sense, it's a little unfair to accuse Lightening Force of a crime post facto. Nevertheless, the flaw remains, small, insignificant in context, but there it is.

The Bottom Line
Certainly one of the finest SHMUPs on the Genesis. You really do owe it to yourself to hunt it down if you haven't played it already.

Genesis · by Lucas Schippers (57) · 2005

More than a side-scrolling shooter

The Good
Right from the beginning you get caught by nice graphics (multi-way parallax-scrolling, explosions, nice colour contrasts, good animations of your own ship and all those little details). There are really nice soundtracks which really pushes up the fun. All over the entire game neither graphic, nor the sounds decreases in quality. Indeed, partially the game raises its own quality - depends on your progress in the game. For example...I most like the sequence where you get equipped with that underwater-device - the sound in that sequence drives you forward and forward and your will to beat that upcoming stage gets higher and higher...because you feel, you are not alone...you simply cant resist this feeling :)

Another good thing is that you can push up / lower the speed of controlling your spaceship (its done in 4 steps...25% / 50% / 75% and 100% power). That means, you can control your spaceship through small passages for example with 25%, but can avoid enemy hits by using 100%, because you can move your spaceship a lot faster than with all other settings. Ok, maybe you get hit because of that sometimes ;)

The Bad
It is too short in my opinion, but due to the high quality its just understandable. There are no other negative points in my opinion.

The Bottom Line
Thunderforce 4 is a side-scrolling shooter game like R-Type or Empire of Steel. But its a bit more than those titles. The developer made a definitive "must-have", because of the graphics and sounds and because of all the other little details they included, things like a speed-control-option of your spaceship, nice weapons, nice bosses, nice effects, nice soundeffects...Its just like a film, you get caught right at the beginning, and get out pleased and lucky - Its one of those titles you are proud to have.

Genesis · by none 1974 (2) · 2007

Fantastic Shooter.

The Good
This is probably the best side scrolling shooter to come out of the 16 bit cartridge based systems.

Its got astonishing graphics, innovative weapons systems, and great control.The sprites and the bosses are brilliantly detailed.

It looks like a Neo Geo game or an arcade game.

The Bad
This game's name was changed from "Thunder Force 4" to "Lightening Force" for its US release. Not only is this stupid as the Thunder Force series was well liked, but its spelled wrong! There is no 'E' in the word lightning. Its not "Lightening Force" as in making things not as heavy. It is clearly supposed to mean "Lightning" as in a strong electrical discharge as evidenced by the title screen of the game.

Retarded marketing executives.

The Bottom Line
Thunder Force 3, Gaiares, Fire Shark, Truxton, just to name a few.

Genesis · by Majestic Lizard (670) · 2006



  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1993 – #2 Best Genesis Game in 1992

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Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 6640


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Satoshi Kunsai.

Nintendo Switch added by Rik Hideto.

Additional contributors: j.raido 【雷堂嬒ε€ͺζœ—γ€‘, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto.

Game added June 7th, 2002. Last modified February 22nd, 2023.