Japan is the source for a wide variety of greats that never hit North American game consoles, one of the more interesting is the retro pack Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus. It includes Salamander, Life Force, and the graphically intensive-- relatively speaking -- Salamander 2.
Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus
The gameplay is nothing new, as it's another side-scrolling (or in some stages, top-down scrolling) shoot-em-up like we've come to love or in some cases, loathe. Life Force and Salamander are both very similar games with slight variations in gameplay. More or less, they're two similar but graphically different games that are quite different from the NES Salamander/ Life Force game that was released in 1989.
Salamander 2, on the other hand, is a game based on the same old Gradius/R-Type formula with graphics that are just great. There's nary a polygon to offend the eye, as this is entirely hand-drawn graphics that many of the old school gamers in the world still enjoy without using words like "primitive." It's not Einhander, but it's one of the high points of the two-dimensional shooter during the 32-bit era of gaming, but truth be told there weren't many of them.
For those unfamilliar with the power-up system, it's like this: instead of being able to select your weapon when you collect the weapon pods, a defeated enemy leaves an item behind, and that's what you get. You might get shields, lasers, or options... or nothing at all. This provides a little more excitement to the game, but it also means that your options are more limited as to what you can use as the game decides for you most of the time.
I love this compilation. I'm a sucker for shooters, and I'm a sucker for retro, and the gameplay is fun enough to warrant giving this title a shot-- that is, assuming you'll ever find it. Unless you're a total loon for the genre, odds are you should pass on this if for no other reason than it's difficult to find. Parodius and Gradius packs were also made, and all of these were also sold in Japan for the PlayStation as well. All in all, this is a solid package, it's a lot of fun, and it's a shame American gamers were never treated to this collection, although it was almost imported for the original PlayStation along with the Gradius titles.
Additional pics available via the box below the image. Please allow for some loading time. It should be noted these images, watermarks and all, were originally taken for a feature that was meant for publication in 1998 or 1999.
April 6, 2004