Salamander (video game)

Salamander (video game)

Infobox VG

publisher=Konami, NTDEC (piracy)
designer=Hiroyasu Machiguchi
released=JPN July 4, 1986
NA August 1, 1988

EUR 1986
genre=Multi-scrolling shooter
modes=Single player, Cooperative
platforms=Arcade, Commodore 64, Famicom, MSX, PC Engine, Sharp X68000, ZX Spectrum
input=8-way joystick, 2 buttons
arcade system=Konami GX400
display=Raster, horizontal orientation, 256 x 224

nihongo|"Salamander"|沙羅曼蛇|Saramanda, 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 horizontally 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 player gains power-ups by picking up capsules left behind by certain enemies, as opposed to the selection bar used in other "Gradius" titles.

Version differences

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 indentical, 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".

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.



"Salamander" was ported to the Nintendo Famicom in Japan in 1987. Instead of being a direct port of "Salamander", elements were taken from both that and "Life Force" (mentioned later in the article), and some elements, such as levels and bosses, were removed to make way for new content. Most of the level graphics and enemy sprites from "Salamander", however, are used in favor of those used in "Life Force". The same year, North America received a port as well for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was practically identical to the Famicom port of "Salamander", other than featuring the "Gradius"-style power-up bar, 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 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.

PC Engine

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.

Home Computers

Ocean Software on their Imagine label, released licensed versions of "Salamander" for the 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.


"Life Force" was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System on August 1, 1988. Instead of being a direct port of "Life Force", elements were taken from both that and "Salamander", and some elements, such as levels and bosses, were removed to make way for new content. Interestingly, most of the level graphics and enemy sprites from "Salamander" are used in favor of the ones used in "Lifeforce", and it uses the "Gradius" power-up bar. The same year, Japan received a port as well for its NES equivalent, the Nintendo Famicom. The game was practically identical to the NES port of "Lifeforce", other than being titled "Salamander" and featuring an expanded Gradius-like power-up bar. These ports make use of the Konami Code, which in this instance increases the number of lives from three to 30.

PlayStation and Sega Saturn

The US arcade version of Life Force was part of "Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus". It also included the original Salamander, Salamander 2 and the Japanese version of Life Force (with the Gradius power-up bar) with a CGI intro.

PlayStation Portable

The Japanese arcade version of Life Force is part of the "Salamander Portable" compilation that was released on January 24, 2007 in Japan. It also includes Salamander, Salamander 2, XEXEX and as a special bonus the MSX game Gradius 2, which is different than the regular Gradius II: Ambition of Gofer/Vulcan Venture most people are used to.


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, Lord British of planet Latis.


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.

collapsed = yes
headline = Salamander Arcade Soundtrack (71:40)
title1 = Power of Anger (1st Stage BGM)
length1 = 1:39
title2 = Fly High (2nd Stage BGM)
length2 = 1:38
title3 = Planet Ratis (3rd Stage BGM)
length3 = 1:40
title4 = Starfield (4th Stage BGM)
length4 = 1:49
title5 = Burn the Wind (5th Stage BGM)
length5 = 1:43
title6 = Destroy Them All (6th Stage BGM)
length6 = 2:01
title7 = Aircraft Carrier (Gradius Boss BGM)
length7 = 0:51
title8 = Poison of Snake (Boss BGM)
length8 = 2:13
title9 = Peace Again (All Pattern Clear)
length9 = 0:38
title10 = Crystal Forever (Game Over)
length10 = 0:30
title11 = Thunderbolt (2nd Stage BGM)
length11 = 2:06
title12 = Slash Fighter (4th Stage BGM)
length12 = 2:18
title13 = Combat (5th Stage BGM)
length13 = 1:30
title14 = A Theme of the Salamander 2 (Title)
length14 = 0:39
title15 = Silvery Wings Again (1st Stage BGM)
length15 = 2:11
title16 = Sensation (2nd Stage BGM)
length16 = 3:37
title17 = All Is Vanity (3rd Stage BGM)
length17 = 3:21
title18 = Serious! Serious! Serious! (4th Stage BGM)
length18 = 2:29
title19 = Speed (5th Stage BGM)
length19 = 3:07
title20 = Dear Blue (6th Stage BGM)
length20 = 3:13
title21 = Power of Anger (Maeda Version)
length21 = 1:42
title22 = Planet Ratis (Maeda Version)
length22 = 1:55
title23 = Last Exit (Maeda Version)
length23 = 1:46
title24 = Theme of the Golem (1st Stage Boss BGM)
length24 = 2:05
title25 = Theme of the Mechanical Boss (Stage 2, 4, 6 Boss BGM)
length25 = 1:56
title26 = Theme of the Living Body Boss (Stage 3, 5 Boss BGM)
length26 = 2:38
title27 = Prelude of the Last Battle (Last Stage BGM)
length27 = 0:55
title28 = Giga's Rage (Last Boss BGM)
length28 = 2:45
title29 = Beginning from the Endless (Ending)
length29 = 1:37
title30 = What's Your Name? (Naming)
length30 = 1:07
title31 = And Then..... (Game Over)
length31 = 0:13
title32 = Slash Fighter
length32 = 4:29
note32 = by Motoaki Furukawa
title33 = Sensation
length33 = 4:18
note33 = by Motoaki Furukawa
title34 = Salamander & Life Force SE Collection
length34 = 5:01


*cite book|year = 2006| title = Gradius Portable Official Guide| publisher = Konami| id = ISBN 4-86155-111-0

External links

* [ Salamander - GameStone - Gradius Home World]
*moby game|id=/life-force|name="Life Force"
*KLOV game|id=9410|name=Salamander
* [ Salamander at the Arcade History database]

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