Konami's "Salamander"





Salamander is sort of a "sister" series to Konami's other hit shooter series Gradius. Only the first Salamander game came out in North America, but over here it was called "Lifeforce". Strangely enough, in 1987, one year after the original Salamander arcade game came out in Japan, Konami released a japanese only update of the original Salamander called "Lifeforce". It was pretty much the same thing, only the graphics were more organic looking, and the music was different in a couple of stages. It was okay, but it wasn't as good as the regular Salamander game. Plus in Lifeforce, the announcer doesn't shut up! He just keeps running his mouth! Anyway, Salamander is basically the same type of gameplay as Gradius, only more simplistic. The power up system isn't just where you keep collecting spike things until you get to a power up you want and hit the "Power Up" button or whatever. Enemies just drop specific power ups and you collect them. In Lifeforce though, it re-used the power up system from Gradius. Also, the "Even Number" levels in Lifeforce are vertically scrolling, while the "Odd Number" stages are horizontal scrolling. And this game has a two player mode, but it's a co-op mode, so you can play together instead of just taking turns. :D And there's spectacular music in the game too.

Q:Oooooh! This sounds awesome! I wanna play!
A:You're in luck! A few months ago, Konami released "Salamander Portable" for the PSP. It's a japanese only release, but don't worry, because there's no region protection or territory lockout on the PSP, so you can play it no problem. :D (probably the only good thing the PSP is good for is classic/retro game collections like that). The collection includes Salamander, Lifeforce (the japanese re-release of the original Salamander, not the US version of Salamander), Salamander 2 (this one's also good, but I don't enjoy as much as the original), AND, as a bonus, it includes two extra games:Xexex (available on a home console for the first time ever), and the MSX version of Gradius 2 (The MSX was a piece of shit, but this is at least better than Gradius 1 on the MSX.)
I had Lifeforce on the NES and was and still is one of my favorite games to date. I wouldn't be hooked on Gradius right now if it weren't for Lifeforce.
To be honest with you, I think you should just track down a copy of the NES version. It's a lot easier to play, since the difficulty isn't rigged to suck quarters out of you and two kinda blah levels in the arcade version were replaced by more interesting ones. (Vic Viper vs King Tut=win).

Or, barring that, Gradius V on the Playstation2, which is much like Life Force (ex- you respawn exactly where you die, you can reclaim your Options, etc.) and probably my favorite in the series after LF.

But yes. Gradius rocks!