Thunderhawk (aka AH3 Thunderstrike in the US) was released in 1993 and is a helicopter combat sim with intense mission based action from UK based developers Core Design who also made the impressive Soulstar and Battlecorps on the system.

Thunderhawk was part of a handful of games that demonstrated the correct usage of the power that the Mega-CD had by creating games better suited for it rather than crappy interactive movie style of game synonymous with the machine. This game showed how the hardware should be used for games. The result was a game with highly impressive visuals easily making it one of the best of the 16-Bit era with brilliant gameplay to match.

Although the console and subsequently the game had a limited audience it quickly achieved critical acclaim and became one of the systems standout titles selling around 300,000 copies.

Since this release the game has been resurrected twice for later generations of consoles.

Thunderhawk Case - European
Thunderhawk Case Scan Thunderhawk Case Scan

"Fly your Thunderhawk through a total of 48 missions sets in 10 different locations. Use strategy and tactics discussed in the briefing room to locate, intercept and destroy the enemy in this definitive 3D helicopter combat simulation."


Welcome to the Elite of the Elite. By becoming a pilot within MERLIN, a crack helicopter combat-assault team, you will be one of only a handful of people to fly the highly top secret AH-73M Thunderhawk - The Ultimate Flying Machine.

Your job is to defuse crisis situations around the world preventing their escalation into full scale conflict - Good Luck!


Thunderhawk places you in the pilots (and gunners) seat of a top-secret AH-73M. You are required to complete a series of operations (or campaigns) that take place at various locations around the world from the Middle-East to Alaska. Some of these loosely relate to actual wars. For variety some will take place at night or across open oceans.

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Your basic aim is to destroy the set of primary targets for that mission. Conveniently these are normally located directly North of your starting point.

Before heading into any mission you are given a briefing. From here you can plan some strategy as proceeding directly to the main objective can sometimes be a suicide mission. This is because there can be some smaller installations in the area such as communications stations and airports. Enemies will not be able to track you as easily and your attack on the main targets will be easier.

In each mission area will be numerous threats. These will be land, sea and air. Land threats will consist of tanks, missile launchers and triple A's. Trees and buildings are dangers as colliding with them will do significant damage. Sea threats will be gunboats and air threats (Bandits) will be in the form of choppers, apaches and jet fighters. They are equipped with both guns and missiles. Bandits are moving targets and will make multiple passes each time damaging your helicopter so it pays to shoot them down sooner rather than later.

In addition to these there may also be friendly targets (indicated by blue) that must not be destroyed. Depending on the mission, if even one of these is destroyed it may result in mission failure.

You must stay within the mission area until completion. You will be warned if you go off course. Mission failure will occur if your primary targets gets away (in the case of boats), you leave the mission area, destroy friendly targets or you are simply destroyed. Your AH-73M can take considerable punishment barring any collisions but if close to destruction you will be told "Get out of here!".

The enjoyment of Thunderhawk comes from the intense action in the game. You can pick it up for a good blasting session and then return to it later. The gamplay has enough variety and with so many missions you will not get bored quickly. Fans of action games should not miss this game.

The excellent graphics come mostly from the games extensive use of the custom sprite chip in the system and overall the game runs very smoothly. The use of FMV is minor and sensible. Animations are of very high quality for the time and despite all the content loading times are not annoying at all. The music fits very well with the action and there is a good variety in the music not to mention a good application of digital voice sampling.

The game can be finished in Medium (default) difficultly with only having to replay some of the more difficult missions once or twice until you figure out the best strategy. Hard mode does introduce a noticeable ramp in difficulty and recommended if the game has been completed and you still want to carry on blowing things up.

Overall it is a very well rounded package.

The control scheme is more complicated compared to similar games but not daunting and the responsiveness is superb. The game supports the 6-Button controller which is slightly better as the D-Pad offers more precise control.

The default controls are:

The D-Pad controls the direction and throttle of your chopper. UP is to apply throttle (forward) and DOWN is to reduce throttle and combined with LEFT and RIGHT apply direction. LEFT or RIGHT on their own is Yaw/Bank (move sideways).

Button A is Fire. Hold down for rapid fire.

Button B is weapon select.

Button C moves the current enemy targeted to the next closest.

Button C + LEFT or RIGHT is rotate.

Button C +UP or DOWN increases/decreases altitude (height).

START pauses the game.

There are several indicators that need to be monitored at all times.


Heading Indicator - The red bar above the compass indicates the course to follow to reach the Primary Targets.

Height/Altitude Indicator - Indicates your current altitude.

Weapon Selection/Selector -Displays your current selected weapon. Your weapons are automatically selected prior to each mission.

Radar - This displays all short range threats.

Red = Ground threats
Yellow = Air threats
Blue = Friendly
White = Missiles

Multi-Mode Map Camera - The camera has two modes of operation; Map Mode and Targeting Mode. Map Mode provides a video image of the current terrain as well as displaying all the ground objects. Primary targets are shown as coloured dots. You will also see on the map a dotted line which indicates the perimeter of the mission zone. Target mode will only be activated in conjunction with the Bombs or Runway Cratering System (RCS).

Targeting Mode

Targeting Mode

Once in position, to use either of these weapons, the map camera will automatically target onto the Primary Target allowing you the best possible time to release the weapons to ensure maximum damage.

Armour Status - shows how much armour is remaining.

Mission Complete Indicator - will illuminate when the mission has been completed. You are free to leave the mission area at this point.

Radar Detection Warning Light - when flashing amber an enemy is tracking your movements. When red (accompanied by a beep) your exact location is known and an enemy has locked onto you.


When you begin a mission your weapons are automatically selected. The majority of missions will select Bullet, Missiles and Rockets.

Bullet - A basic weapon but has unlimited ammo. Selected on all missions.

Missiles - Homing missiles that are best saved for shooting down Bandits. 16 Maximum

Rockets - Very powerful and fast moving. Very effective for levelling small bases or clusters of tanks. 76 maximum.

Anti Runway/RCS - Designed to render runways unusable. The mode of the map camera will change for using this weapon. Be sure to pay extra attention when using as you will have only 1 or 2 in your arms.

500lb Bomb - Used for destroying Submarines. Use like RCS.


At the end of each mission you will be given a de-briefing where points (merits) will be scored depending on your performance.

Bonus points are given for:

Number of bandits shot down
The percentage of enemy threats destroyed,
and completing the main objective.

You can also earn medals if you have performed beyond the call of duty. When a whole operation is completed you will be rewarded with an Operation Ribbon.

If you have failed to destroy all your primaries but have managed to fly out of the mission zone then you will receive a de-merit on the de-briefing. Obtain three of these and you are grounded ergo Game Over.

There are a total of 10 operations of which have numerous missions totalling 48 missions in the game. You can select any of the 10 operations in any order you choose. Remaining on a selection gives a vocal description which are detailed below.

There are different endings depending on whether you complete the game on hard mode or not.

By default progress is saved to the systems back-up RAM at the end of each mission. Games can be resumed/loaded from the title screen. It's possible to have several games saved depending on the amount of battery RAM available of course.

The following can be selected from the title screen:

New Game - Starts a new game and new save file.

Load Game - Loads a previous game. All in memory will be listed.

Info - Allows you to view each of the enemy equipment in the game and their weapons.

Options - Change a few options. They are:

Control - Button re-assignment.

Level - Select difficulty. Choose between easy, medium or hard.

Anims - Toggle the post briefing animations on or off.

BGM - Toggle background music on or off.


Thunderhawk Screenshots Operations 1-10 (Mega CD)

Operation 1 - South America - Arms Running

Hostile forces are supplying arms to terrorists. Your task is to stop supplies and destroy their arms plant.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 2 - South America - Stealth Down

A stealth bomber has gone down in a South American jungle. You need to stop the stealth from falling into enemy hands.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 3 - Panama Canal - Canal Crisis

Merchant shipping has come under attack from warring factions on both sides of the canal. Safeguard the shipping at all costs.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 4 - Central America - Recapture Town

Civilians are being held captive by guerrilla forces. We need to clear the area and liberate the town.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 5 - Alaska - Bio Research

Radio contact has been lost with our highly sensitive bio-research bases. Intelligence indicates that enemy forces are present. We need to regain control and destroy any captured materials.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 6 - Eastern Europe - United Nations Convoy

A U.N. convoy of medical supplies is trying to reach a besieged town. Your task is to defend the convoy and clear the town of all enemy forces.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission

Operation 7 - Middle East - Escort

A U.N. task force is trying to recapture friendly territory from enemy forces. Your task is to escort and aid the liberation of the enemy base and suppress advancing enemy forces.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission

Operation 8 - Middle East - Oil Dispute

A major oil refinery has been attacked by an, as yet, unknown force. Your prime objective is to defend the installations and avert any further hostilities.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission

Operation 9 - South East Asia - Chemical Warfare

Armed forces are trying to gain control of a neighbouring country with the use of chemical weapons. Your task is to stop the enemy and render the chemicals harmless.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission

Operation 10 - South China Seas - Piracy

A band of sea-pirates are operating in this area. Your mission is to defend and shipping and destroy the pirates.

Operation Mission Operation Mission
Operation Mission Operation Mission

Descriptions taken from European manual


Bandits can generally be avoided by flying at a very low altitude but watch out for trees! The fighters can not attack you at low altitudes but the choppers still can.

Be sure to listen and watch the briefings for the locations of any small communications stations before proceeding to the primary targets.


Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2

A sequel was released on the Saturn, PC and Playstation in 1995. The game was more of a remake as many of the missions are identical yet there are only 26. The difficulty level was stepped up with easy mode presenting a reasonable challenge.

Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 (Saturn)
Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 (Saturn)
Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 (Saturn)
Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 (Saturn)
Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 (Saturn)

Tweaks to the gameplay allow the player to customise the weaponry used in the missions and this included extra weapons such as cluster bombs and penguin missiles for attacking massive targets. This introduced some more strategy into completing the missions as you needed to discover which weapons were the most (or least) effective.

There are obvious visual and audio improvements afforded with the increase in processing power. Players could also select several views from which to play the game. Games could be saved to backup RAM or retrieved by means of a password system.

The game is still fairly easy to find for all three platforms very cheaply.

Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix

A further update released for the PS2 in 2002.

This latest rendition of the game places less emphasis on action instead adding more stealth into the gameplay though the basic premise is the same.

Players can still select their weaponry which have upgraded technology such as infrared imaging, night-vision and torpedoes that can seek out submarines.

Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2)
Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2) Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2)
Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2) Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2)
Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2) Thunderhawk: Operation Phoenix (PS2)

It is still easy to obtain at a bargain price.


This game can be played with KEGA Fusion, Gens and Gens32 Emulators. These can be downloaded from the Mega-CD/SEGA CD Emulators page.

As with the many of Mega-CD/SEGA CD games, the perfect synch option must be enabled.



Thunderhawk at Segagagadomin

Some basic information about the game.

Thunderhawk 2 Review

Review of the Saturn version

Operation Phoenix Review


SEGA Mega CD/SEGA CD Feature

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