Despite incredibly similar graphics, gameplay, game mechanics and developer, I never really knew that LIfeforce was a spinoff sequel to Gradius, especially since there were numbered sequels to Gradius.
It wasn’t until the ’90s or so that I pretty much figured it was either a sequel or designed by the same team, building a new game off of the Gradius model.
Well, in Japan it was called Salamander. For whatever reason, they re-titled it Lifeforce in the U.S. But some of the changes and gameplay additions ended up being adopted by future Gradius titles. Salamander itself wouldn’t get a direct sequel for a whole decade.
This was originally designed for the arcade but was quickly ported to several systems. I’ll probably check out the arcade version soon, just to compare the two.
Lifeforce is fast paced, intense and one of those games where you can find yourself completely overwhelmed in the blink of an eye. That being said, most people, myself included, probably can’t beat this game without the Konami Code. Like its use in Contra, the Code here gives the player 30 lives.
Unlike Contra, however, this game feels short on levels with only six. And honestly, that’s about my only complaint about the game. It’s so much fun, I just wish it were longer; at least an extra two levels to bring it up to eight like Contra.
What’s really unique about Lifeforce, though, is that it is both a side scroller and a vertical scroller. Odd numbered levels are sideways and even numbered levels are vertical.
The boss fights are all pretty fun too. Granted, most of the bosses are a cakewalk if you are able to upgrade your weapons quickly and then maintain them by not dying. The more suped up you are, however, the easier it is to survive and thrive.
I really love the weapon enhancements in this game. They just make you feel more badass and they make the game more fun and action heavy.
Lastly, for a simple 8-bit scrolling shooter, this has pretty solid level design. There isn’t a dull stage and some of them are kind of breathtaking. I especially love the level with the fire and flares, as well as the Egyptian-looking one.
Lifeforce is a great game for its era and for its genre. Also, it had some of the best box art in Nintendo history.
Pairs well with: other games in the Gradius series, as well as other 8-bit Konami action shooters.