Reviewed by Malc
(Cheers to Chuck and others for the info on this version!)

There are two types of arcade conversions. Arcade-Perfect and Not-So-Arcade-Perfect. The first type are usually the desired type, with the second form often being the result of a rush-job by a crew who aren't that familiar with the arcade game, or because of limitations of the hardware. Lifeforce on the NES is a little bit of an anomaly - it's really nothing like the arcade game, but stands proud as a tweaked 'remake'.

Personally, it usually annoys me when companies change what should have been a straight conversion. Arcade tactics and strategies fail miserably on a carelessly produced home version resulting in unfair deaths. And often the changes are not at all for the better either. Lifeforce on the NES has many extra stages, plus a good amount of general improvements.

That's not to say the game's perfect though - remember this is on an aged 8-bit system, and as such can't compete graphically or technically with the original. Some of the new graphics are quite amateurish looking, and the actual fighter plane you control isn't as nicely designed. I do like a good looking craft to control, as that's what you'll be staring at throughout the whole thing! However, if you've played Salamander or Lifeforce to death on another system, you'll find plenty new to have fun with here.

There's not much point talking about graphics as you can see them below in a tick, and musically it's a bit on the dire side. Instead I'll list a few of the alterations and let you get on with playing it for yourself!

First of all, they've changed the powerup system. Lifeforce's original powerup system was actually a step back from Nemesis/Gradius, in that you simply picked up icons and your weapons were added on immediately. Now we've got an icon bar just like Nemesis, and I think I prefer it.

Next, you'll notice a big difference in how the levels play. Bashing through level one, the growths grow further and quicker than you're used to, with some dead-ends as well if you're not fleet on the old feet. At first you think this is a really sloppy conversion, but when you reach the second level you begin to realise what's afoot. Extra bits! Levels! New enemies!

The second level (the vertical asteroid one) has been binned, and after that things change dramatically. By this time you're really enjoying yourself, but I must admit if I was expecting the original game and didn't have the option of playing a more accurate conversion on another system, I would be feeling a bit miffed. Still, you have to appreciate the extra effort stirred into the new mix. So that's really all that's not covered in the original Shmups SALAMANDER review, now all that's left is to take you through some of the more notable new parts....

Score 8/10

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After travelling through the fire level, which is fairly true to the original, the dragon appears as a head only. When you meet the bosses, they are usually construction out of background blocks, instead of sprites, and the score meter bar has to be removed to let this happen. A bit disconcerting at first. The dragon's not any harder, but it is a new angle on him anyway...

I love fast mazey sections, where you have to negotiate thin and twisty corridors moving at speed. This is one of them.

New territory here - burst the pustules before they release undestroyable blue blobs.

Smack the orange vitamin pills before the go all mouldy and spiky.

I had a LOT of trouble with this section... the ends of the ribs fire diagonal missiles which are fast and deadly. Stay back until you see what they're up to.

This skull pops up afterwards, and his eyes predicably plop out and attack you.

After an uneventful greeny level, you descent into an Egyptian tomb...

... firing through the destroyable blocks to reach...

... a particularly grumpy looking Tutankhamen. Generally the bosses aren't that difficult.

I'm not going to say ANYTHING here. You already know how I feel about the inclusion of THESE BLOODY THINGS in every Konami game.

A great improvement on the original... a green snake scoots around the large blob, firing small blue bombs. Nice idea.

Then all you have to do is blast it away before it smashes into your ship. Easy bugger.

Finally, a very difficult (if you have no speedups) blast through a high speed section, with pipes growing out of the sides. You can't afford to stay back as sometimes they join up and you're stuck!

Ah, I enjoyed that. A nice diversion from the norm, with some tricky traps and additions.

Here's the usual end sequence... a planet being destroyed with your fighter returning home. Give it a try!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie