Life Force (NES)

Life Force Box Art

Life Force

System: NES

Release Date: August 1988

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami

Genre: Shoot ‘em Up

Yeehaw! We’re back with another Konami shoot ‘em up, this being a sequel of sorts to Gradius. Life Force was a game I rented a lot as a kid, because it was fun and difficult. I tried playing through it legit, but couldn’t get past the third stage, so I Konami coded up and was able to power my way through. You are back as Vic Viper and you’ve got your typical silly story intro in the manual that sets the scene and tells you to go kill lots of everything to save the universe.

The game plays much like Gradius. You collect powerups and activate them with the A Button. I like getting my Options as quickly as possible in the early levels. You can choose between the Ripple gun and the Laser. I usually go with the Laser. Missiles are always nice to have to clear the edges of the screen. The Forcefield is usually the last thing I pick up, because let’s be honest, if I’m going to get hit, it’ll probably be by something that kills me whether I have a forcefield or not.

The goal of the game is to shoot your way to Zelos’s heart to finally end his galaxy eating binge. You do this by blasting through six stages of ever intensifying action. Changing it up from Gradius, the stages alternate between side-scrolling stages and vertical-scrolling stages. If you see an orange colored enemy (or group of orange), you want to destroy them, as they leave behind a powerup. While you can get through the game without powering up, it’s difficult, and you’ll lose your powerups a lot as you die.

If you’re brave and keep your way from the back edge of the stage, you can recollect your Options after you die, which is very helpful. Of course, you’ll inevitably die at the edge of the screen and curse your bad luck. The bosses are typically easy, I honestly think the hardest is level two, because if you don’t have the full complement of options with lasers, you can’t take advantage of slowdown for avoiding the rotating arms.

Graphics: 2.0

Things look good, and although the slowdown is there, it’s beneficial.

Sound: 3.5

Konami’s music and sound effects have improved over time.

Gameplay: 2.5

I say the gameplay is on par with its predecessor.

Difficulty: 2.5

A normal person isn’t going to take the time to memorize all of the enemy placements, so they won’t win with 12 lives. Even with the Konami Code, I had to continue once. It took 44 lives in all for me to win.

Fun Factor: 3.0

I might have some nostalgia for Life Force, but even though it can be frustrating, it’s fun.

Overall Grade: 2.7

Life Force earns a B-. This is certainly a fine title to have in your collection from 1988. Enjoy it.

Life Force Video Review on YouTube