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 Post subject: ST: Salamander - Bigger, Longer & Uncut!
PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:24 am 


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Joined: 25 Jan 2005
Posts: 994
Location: Flenceburg
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OK, I'm finally getting around to redoing this since the old ST got buried in the ruins of the old forum. I'll try to throw in some screenshots where appropriate later.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the old ST (including but not necessarily limited to OmegaFlareX, leeram, and zaphod... anyone else I'm forgetting?) Thanks also to AWJ who pointed out a few bugs in earlier Salamander threads.

- A BRIEF HISTORY OF SALAMANDER -

This is a somewhat more confusing topic than most realize, as this game has gotten remixed and rereleased several times, often with each disparate version being renamed "Life Force" somewhere in the world. An attempt to untangle this mess shall follow.

This ST concerns itself with the original arcade Salamander, released to Japanese arcades in 1986 (?) as a psuedo-sequel to Gradius. (Similar ships, enemies, and weaponry, although you now pick up power-ups directly instead of fiddling with the power meter.) The Saturn, PS, and PCE versions are all more or less faithful to the original arcade version, although the PCE version has some differences (checkpoints, wobble mode, etc.)

Next, Salamander was released to the world arcades under the title "Life Force". This game plays pretty much the same although there are some cosmetic differences; the web background from stage 1 never goes away except for stage 4 (and 6?) for one example.

And then, in a move destined to annoy shmuppers for decades, Konami releases a remixed version of Salamander in Japanese arcades, which is also titled "Life Force". Unlike the "Life Force" described in the paragraph above, this game contains drastic graphic differences (mechanical enemies/levels were replaced with more organic ones), and adopts the old Gradius power meter system. This game is the "Life Force" you'll find on the Saturn and PS Salamander Deluxe Pack.

The "Life Force" most Westerners are familiar with is the NES version (also released in Japan as "Salamander"), which is, again, a different game from any of the above. In some ways it's a hybrid of the two Japanese games; it uses the Gradius power meter system like Life Force but the levels are mixed organic/mechanical like Salamander. The NES version has two new levels though, replacing stages 2 and 5 from the original. (CentralCore, the bubble generator from hell, was toned down quite a bit as well.) As is typical of NES ports of Gradius titles, there are a number of hidden 1-Ups and bonus point spots to find as well.

Finally, there's the MSX Salamander title, which is a different animal entirely. Most of the music is from the arcade title, and the first level is loosely based on the arcade's first level, but after that it's pretty much a unique game. Typically for MSX Gradius titles, Salamander MSX allows you to collect additional weaponry for your craft as you go along... all you have to do is collect 15 "E" items without dying for a new weapon. Good luck with that. ;)

- GAMEPLAY -

Pretty basic stuff, really. Pick up power-up items (which are worth 2000 points each whether they're actually useful or not), shoot everything, don't get hit. Power ups include:
  • Speed Up - speeds up your craft. One is enough, IMO.
  • Missile - Allows you to fire missiles, which in this game fire both above and below your ship.
  • Ripple - Fires a blue ring that expands as it travels across the screen. Better than nothing, but Laser is usually better.
  • Laser - Fires a narrow blue laser. Powerful, and thanks to this game's wonky hit detection actually seems to affect a much wider portion of the screen that it looks like it should.
  • Option - Spawns a glowing green orb that mimics both your ship's movements and firepower. You may have up to four. Upon death any options you have will slowly float offscreen, giving you a chance to reclaim them when your next life respawns.
  • Force - Attaches a Gradius-like blue orb to the front of your craft. Not quite as useful as it should be, given how just flying in the general direction of any object (including powerups :x) is usually enough to wear it down.
- Stage 1 -
  • The expanding stones mid-stage can all be easily removed for great just... er, points. You'll need the Ripple, Missile, and four options. Stick to the very far left with your options spread out vertically as much as they'll go, and blast away.
  • The regenerating goo near the end isn't too bad as long as you've got some options. Just stick to the far right with your options directly behind you, and keep firing.
  • Strangely the amount of points you get for Golem, the brain boss, seems to vary from game to game. I usually get 11300 or 16600, though I've heard of 0 and 6000 being possible.
- Stage 2 -
  • Strangely any asteroid hit with a missile becomes "defused"; additional missiles and even your ship(!) will then be able to pass through it unharmed.
  • Before Tetran (the boss) appears, line up your ship and options vertically between the high score and "Insert Coin/Push Start" indicator (or 2P score if you're playing the 2P side). Tetran will fly right into your line of fire, taking quite a bit of damage in the process.
- Stage 3 -
  • A frightfully easy stage, if you're armed with four options. (Missiles and lasers are good too.) Once the flames begin, just park your ship near the bottom, a bit off the left edge of the screen, with your options trailing above you. You'll never have to move except for the first rapid-fire flare, which you'll temporarily have to move to the top of the screen to dodge. (Return to your original position to dodge the next rapid-fire flare and the rest of the stage.)
- Stage 4 -
  • You'll notice, if you have missiles, that you're firing an additional missile toward the ground throughout this level. If you can manage to hit one of the ground hatches while they're open with a ground missile, you can destroy it for 2000 points (and stop the flow of any enemies coming out of it.)
  • The meteor shower mid-stage is easily dodged by positioning your craft below the gap between the 1P score and the word "HI" of the high-score indicator.
Finally, the boss; admit it, this is why you clicked on this thread, isn't it? :) As you know, most of the time this boss spews out a zillion fast-moving bouncing orbs that are nigh-impossible to dodge. Survival here pretty much requires you find a safe spot and wait for the boss to time out. (Strangely this boss is worth no points whether you destroy it or just time it out.) This can be done, but will require some pixel-perfect placement. Some ideas follow:
  • Yosshy's method. This is my current favourite - stick your nose in the wall just to the left of the rightmost core. Done correctly this results in the left core firing orbs that bounce around harmlessly within the boss while the right core fires orbs that bounce straight up and down. (Movie here; it's the third from the last link in the first table.)
  • Leeram's method - Charge the center core and poke your nose in as far as it'll go. Woe to those a pixel too low, however:
    Image
  • Zach's Crappy Method - similar to the first one, just more difficult to pull off. Hide in the top left corner, poking your left wing and nose as far into the walls as they'll go. This time the left core fires the straight orbs while the right one fires the harmless bouncers.
  • The WTF? Method - Occasionally you'll get extremely lucky and there won't be any orbs fired at all. This seems to occur more often upon subsequent playthroughs without resetting the machine.
- Stage 5 -
  • There's actually a place you can park to dodge the asteroid swarms without moving (below left). Just beware the odd peon that likes to sneak up behind you.
    Image
  • After the asteroids come six Rings of Death; a circle of enemies appears and rapidly converges on your location. These pretty much require options and missiles to deal with. I do so by waiting for a ring to appear with my options behind me, darting forward as they appear, then backing up again when the enemies have been destroyed or disappear.
  • Right after that, if you're fully powered up, quickly park your ship just under the high score with your options in a straight line underneath you, and fire away (above right). The swarming ships that you're not destroying will mostly fire wide behind you, but be prepared to inch forward a bit should a stray bullet get too close.
- Stage 6 -
  • Four options make the Big Core rush a breeze. Park in the top right corner with your options trailing directly behind, and hold down the fire button. Watch Big Cores fly straight into your fire and kill themselves.
  • The middle of the stage (a bit after the Big Cores and assorted waves of weenies that follow them but before the Moai) can be dealt with if you have four Options and Missiles by flying to the center of the very top of the screen, with your options trailing directly behind. Your missiles will take out anything destructable while the flame jets and floor sections won't affect you.

- Final Escape -
  • This works pretty well with no speed ups; haven't yet tried it with extra speed. Make sure you're above the top half of the screen right after the boss or the very first bar will hit you.

    The next four aren't difficult to deal with, but note that the last two of this set open toward the right. After them, quickly scoot up to the top of the screen just under the ones digit of the 1P score (the corridor narrows briefly at this point, so beware of that.)

    You'll miss several of the upcoming bars here, but after about six or so you'll need to dash over to the right, parking under the hundreds digit of the high score. If you timed this move right you'll be good for the rest of the speed zone. (This is where I'm worried extra speed might make you get there too fast and possibly hit something...)
  • Here's a movie of a similar method (second to last link of the first table.) The player backs off a bit at that sixth bar or so, waits to see how the next set of bars will close, then makes a mad dash through the openings for the top of the screen.
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Last edited by Zach Keene on Thu Aug 02, 2007 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 9:22 pm 


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Joined: 25 Jan 2005
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Location: Flenceburg
Updated with some final escape tips.

While I'm here, a few oddities:

The missiled asteroid bug also seems to apply to parts of Golem (the stem mainly). I've wondered if this in turn affects the scoring bug there but I've yet to find any correlation (i.e., fighting it without missiles doesn't seem to yield a consistent score.)

Now that I can consistently time-out the Stage 4 boss, I'm noticing that I'm consistently getting the no-orb version on subsequent playthroughs. Ironically this has lead to a few deaths, as I'm preparing for an orb assault that never comes and getting rammed by hatch drones that should have cleared up but haven't. Like Alex mentioned in the other thread, I'm guessing some sort of timer variable isn't getting reset here.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:37 am 



Joined: 09 Feb 2005
Posts: 626
That pesky stage 4 boss.


If you die on it, hen for the NEXT GAME ONLY< it will delay the orbfiring until the cores become vulnerable. this make it easy, but then the NEXT time you reach it, itwill be back to normal. I can repeat this.

Apparently if you beat it without dying, then you can have it show up orbless multiple times ina row. I bleieve the method I used was to NOT destroy the hatches at all until the boss shows up. i remeber I would stick to the left side until i gt there, and he woudlnt' fire.

BTW, the stae six strategy is NOT valid if you've one-lifed up to that point. you willusually find that one lone enemy shot comes right at you whiel you are stayig at the top. this doesn't happen if you've died even once anywhere.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 1:25 pm 


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Joined: 03 Sep 2005
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Location: nottingham, england
if the stage four boss is defeated then for any subsequent games it's a simple matter of quickly bombing the hatch just above the centre of the screen, then no blue balls will ever appear. For those using MAME a save state (play the game up to level 5, lose your lives, save state at the title screen) is a handy way of making sure those evil balls never appear ever again, though some might regard this as cheating i suppose.

I find the best way to do that part of level six is to stay about two thirds of the way up the screen, in the middle with multiples either side. In the unlikely event enemy bullets do appear then this gives you a reasonable amount of time and space to avoid them.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:13 pm 


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Joined: 25 Jan 2005
Posts: 213
Location: United Kingdom, Middlesbrough
The thing about the methis I use for level four is that if you line your options up behind you as you poke youself into the middle turret and still have missile, you will kill all the orbs almost as soon as they appear. You have to survive for the minimal amount of time.

I found on the easiest way to get the postition right is to go up as high as you dare, then just as the first ball fires out of the orb, knock yourself down a pixel, or maybe two.

At the very least you will force the balls to the top of the screen (they float abouve your ship) for long enough that you can pull down and kill the orbs whilst dodging just a couple of balls, rather than a gazillion of them.

The key though is to be quick, you want to be up that turrett before the wall starts to disappear

Cheers

Leeram


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 3:56 pm 


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I wanted to add a few things myself about the PC-Engine version of Salamander:

In stage 5, there are 7 rings of death, not 6. The first 4 are circular while the last 3 are spiral.

During the escape sequence (after destroying Zeros) at the end of stage 6, you can simply move to the very top-centre of the screen and stay there. All of the walls will miss the ship and you won't have to dodge anything.
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