theuselessgod's Salamander (Nintendo Entertainment System) review

One of the funnest NES space shooters.

The Short


- Fast paced, old school space shooter

- Has both horizontal and vertical levels! Insanity!

- Konami Code works, and the game has unlimited continues. Finally.

- Is a blast two player, and plays awesome on an NES Advantage

- Crazy weird "story" with lots of bananas enemies and locations

- Fantastic music

- Is called Salamander in Japan. That's kind of cool.


- Is pretty short

- Losing all your powerups sucks

- Also, that fire level is a massive pain

- Most bosses can be easily "cheesed"

- Graphics are hit or miss

I have no idea what is going on in the story to this game.

The Long

Ah, space shooters. Once the staple of any game library, they've sort of faded into obscurity over the past decade or so (with most of them being specialized "bullet hell" games or...indie "bullet hell" games). However, looking back to the roots of the "Shmup" - being "Shoot 'Em Up" - Genre, you'll find some genuinely classic titles across the early gaming systems. One of my absolute favorites is Lifeforce, a game I played religiously with my dorm neighbor back in college, blasting red blood cells, Egyptian King Tut masks, brains with one eyeball, Easter Island heads, and more. Yeah, this game makes no sense, but that doesn't stop it from being awesome.

You should just hit "play" on this now so you can listen to the music through the review.

At it's core, this game is essentially Gradius. You have the same tiered power ups, the ultimate one being an "Option," essentially a small orb that follows you around and also shoots. You can also get Speed, Missile, Spread, and Laser power-ups, each of which gives you more abilities (except Spread or Laser, which you can only have one at a time) to fend off the hordes of strange enemies. Of course, if you die you lose it all, so you have to play careful.

The game is fairly simple. Either you are side-scrolling left to right, or heading up. What makes this game fun is the mixture between excellent enemy placement, obstacles, and constantly mixing up the mechanics of the game. Some stages just overwhelm you with enemies (causing some crazy NES slowdown). Others, such as the fire stage, are more taxing on split-second reactions to environmental warnings. Others still, like the "Egypt" level, have you shooting through sand in order to clear a path to the end. And don't forget the awesome last level, where the course speeds up to insane speeds and you have to dodge between closing doors while escaping the planet (and an earlier stage which has you navigating a thin corridor while doing the same thing). Had it been just shooting and bosses Lifeforce would have sucked, but the constant mix-up in variety keeps things very fresh.

Curse you, fire level.

The downside to this is that, with all the variety, there aren't very many stages. You can beat the game in one sitting, and usually with the 25 lives you'll get for punching in the Konami code (though the last few levels can be taxing). But despite being short, it's a great game to grab a friend and play co-op with, considering you both can have fun and beat the whole game in under and hour. Honestly, I'd rather have a refined, excellent experience rather than a bloated one (see Castlevania: Lords of Shadow) so Lifeforce does well in making the whole experience feel exciting, if it is short.

As stated, this game does accept the Konami code for more lives (I'd suggest it), but even better it has unlimited continues! Continuing refills your Konami-coded collection of lives, and just makes you start the stage over. It's unfortunate that, with two players, you don't have the option to continue if your friend is still alive (you have to wait for him or her to die completely and then you can continue), but hey...unlimited continues are still awesome.

This game is really freaking weird.

Graphically, Lifeforce is ok. It has an absolutely bizarre sense of what is going on (read: I have no idea what is going on in this game), so one moment you'll be flying through a ribcage and the next bouncing Easter Island heads will be coming for you next to...a pool table? Yeah, it's really weird. There are a few lazy graphical moments (the bordering fire in the fire level just seems to show up, with no well-drawn transition from the space to the fire. You can even see where their tiled background graphics start), but ultimately it looks fine. When you have missiles equipped and there's a hefty amount of crap on the screen (which is frequent) the game is prone to some serious slowdown, but that's pretty much par for the course for these types of NES games.The music, if you've been listening while reading, is quite good. It certainly lives up to Konami's reputation, with some seriously kicking tunes throughout.

Don't get bit by space-fangs!

Lifeforce is probably my most favorite Shmup ever. Yeah, it isn't complex and deep like Ikaruga or even particularly long or difficult, but it's a classic game that's straight up fun. My advice? Grab a friend, punch in the Konami code, grab your NES Advantage (gonna need that stick and turbo button) and have a great time. Considering this game is pretty cheap anyway, it's totally worth picking up if you have an NES. even if it is short.Four out of five stars.

Suck it, Egypt.

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Other reviews for Salamander (Nintendo Entertainment System)

    Fun side-scroller but its short lived 0

    Life Force is a game that uses a lot of old school concepts.  Its basically a traditional side scroller with power ups along the way to increase your space ships powers.     As with all Konami games from the NES era, you have the option to use the "Konami code" to get 30 lifes.  If you do this code, chances are you will finish the game in less then 3 hours.  If you try and do it with the original number of lives (3), you will probably increase your time by about double.    If you like old side s...

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