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Life Force (also known as Salamander) was originally an arcade game back in 1986. It is a sort of sequel to Gradius. Ported to the NES in 1987, it became a pretty decent hit on the system. Hence, Nintendo made it available for download onto your Wii. So, is it worth 500 Wii points to go download this scrolling space shooter? I think it is.
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Life Force is a bit different from the earlier Gradius games in two respects. For one, Life Force is not simply a side scrolling shooter. It is and it isn't, all at the same time. You see, every level alternates between side scrolling action and climbing (down to up) action. This was the first game to include this so it was pretty revolutionary at the time. Now, it just makes for nice variation in gameplay.
The other way Life Force is different is that the levels are practically designed to be played co-op. There are too many enemies for one player to take out alone, and too many splits in the levels for one player to handle both. This makes it worth your while to grab a friend and start playing. However, you will have to decide who gets which power up.
The space ships can move in four directions (up, down, forward and back) and the 1 and 2 buttons act like B and A on the classic controller. Since it is constantly scrolling you only have so much time to get through each screen, and many times the rock (or whatever that stuff is) will block your only escape. You'll need to learn to master moving in all directions to get through Life Force alive.
Power ups are doled out by shooting certain enemies and they provide a wide range of interesting abilities. The more you gather the more choices you'll have.
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Graphics and Sound
Life Force is a rather early game for the NES, but the graphics make it look much later. Sure, it's a bit pixilated but, all in all, the backgrounds are well done and the bright colors look great. Movement is captured nicely and it really looks like a game that could have come out in the early 1990's as opposed to the late 1980's.
Sound wise Life Force is okay. It doesn't have the best music in gaming history (that title belongs to Mother), but it is rousing and varied enough not to get boring. The sound effects are also well done, even if they are just little gun sounds.
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Alone, Life Force is all right. It's playable, but really nothing special. But with a friend in tow it becomes a whole other experience. Together you must defeat the evil alien force and restore peace to the galaxy. Sure there might be some minor squabbles over power ups, but those are easily resolved. There is no way you can play this game the way it is meant to be played alone. But with a friend it is one good time.
However, being an NES game means it is pretty difficult. But luckily for you there is a special code (Konami, anyone?) somewhere on this page that'll help you out. Enter it on the title screen for 2 players (wink wink).
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Life Force is worth 500 Wii points if you have a friend to play it with and an extra Wii mote. While it isn't terribly long, it is difficult enough to give you a few hours of fun, and you'll probably want to replay it too. What are you waiting for? Grab a friend, enter the code and start shooting!