Following the success of Gradius on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Konami jumped at the chance for a spin-off. Released as Life Force in North America, the space shooter was released in 1986 by Konami. Vic Viper returns and so do the Easter Island Heads. It’s once again time to defend yourself against aliens in this Life Force review.
Life Force Plot:
From the manual:
“The birth of Zelos could mean the death of zillions.
In a remote quadrant of the universe, there was hatched a hideous creature. His proud parents, Ma & Pa Deltoid, named their only son Zelos, which in alien lingo means “one mean son of a gun”. (Holy shit)
As Zelos grew into an adult space monster, his appetite turned ravenous, his temper became ruthless, and his name proved an understatement. It didn’t take long for Zelos to leave the nest and to go out on his own, devouring everything in sight, including three galaxies, four hundred planets, two trillion lifeforms, and a side order of stars (Jesus Christ)
Then your innocent galaxy appeared on Zelo’s menu, and he chowed on an entree of roast Gradius, with the planet Latis for dessert. Now, the only chance these civilizations have of escaping from his digestive tract lies with you and your star-fighting partner.
But your odds look pretty grim, for Zelos is full of floating armada terror zones, which are cities that have become a part of Zelos after being eaten. Each of these zones is loaded with tremendous firepower and unbelievable destructive surprises. You’ll also find that Zelos’s heart and soul are positioned safely behind his traitor fleet. That means you’ll have to devastate the six Terror Zones and blast away their grotesque mayors before reaching Zelos’s main artery and putting an end to his eating binge.”
This story is quite silly but at least there’s a story and I can appreciate the goofiness to it. I assume the writers were just having fun with it. While they mention Zelos, I don’t recall killing any Zelos during my Life Force review.
Life Force Gameplay:
My Life Force review was challenging. Sometimes due to my lack of skills, sometimes due to the unfair nature of the game. My first experience in unfair death was these weird paths that were made out of purple ooze. The paths grew quickly and sometimes they would shut without giving any warning that they would turn into dead ends. I don’t care for games that give you instant deaths for choices out of your control. To get around this, I kept my ship near the edge of the right side of the screen praying that no enemy ships would fly into me as I raced to beat any ooze that turned into dead ends.
The enemies in my Life Force review were relatively easy. All the ships and monsters were a breeze to defeat with most using predictable patterns. What kills you is the environment. I died more times by running into a floor or ceiling while cruising through the level. It was a bit frustrating but thankfully after a few attempts, I’d get past the hazards.
Boss fights during my Life Force review were the best part of the experience. That’s not to say they were outstanding by any means, but at least knowing I was making my way toward a boss kept me going. The first boss was a giant brain with arms. Flying around the screen in a circular motion helped me defeat it with ease. Other boss fights included a fire dragon that was too easy, a skull with two floating eyes that popped out of the head and attacked, a killer robot with four arms, and an Egyptian head with a cool effect of floating orbs. One of my biggest disappointments during my Life Force review was the final boss. It looked like a giant throbbing testicle and it was a snooze to beat. After all the struggle to make it to the end, I was greeted with Zelos’s pounding sperm bank.
After you defeat Zelos or whatever that was, your ship must pass through an incredibly hard corridor of collapsing walls. I beat this using an emulator but anyone that does it legit is a real skilled gamer. I bet a lot of gamers were pissed about having to make it through this section after believing they beat the game. It sucked, and I didn’t think it was necessary. Speaking of near-impossible stunts, there was thing neon asteroid field that kicked my ass a million times. I didn’t think I’d ever get past it but thankfully I did.
One enemy that brought a smile to my face was the Easter Island Heads. I enjoyed them during my Gradius Review and I was happy to see them back in the spin-off. I’d love to see them in any sequels that I happen to play in the future. An element to Life Force that is severely lacking is the music department. I barely noticed it and was surprised that there wasn’t a rocking soundtrack to go along to blasting aliens.
It had been a while since I had played an NES game so I decided to return to a series that I was interested in. Life Force took me two days to beat but I was shocked at how little it had improved from Gradius. In fact, it had regressed! I was bummed as shooters are typically one of my favorite genres to play.
Life Force Review Score:
My Life Force review was lacking in just about every department. If this was a stand-alone space shooter it may have scored better but this was a spin-off of Gradius and was supposed to improve. It didn’t. I found less enjoyment, environments that were unfair, and boss fights that were unsatisfying. Life Force regressed.
Life Force scores a 5.7 out of 10.
What would you write in your Life Force review? What was your favorite boss? Which level did you find the most difficult? Were you able to get past the closing corridors? Let me know your thoughts and comments, I’d love to read them.