Salamander (沙羅曼蛇), retitled Life Force in North America and in the Japanese arcade re-release (see version differences), 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 would later become the norm for future Gradius games.
Salamander was followed with an official sequel in 1996 entitled Salamander 2.
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
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.
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.
Both the original Japanese version and the enhanced Life Force release are included in the compilation Salamander Deluxe Pack for the PlayStation and Saturn, as well as in Salamander Portable for the PlayStation Portable.
Nintendo Entertainment System
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 and being titled Life Force. These ports make use of the Konami Code, which in this instance increases the number of lives from three to 30.
The MSX port of Salamander is significantly different than 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. This port also introduced two entirely new ships. Instead of the Vic Viper and the Lord British Space Destroyer, they were replaced by ships 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.
A version for the PC Engine was released on December 12, 1991. Changes include starting from a pre-defined checkpoint upon death (1 Player mode), faster enemy animations, and music being somewhat improved from the arcade version.
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.
PlayStation and Sega Saturn
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.
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).
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.
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.
- ↑ "One WiiWare Game and One Virtual Console Game Added (and One Surprise Coming) to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 2009-02-16. http://www.nintendo.com/whatsnew/detail/MAJvPmo4G3odfJt-TGey8nBuh5CNlw6R. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- Salamander - GameStone - Gradius Home World
- 'Life Force' at MobyGames
- Salamander at Museum of the Game
- Salamander at the Arcade History database