Review by greatdreamhero
Like traveling through several stages of Hell
Konami made visually appealing as well as audio exhilarating experiences for the Nintendo Entertainment System. However many of these games face one major flaw; their difficulty. Sometimes the difficulty is fair but overall Konami has made quite a few of these games feel more like a chore. Life Force is no exception to this rule, but for some reason this entry even feels worse than the other titles Konami has released. First let us examine the positive elements of Life Force before looking at the giant gorilla in the room.
The graphics that Life Force displays are among the best I have seen on the NES console (in my gaming experience on the NES). They are sharp and aesthetic. They display different environments and have very cool and interesting boss fights for each level which makes every level feel like a new and fresh experience.
The soundtrack is good and diverse and takes full advantage of the 8 bit capabilities of the NES. Konami in general does very well at creating atmospheric pieces that draw you in every world that they create. So you really feel you are on a high flying mission as a lone hero against hordes of horrendous alien monstrosities.
Okay here is where we hit the dirt sundae. This game is two words UNRELENTING and UNFORGIVING. First you have no health and die in one hit. Unfortunately the Contra series feels like this too, but I will make a distinction of why this title feels worse than the Contra series on the NES. There is a complex power up system in Life Force. You gain red orbs (after defeating certain enemies or flanks of enemies) that allow you to access certain power ups. However this system is very flawed. First you can only choose the power up based on how many orbs you have picked up, and it will reset when you get to the final level which is FORCE, and you will be reset to the first level which is SPEED. There is SPEED, MISSILE,RIPPLE, LASER, OPTION, and FORCE. You can't intuitively figure out how the power ups work without selecting them and some can be upgraded at least twice. You will want to get MISSILE and OPTIONS right away to help you out as they are back up fire power. You can also upgrade these twice, which the game does not tell you explicitly, which is really not good on the games behalf. MISSILE are rockets that shoot out and OPTION you will have no idea what it is but it is like a small back up ship that shoots when you shoot. RIPPLE is a powerful laser beam and can really help you out in the beginning, and FORCE is a shield that helps somewhat but did not seem really effective to me at all. LASER is another laser attack but the game does not tell you that you cannot use both this and RIPPLE. It is really important to explain this power up system, because this is the only way you will survive in this game. This is where the major issue comes into play and why this is problematic compared to Contra series. When you die you lose all your power ups, which is similar to Contra series, but in the Contra series there is not a myriad of stackable upgrades that you crucially need. Also I played this back to back with Super C (apart of the Contra series) on the NES, there are so many more unforeseeable instant deaths in this game than in Super C, also there are times where you speed up in Life Force that makes the loss of seldom lives even more occurrent. Also you can fare well with the default settings in super C and only need to get one power up to be fully back in the action. Even the first level of this game is painful and it is very easy to die and there are many instant death traps that you can fly into. This is really not good for a novice player who is just trying to learn the mechanics of the game. It can create instant alienation and rejection of this game.
Honestly this is a very beautiful game that has a lot to offer, but unfortunately it has an extreme difficulty at default settings can make a regular casual gamer rage quit on the first level. This is unfortunately a very sad situation. This game has an elaborate world with horrifying enemies and a host of bizarre and unique bosses that can be missed just due to it's insane difficulty. I can only recommend this game to two groups/types of people. One group are the highly talented as well as extremely skilled players. The second group are those who are patient as well as persistent and are willing to keep dying to slog through this constant and repetitive death machine.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Life Force (US, 08/31/88)
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