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Life Force (NES)

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Title Screen

Life Force

Also known as: Salamander (JP), Life Force: Salamander (EU)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: NES
Released in JP: September 25, 1987
Released in US: August 26, 1988
Released in EU: November 22, 1989

RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.

PrereleaseIcon.png This game has a prerelease article

Life Force is a spin-off of the Gradius series. Unlike Gradius, this game has a cooperative mode: Player 1 controls Vic Viper, while Player 2 is Lord British (not to be confused with the Lord British of the Ultima series).


Read about prerelease information and/or media for this game.
Prerelease Info

Unused Graphics

Extraneous Compressed Data

Salamander gfx3.png

Most of the graphics in this game are stored in the ROM in twelve compressed blocks, using the same RLE compression as several other Konami NES games such as Blades of Steel and Contra. In Salamander, the fourth compressed block, consisting of the tiles for the power meter, contains a large amount of extraneous junk: 2560 zero bytes (which take up very little actual space due to the RLE compression) followed by a compressed copy of the tiles for the stage 1 Golem boss (which does take up actual space). When the game decompresses this data block, the extra data ends up in the nametable section of VRAM, where it is promptly overwritten by the stage background. The stage 1 boss tiles that are actually loaded when encountering the boss are stored elsewhere in the ROM, uncompressed.

In Life Force all of the compressed data seems to have been rebuilt, and this junk data is not present.

Ripple Laser

Unused Sprite In-game Ripple Laser "Fixed" Ripple Laser
LifeForce unused sprite.png
LifeForce ripple ingame.png
Salamander ripple fixed.png

Among the shared graphics for vertical stages is an unused 8x16 sprite for the edge of a Ripple Laser. The fully-expanded Ripple Laser as it appears in-game is asymmetrical and a bit distorted, due to being awkwardly constructed using parts of the half-expanded version. By using the unused sprite, it's possible to construct a Ripple Laser that is symmetrical and that looks more like the version seen in horizontal stages. However, this "fixed" graphic takes up four 8x16 sprites despite being only 24 nontransparent pixels long. It *would* fit into three sprites if the pixels in the constituent tiles were simply shifted over four places.

It seems likely what happened is that the developers decided the Ripple Laser needed to be reduced from four sprites to three to control sprite flicker but there wasn't time to get the artist to update the sprite, so they had to make do and improvise a three-sprite version with the asset they had.

Regional Differences

  • The stars in the background on stage 5 are animated in Salamander.
  • In Salamander, you can get a maximum of three options. This was dropped to two for Life Force.
  • In Salamander, a "blop!" sound effect plays before the Tetran boss fight. It was removed in Life Force.
  • Life Force makes use of a code on the title screen, which increases the number of lives from 3 to 30, but it is not the Konami code, it's only part of it (Up, Up, Down, Down, B, A), but the program will ignore Left or Right pressings, so you could press any amount of them in any order, so the full Konami code for example will be accepted as well.

Title Screen

Japan US Europe/Virtual Console
Salamander Title Screen.gif LifeForceTitle.png LifeForceSalamanderTitle.png

The Japanese title screen is a lot more interesting than the completely static US/European version, featuring a starfield effect and animated fireball circling around the logo. Also note the "NINTEND" typo in the US version, which was fixed in the European and 3DS Virtual Console releases.

Power Meter

Japan US
Salamander stage 1.png Life Force stage 1.png

In Salamander, the Power Meter is similar to those featured in the Gradius games. The HUD is organized into three rows: Player 1's Power Meter on top, the scores in the middle, and Player 2's Power Meter on the bottom. A ship icon is also used for denoting a player's lives.

In Life Force, the Power Meter is smaller and different. There are only two rows of information, with each player's score on the top row and the Power Meters on the bottom row. The Power Meters are condensed: the six options are shown as small boxes with the current selection drawn with a box around it, and a box on the right shows the text for the current option, a layout very similar to the MSX version of the game. The ship icon is also gone. Despite all of this, the setup from Salamander is still seen in pictures for the box and manual.

Additionally, in horizontal stages the entire screen is positioned two pixels higher in Life Force than in Salamander.



Salamander has three endings, each of which has credits on the right side and a different picture on the left, depending on how many continues are used. If 3+ continues are used, the pilot's helmet is shown; if 1-2 are used, the Vic Viper is shown; if no continues are used, the pilot is shown.

Life Force has only one ending, skipping the entire staff roll and showing only the Konami logo.