Throwback Thursday | Life Force

We take a trip back into time with Throwback Thursdays! This week we take a look at the NES game, Life Force.

Who knew back in 1985, a race of vampires from space landed in London in a movie dubbed Life Force. The game and the movie are nowhere near connected, even though Life Force was released a few years later. During this week’s Throwback Thursday, we tackle Konami’s Life Force. Or Salamander. Or Gradius. Or whichever you wish to call it.

Depending on where and when you played Life Force, you might remember it as a different game. I remember playing it as Life Force, the space fighter shooting a brain with an eye and other random, quirky things.

life froce

Life Force is the NES port to the arcade game known as Salamander. Now the arcade version of Salamander was known as Life Force in America, but follows a completely different storyline than Salamander. During the re-release of Salamander in the Japanese market, the name was changed to Life Force. Life Force paved the way for all future Gradius games. You pilot a ship as Vic Viper and if you bring a friend along with you, Lord British will assist you in this single or co-op game. You shoot your way to the end of six different levels, some of which are played horizontal, while other levels are vertical scrolling. You can collect powerups along the way that will speed up your ship or outfit your craft with better weapons.

Check out this co-op play through of Life Force:

Life Force has been ported a few times over. As Salamander, it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Nintendo Family Computer System. Aspects from Salamander were taken and used in Life Force, such as bosses, background graphics and sprites. Life Force, in some form or another can be found on the NES, Famicon, Wii’s Virtual Console, PC, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PSP, and mobile phones, including the iPhone.

However Throwback Thursday would not be so throwback if we didn’t play this game on the system it was intended. Okay, if you want to get technical, the arcade version came first. For the purpose of this editorial, I played Life Force on an NES. Once I started playing, I didn’t want to stop. I had a lot of fun playing this as a kid in the 1980’s and playing it as an adult in the 2010’s, Life Force has not lost that fun and entertaining value. I still hate dying when I shouldn’t and I scream at the TV when the game lags. I still wonder about that brain, with its arms and one eye and I still use the Konami Code to get thirty lives. Some things never change. I give props to those who can beat this game on three lives, some can even do it on one. Insane. Give me thirty, thank you. Granted, back in the day, I played Life Force as a two player game. Since I lack a second NES controller at the moment, I have to play solo. This game holds up to the passing of time. Even the music is still catchy. Life Force helped to make Gradius better which in turned gave us similar shooters, such as Ikaruga.

I still don’t know if I am shooting alien ships or red blood cells, or both. Frankly, I don’t care. Life Force is still a lot of fun to play, twenty-five years later.

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