Review by dtm666

Reviewed: 01/03/04

The best NES shooter I've ever played

Gradius, an arcade shooter ported to NES, was so popular at the time that a sequel, Gradius II, was released and ported to Famicom. Unfortunately, we didn't get that sequel. Instead, we got Life Force on NES, which was a half-hearted port of the arcade game Salamander. Now in cases like this, a game transferred from arcade to NES would not be able to retain all elements and thus you're left with a game that's totally different gameplay-wise.

STORY: Aliens show up, you fight them, you destroy them, you win, the whole thing loops. It's a shooter, people; you don't play these things because of their plot development. 0/10

GRAPHICS: This is your typical NES shooter graphics, but they're all good. Some sprites are detailed and the level design is visually appealing. You'd probably agree too, but you might crash into an object or get shot down. Still, a nice-looking game. 9/10

SOUND: Generic sound effects plague this game, but that's to be expected in games like this on the NES. What is good is the enthralling soundtrack that accompanies it. The music is actually pretty good and fits (or at least pretends to fit) the game quite nicely. 9/10

GAMEPLAY: This is a half-hearted port of the original Salamander arcade game. Normally, this would be bad, but in the case of Life Force, it's actually pretty good. Only a couple of arcade levels made it intact, while the other two were ditched for new original ones. As someone who has played both versions, the new levels are actually superior to the arcade (which were treks in space) and provide players will a good challenge. The existing levels that did make it are pretty smooth translations despite suffering some losses here and there; although in the long run, it really doesn't matter. I really like the transition between horizontal and vertical scrolling levels, as it manages to make things a little different. The control system is reminiscent of Gradius, another change from the arcade game, but this is actually pretty good; I much prefer the ability to customize your firepower than pick up something that is of absolutely no use to me. Control is pretty good, considering it's an NES game. 10/10

CHALLENGE: Space shooters (and Konami's shooters, especially) are known for their rock hard difficulty and Life Force is no exception. It took me a good while to beat this thing... and this was before I had even heard of a 30-man code! If you want a tough challenge, then this is it. 10/10

REPLAY VALUE: Anyone who is into shooter games and Konami's Gradius games will enjoy playing this again for old times sake. Shooters, in my belief, were never about finishing all the levels; it was about getting a high score and breaking some other sap's record. If that's your kick, then Life Force is waiting to be played again and again. 9/10

OVERALL: While we North Americans didn't get a true Gradius II on NES, what we did get was an excellent replacement and nice pseudo-sequel. Life Force is a fantastic shoot-em-up that manages to outperform the original arcade version, something very few games are able to do. While its difficulty will turn off some players, others will welcome it and hopefully be able to conquer it. The best NES shooter I have ever laid my hands on. You should find yourself a copy and play it too. 9/10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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