"Thor: God of Thunder" Nintendo DS Review
Bottom Line: Thor: God of Thunder is a throwback to the 16-bit, 2D fighter games. What it lacks in
original gameplay, it makes up for in solid graphics and epic bosses.
Thor: God of Thunder uses character
designs for the major characters that closely represent their counterparts in
the film, but the story is separate from the movie. The Trolls have begun to
attack the soldiers of Asgard. After Loki informs his father and brother of the
breach, Thor runs to battle the attackers. During the battle, Sif is
injured and taken back to Asgard. Upon their return, Loki convinces Thor
to disobey his father and attack the Trolls in their home territory, Vanaheim. Loki, ever the trickster, tells his sibling that Sif has died from her wounds. The Odinson must,
of course, journey to rescue her soul. The plot isn’t all that deep. It’s just
there to get you to the fighting. The game is broken down into seven chapters
with three acts each.
The dialogue in the game is a little
simplistic, but it is intended for children. From an adult’s
perspective, Thor’s boisterous personality is diminished because of the
simplicity of the discourse between characters. Also, he is a bit of a jerk, at
one point sighing and calling Loki, “Useless.”
The graphics are one of the two places where
the game shines brightly. I can only nitpick here. The in-game character designs are cartoony and clash
slightly with the more realistic illustrations used in conjunction with the
conversations between characters. On their own they look good. The minor enemies could
use more variation. There are a lot of trolls of different colors. But, I
suppose I might was well complain about Final Fight and Streets of Rage doing the same exact thing. They
did, try, though. The Jotuns have the most varied designs. One come straight
from the film, another has a body with ice spikes, still another is large and bulky,
but can create and ice armor for themselves. The flying enemies also have different body types.
The animation is solid, overall. Thor’s run,
his attacks and his falls all have weight to it. When Mjolnir sends Thor
zooming into the skying and then down for his “Ground Slam” move, it
works. His regular jump, however, feels a little bit soft. Towards the
beginning of the game you’ll see a moment where Loki and Thor jump to the
right. Loki’s jump has what feels to be a proper arc and weight in his landing
while Thor’s jump is slower for a guy that has more mass and momentum.
The backgrounds are very well done. You don’t
really get to appreciate them while you’re pounding away at the backgrounds,
but there are points at which there are four planes of background scrolling
past you convincingly. While some background elements repeat over the course
of a chapter, some of them look cook enough that you’re happy to catch a second
glance. Oddly, the only background I found forgettable was that of Hel. This is a minor detail, but I also thought they did a great job with the rain. I wasn’t expecting it to bounce off of anything at all.
The controls of Thor don’t take all that much
time to grow accustomed to. The only disconnect I found was using the Y as the
standard attack button, when I’m used to using the A or B button in most other
games of this genre. You’ll find yourself mashing away on the attack button a
lot because it often gets the job done, but you do have a versatile arsenal of
moves at your disposal.
Thor can jump. He can grab enemies and some objects
in the environment. Using the attack button in conjunction with the directional
pad can activate other moves, such as an uppercut, a flurry of quick hits, a
dash to the left or right with Mjolnir that knocks all of the enemies in your
path to the ground. There’s a Ground Slam attack which sends Thor up into the
sky and then hurtling to the ground for a move that knocks all of the enemies
in your immediate vicinity onto their backs.
They definitely wanted to keep things as interesting as possible within the within the formula by allowing Thor to periodically interact with his environment. Not only can you destroy most of the pillars you run by, you’ll also be able to grab part of it, rip a large chunk away and briefly use it as a weapon. Also, even if you simply hit the pillar until it falls, the object will cause damage to the surrounding enemies.
Occasionally you’ll destroy an object in the level and you’ll receive a Rune. Runes will allow you to power up some of Thor’s abilities such as extra health or attack power. When you collect one, it’s automatically assigned to one of three rows on a separate screen and you’ll be able to equip one from each row at a time. Some runes are useful. Some are not.
You’re also able to throw Mjolnir at your
enemies. Thor’s special moves go by the name, “God Powers”. They include
massive wind, fire, thunder attacks that often kill all of your onscreen
enemies. You switch between them using the left shoulder button and activate using
the touch screen. I found it a little unnatural to move from the buttons to the
touch screen during gameplay, because you have to stop and pay attention to
your hand placement instead of maintaining your focus on the screen.
All of the moves and combos, which are
extensive, are available in the online manual. It’s great that they’re
available to you, but I didn’t take a look at it until I had beaten the game, at which point it became clear that many of them are in no way necessary to beat the game.
The one area of the game that is absolute weak sauce is in how they chose to increase the difficulty of a couple of acts in some of the chapters. The chapter enemies never get all that much more difficult from beginning to end. It may take a few more hits to do them in, but you never have to really change your strategy. Instead what they chose to do in a couple of acts was to have things that can hurt you drop from the sky. I found this to be annoying because it’s random, doesn’t require any strategy, happens while you’re in mid-punch and can’t roll out of the way, and it happens often.
There’s one act where the things-falling-from-the-sky theme is acceptable and that’s because it’s a slight departure from the rest of the game. Poisonous rain pours down from the sky and Thor must pick up the armor of one of his defeated enemies and use it as a shield and a weapon. If it’s knocked from his grasp, he must pick it up again while the bad guys are attacking and the rain is still sapping his life.
The boss battles are awesome fun. They did a great job of capturing some epic action between those two small screens. There’s a couple of fights that are reminiscent of the fun and difficulty of the Castlevania games. The final boss gave me a run for my money. Thor died between 10 and 15 times before I finally figured out the pattern and lasted long enough to beat Mangog.
As you complete more of the game, extras open up to you in the main menu. There’s a survival mode, which pits Thor against wave after wave of enemies. You’ll get to see how long you can last against (I assume) endless waves of enemies without replenishing your health. The next extra is The Frostgrinder Assault. It’s a side mission that’s mentioned during the game. On your first attempt, you’ll have access to three characters that are non-playable in Story Mode. On subsequent run-throughs, you’ll have access to many more characters, including Heimdall and Loki. Outside of the novelty of playing as other characters in the latter mission, neither of these two extras is all that exciting because they consist of battling the minor bad guys you fought way too many of in story mode.
There’s another extra that I have not unlocked yet. According to the online manual, it involves rolling a boulder as far as you can and watching destruction ensue. I will probably skip that one and give the story mode another go instead. But, I look forward to hearing what others think of it. The last extra is a character art gallery, which I enjoyed because the art is pretty and I like pretty things.
When all is said and done, I enjoyed my 4.6 hours with Thor on the DS. The extensive moves, tight graphics, slight variation in enemies encountered and the boss battles keep the game fun and save it from being a run-of-the-mill 2D beat em’ up. Thor: God of Thunder is available for your DS right now.