Mean Machines

Life Force
By Konami
Nintendo (US Version)

Published in Mean Machines #1

Life Force

The sourge of the spaceways, the giant lizard Zelos, has devoured the twin worlds of Gradius and Latis. The only chance of escaping Zelo's stomach lies in the shape of two super starfighters, the Gradius Industries Vic Viper, and Latis's RoadBritish Space Destroyer - armed to the teeth with the very latest in military technology. Who're the dumb schmucks who get to fly 'em? Guess who...

So sets the scene for Life Force, or Salamander as it's better known in the UK. This one- or two-player intergalactic blaster sprung into our arcades in mid-1986, as the sequel to the smash coin-op Nemesis (or Gradius on the NES).

Life Force is both a horizontally and vertically scrolling shoot-'em-up, featuring bundles of bolt-on weapons, alien bad guys, big end-of-level beasts and lots of huge explosions. The object? Just get out there and blow 'em to oblivion!

Feel The Force

Life Force

Life Force was one of a series of three coin-ops that appeared between 1985 and 1988. The first, Nemesis (or Gradius as it's known to NES owners), was one of the first shoot-'em-ups to include enhanced weapons, multiple shot power and giant end-of-level guardians. A year later, Salamander appeared, and in 1988 Konami released Vulcan Venture, which is soon to be released on the NES under the title of Gradius II. Vulcan Venture featured full 8-way scrolling, and a choice of craft and weapons. Some of the aliens had to be seen to be believed, with massive fiery phoenix-like creatures, and some hideously gut-wrenching aliens!

The Powers That Be

1. Transdrive "Speedup" Booster Increases both speed and manoeuvrability of your ship. Recommended.

2. Gradcorp Force Shield This protective energy field envelops your ship, protecting it for a short while from collision with enemy missiles and vessels.

Life Force

3. CP-26 "Ripple" Laser Hoop laser, which progressively gets larger the further it is from the ship. Reasonable for medium-field destruction, but not too fast.

4. FAFSSM-17 Destructo Missile These fire and forget projectiles blast from above and below the ship in tandem, and are multipled two-fold with each "multiple".

5. TX-3 Macrolaser Cannon This is your basic weapon. Single shot, pretty ineffective.

Life Force

6. LCX Mark V Pultonic Laser This baby slices through steel plating like a hot knife through butter. Probably the most effective weapon available.

7. RB-9 "Multiple" Option A glowing sphere which tracks the movement of your ship.


Featuring amazing graphics, great extra weapons, two-player action and a huge variety of aliens to blast into oblivion, Life Force is a blaster and a half!

Life Force

The way it switches between horizontally and vertically scrolling landscapes adds extra variety to the gameplay, and the different strategies required to beat mean end-of-level guardians makes this both challenging and addictive.

Life Force is by far the best shoot-'em-up currently available on the Nintendo - if you're into games of this type you'd be silly to miss it.


Salamander may be getting on a bit now, but it still ranks pretty highly as one of the better shoot-'em-ups. So I was extremely pleased to see that Life Force retains almost all of the major ingredients that made its arcade parent so enjoyable.

Life Force

The graphics and sound are as close as one could hope for, and the playability is just about right - not too easy, nor over-impossible. Some of the later levels are a bit complex, but practice makes perfect, as they say.

If you're a fan of the coin-op, or just love a good blast, don't miss it.


Presentation 79%
One or two-player option and great screen layout.

Life Force

Graphics 86%
Detailed and colourful sprites and backdrops.

Sound 83%
Very similar tunes and effects to the arcade version.

Playability 85%
A bit difficult at first, but it's good, clean alien blasting all the way - and dead addictive too!

Lastability 88%
Six levels of frantic action and the two-player option ensure a long-lasting challenge.

Overall 86%
A stunning shoot-'em-up which is a must for your collection.