to the venerable shooter Gradius,
Life Force succeeded largely because of its amazing graphics, unique theme,
and stellar two-player simultaneous gameplay. You pilot Vic Viper through
a variety of side and top scrolling levels, blasting fools and collecting
power-up chips to cash in for new weapons. Many remember the grotesque
somatically themed first level, a grisly affair that finds you jetting
through your adversary's fleshy body. Each level climaxes with an intense
As was the case
with most shooters of the time, Life Force is absurdly hard. Only the hardest
of the hardcore were able to finish the game without resorting to the life-giving
"Konami Code" (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start).
The hellish Prominence Stage was often the end of the line for noble non-cheaters,
and only one of our intrepid editors has finished the game without the
code. Strangely, the Japanese game Gradius II is basically a pseudo-sequel
to Life Force. Every level scrolls horizontally and nearly all of the Life
Force bosses return. Sadly, the title never made it to the US.
raged about whether or not Compile's The Guardian Legend truly belonged
in this genre. It does have intense vertically scrolling space shooter
levels, but the majority of the game is a Zelda-esque sci-fi action/RPG.
Well, its many supporters placed it here because you can play exclusively
the shooting levels via a password. Regardless of how you classify it,
the game is an underrated gem worthy of a second look. Incredibly long
and difficult, this game has more plot and atmosphere than many true RPGs
of the period, and gave birth to the strangest genre ever, the shooter/RPG.
1988, FCI released this forgotten Compile classic, a bewildering top-down
shooter with relentless waves of metallic enemies. The plot is a generic
throwaway, but the game itself is masterfully tailored to adapt to your
playing style. Difficulty is magically adjusted to match your skill level,
so anyone can have a fun time playing the game. Compile also created the
other runner-up, The Guardian Legend, and then went on to create the hardcore
classic M.U.S.H.A. for the Sega Genesis. Tragically, as shooters began
to slip into obscurity, the team resorted to merely making puzzle games.