Salamander (video game)

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Salamander
Life Force
Salamander flyer.png
Promotional flyer for Salamander
Developer(s) Konami
SPS
Publisher(s)
Designer(s) Hiroyasu Machiguchi
Composer(s) Miki Higashino
Hidenori Maezawa
Shinya Sakamoto
Satoe Terashima
Atsushi Fujio
Series Gradius
Platform(s)
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Multi-scrolling shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, Cooperative
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Konami GX400
Display Raster, horizontal orientation, 256 x 224

Salamander (沙羅曼蛇 or サラマンダ Saramanda?), retitled Life Force (ライフフォース Raifu Fōsu?) in North America and in the Japanese arcade re-release (see development), is a scrolling shooter arcade game by Konami. Released in 1986 as a spin-off to Gradius, Salamander introduced a simplified power-up system, two-player cooperative gameplay and both horizontally and vertically scrolling stages. Some of these later became the norm for future Gradius games.

Salamander was followed with an official sequel in 1996 entitled Salamander 2.

Gameplay[edit]

The first player controls Vic Viper and the second player takes the reins of debuting spacecraft Lord British, which is sometimes referred as "Road British" due to the ambiguity of Japanese-to-English romanization. The game features six stages which alter between horizontal and vertical scrolling.

Lives and continues[edit]

Players are allowed to continue from where they leave upon death instead of being returned to a predefined checkpoint per Gradius tradition. There are no continues in Salamander's single player mode, however, in the two-player mode, players are given two continues. The number of continues can be changed through DIP switches.

Power-ups[edit]

The player gains power-ups by picking up capsules left behind by certain enemies, as opposed to the selection bar used in other Gradius titles. However, Life Force keeps the selection bar.

The six power-ups in Life Force are:

  • Speed Up. As the name suggests, it simply allows the space ship to move quicker.
  • Missiles. When firing normally, the ship emits missiles from both port and starboard sides, which then continue to the right/upwards along the side of the screen.
  • Ripple Laser. Increases the area hit by the ship's laser.
  • Plutonic Laser. Increases the power of the ship's laser.
  • Option. Adds a small pod next to the ship which fires another shot of laser. Only four of these are allowed on-screen at a time.
  • Force Field. Creates a field of limited invulnerability around the ship.

Many of the power-ups can be combined. For example, an option fires a second (or third) salvo of missiles or ripple/plutonic lasers if these power-ups have been option. The ripple and laser, however, are mutually exclusive.

The only power-up that can survive the ship's destruction are the options. Upon the ship's destruction, the options float in space for a brief time before disappearing; the new ship can grab and retain them if they get to them first.

Bosses[edit]

  • Brain Golem. A monster shaped like a human brain, except for two clawlike arms and a single eyeball in the front. Much of level one has an 'organic' feel to it, such as regenerating tissues.
  • Tetran. A mechanical sentry that resembles an octopus, with four flaming tentacles that constantly revolve around the center, which is protected by a layer of protective armor. This fits with level two's mechanical/volcanic theme.
  • Intruder. A dragon that breathes fire at the player, appropriate considering level three's setting - the surface of a star (pictured above).
  • Giga. A skull with wandering eyeballs, it spews attacks from its mouth. Level four vaguely resembles the innards of a human body, and Giga appears after the player has navigated a rib cage.
  • Tutanhamanattack. As much of level five is modeled after an Egyptian temple, not surprisingly, the final enemy resembles a pharaoh's death mask. One of the harder bosses, Tut has a revolving force field to deflect attacks.
  • Zelos. The final boss, appearing at the end of level six. Technically, this final monster only represents Zelos' "heart and soul." A red sphere, after the player dispatches a snake that revolves around it, it offers no resistance - enough lasers sent into its lower end will destroy it.

It is possible for the player to beat level six without killing Zelos in Life Force; if this happens, the player is tossed back several levels to try again.

Ports[edit]

Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum Ports[edit]

Reception
(Home computers)
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 93%[4]
Crash 79%[2]
Sinclair User 8/10 stars[3]
Your Sinclair 4/10[1]
The Games Machine 66%[5]
allgame 3.5/5 stars[6]
The Video Game Critic A [7]

Ocean Software on their Imagine label, released licensed versions of Salamander for computer systems by Spectrum, Commodore and Amstrad in 1988. Whilst the Spectrum and Amstrad versions were generally criticised, the Commodore 64 version was highly praised by the critics of the day, particularly Zzap!64. Despite missing two of the six stages, the simultaneous two player mode and gameplay being much easier than its arcade counterpart, the Commodore port is generally considered to be one of the best arcade conversions on this system.

Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System Port[edit]

Salamander was ported to the Family Computer in Japan in 1987. Instead of being a direct port of Salamander, elements were taken from the original Salamander and the Japanese Life Force re-release, and some elements, such as levels and bosses, were removed to make way for new content. Most of the background graphics and enemy sprites from Salamander, however, are used in favor of those used in Life Force, though the Gradius-style power bar is used in place of the original instant pick-up system. The same year, North America received a port as well for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES version is practically identical to its Famicom equivalent, other than not having the multiple endings, having two option power ups instead of three, and being titled Life Force. The North America version was later re-released for the Virtual Console on February 16, 2009 for the Wii,[8] on January 23, 2014 for the Nintendo 3DS and August 21, 2014 for the Wii U at a cost of 500 Wii Points (Wii) and $4.99 (3DS and Wii U).

The European PAL version was called Life Force: Salamander (box art only) and was released on November 22, 1989.

The NES version, not the Famicom version, makes use of the Konami Code, which increases the number of lives from three to 30.

The first two levels of Life Force were profiled in the second issue of Nintendo Power, issued in 1988. Several issues later the entire game was re-profiled.

MSX Port[edit]

The MSX port of Salamander (沙羅曼蛇 Saramanda?) is significantly different from the original and any other ports. New to this port is a graphical introduction that introduces human pilots for each ship, as well as names for each stage. The levels are notably longer than the arcade original, and the player(s) is(are) forced to start from a pre-defined checkpoint upon death of either pilot, instead of starting where he/she left off. After level two, the player can choose the order of the next three stages. In addition, the player can collect "E" capsules by destroying certain enemies. Collecting fifteen will permanently upgrade one of the available weapons on the power-up bar. Some weapons allow the player ships to merge, one player controlling movements and the second player controlling weapons. Instead of the Vic Viper and the Lord British Space Destroyer, the ships are known as the Sabel Tiger and the Thrasher; piloted by human characters named Iggy Rock and Zowie Scott. The story takes place in the year 6709 A.D and has 2 different endings.

The MSX version was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in Japan on January 12, 2010.

PC Engine Port[edit]

A version for the PC Engine was released on December 6, 1991. Changes include starting from a pre-defined checkpoint upon death in 1 Player mode, faster enemy animations, and music being somewhat improved from the arcade version.

In Japan, the PC Engine version was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console on September 11, 2007, for PlayStation Network in July 21, 2010 and for the Wii U's Virtual Console on October 22, 2014.

PlayStation and Sega Saturn Ports[edit]

A compilation titled Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus was released in Japan for the Sega Saturn on June 19, 1997, and for the PlayStation on July 6 of the same year. The compilation includes both, the Japanese versions of Salamander and Life Force, as well as Salamander 2.

Mobile Phones Port[edit]

Salamander was released for mobile phones in 2003.

PlayStation Portable Port[edit]

Another compilation of the Salamander series, titled Salamander Portable, was released for the PlayStation Portable on January 24, 2007 in Japan. The PSP compilation features all three games previously included in the Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus, as well as Xexex and the MSX version of Gradius 2 (aka Nemesis II, which is unrelated to the arcade game Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition).

iPhone/iPod Port[edit]

On December 20, 2010, an application called PC Engine Game Box was published in the App Store which served as a portal to download classic PC Engine video games. Among the downloadable titles is the PC Engine version of Salamander for a fee.

Development[edit]

The arcade version of the game was released under its original title in Japan (version J) and Europe (version D) and as Life Force in North America. The Japanese and European versions are nearly identical, but the American version changes the game's plot by adding an opening text that establishes the game to be set inside a giant alien life-form which is infected by a strain of bacteria. Stages that featured starfield backgrounds had them changed with the web background from Stage 1 to maintain consistency with the organic setting of the plot. The power-ups are also given different names, with the "Speed-Up" becoming "Hyper Speed", the "Missile" becoming the "Destruct Missile", the "Ripple Laser" becoming the "Pulse Laser" and "Force Field" becoming the "Shield". Voiceovers are added to the beginning of each stage, detailing the area of the alien's body which the player is currently inhabiting (i.e. "Enter stomach muscle zone", "Bio-mechanical brain attack", and so on).

Konami later released an enhanced version of Salamander in Japan bearing the American title of Life Force which further fleshes out the organic motif. All of the backgrounds and mechanical enemies are completely redrawn and given organic appearances. The power-up system was also modified, with the Japanese Life Force using the same power-up gauge as the original Gradius. Some music tracks have been completely changed for this release. The power-up gauge is arranged differently for both players as well.

Audio[edit]

Salamander Arcade Soundtrack

The Salamander Arcade Soundtrack was produced by Konami Kukeiha Club and released on April 9, 2003 in Japan by Konami Music Entertainment, Inc. Original Sound of Salamander was released by Apollon Music on December 16, 1986. Salamander - Again : Konami Kukeiha Club was released by King Records on May 25, 1992.

In addition, disc 3 of Konami Music Masterpiece Collection, which was released on October 1, 2004, is devoted to Salamander.

Anime[edit]

Main article: Salamander (anime)

An anime OVA based on the game was released in Japan on February 25, 1988. Noriko Hidaka provided the voice of the protagonist Stephanie. In the anime, the Lord British Space Destroyer was named after one of the protagonists, Ike Lord British of planet Latis; thus making it Lord British's Space Destroyer.

References[edit]

External links[edit]