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A.P.I Review: SALAMANDER: Deluxe Pack Plus
Developer: Konami OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Konami 1-2 Player
Game Type: Shoot-em-up Memory Card
Review Date: May 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

Riding on the coattails of the current Retro-gaming craze, Konami 
has decided to throw their hat into the ring and offers us a "blast from 
the past" shooting "3-fer".

The Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus comes complete with three (mostly
enjoyable) scrolling shooters crammed into a package that is sure to
please both hard-core and novice "fire em up" fans alike.

As you may or may not know, sitting down to review a shooter for me 
is akin to a root canal...well, maybe not that severe, but minor 
dentistry to be sure.  The scary thing is that I am actually starting 
to enjoy these blasted games and can see how people can become easily 
addicted to his genre.  The action is fast and furious and it's the 
kinda game that you just want to keep playing to try and get a little 
further along each time you enter the fray.

So with that said, let's jump into our little sprite rocket and start
blasting some's time for Salamander!


Salamander Deluxe Pack is a scrolling, beat-the-boss at the end of 
each level "twitch" type shooting game.   Salamander's roots are 
obviously firmly embedded in the soil of shooting game legends like 
Space Invaders, Galaxian and R-Type.


There is an interesting progression on the games in this package.  
It's eye opening to watch the small improvements from Salamander 1 to
Lifeforce (the second game on the disc) and then the quantum leap to
Salamander 2.

All of the games are sprite based and very colorful.  I will explain 
a bit about each one separately just to compare the differences.

Salamander 1 was created back in 1986.  It features nice multi-colored
sprite design and some innovative scrolling techniques.  Explosions,
laserbeams, scaling and other special effects are obviously just
multi-layered, variable sized sprites flashing on and off, but the
effects are great and enjoyable to watch.  What you won't find here are
polygons, light-sourcing or transparencies... that kind of stuff was
surely still on the old drawing board when this game was created.  
Still and all, the game manages to be engaging and vibrant...the old 
fashioned way.

Lifeforce was brought out in 1987 and is basically a supplement to
Salamander 1.  There is a larger palate of colors to dazzle your eyes
and subtle improvements in the overall graphical presentation of the
game.  Guess technology didn't progress as rapidly in the "old'en" 
days in comparison to today...sigh.

Salamander 2 is a different story entirely. It was released in 1996 
and clearly shows what a difference a decade can make in videogame
technology.  The leap in graphical brilliance is astounding...smooth
parallax scrolling, transparencies, sprites mixed with
name it, it's in there.  While the game plays basically the same, the
amount of on-screen objects has virtually doubled.  Background
animation's are riveting (and distracting...errrr) and the level of
detail is on par with some of the finer shooters that have been 
released recently.  Don't get me wrong here...the graphics can't touch 
Einhander, but they are engaging just the same.

Oh, there is also a nice, fast-paced CG opening video for the game pack
when you load up the disc and a separate one for Salamander 2 when that
game is selected.  Nothing earth shattering, but worth a watch or two.

If nothing else, it's just plain interesting to watch the gains that
have been made with the eye-candy portion of these games.

Sounds and Effects

Salamander 1 and Lifeforce have virtually identical sounds and game
music.  Both are heavily synthesized oriented and feature some top-notch
melodies that do the job in getting the player primed and into the
action.  I especially liked the catchy little tune that plays at the end
of the game when you are putting in your high-score initials.  Lots of
neat synth sounds.  There is also an attempt made to utilize a computer
voice to identify your power-ups and describe the bosses, levels, etc.
For the most part it is unrecognizable, but heck it's a nice touch.

Special effects sounds are primitive but functional.  Lots of bleeps,
pops and sizzles all used to simulate gun fire, missiles, explosions and
laser weaponry.  None of that redbook audio or wave based Midi samples
here friends.

Salamander 2 is also synth based, but the melodies and song arrangements
are much more complex and enticing.   The music is similar to the
earlier titles to retain cohesiveness, but show just how far sound
sampling and music composition on silicon have come.

Of course the special effects sounds have benefited from the years as
well.  You can hear the multiple channels and blending of various sounds
now and the overall effect is much more genuine.  Here's the funny part
though...the voice still sounds exactly the same!  This had to be


While each game is similar in style and execution, there are subtle
differences to warrant a small write-up on each of them separately.

Salamander 1 pops up and gives you the choice or 1 or 2 players and the
options menu.  Jump into the options screen and you have the following
configuration choices:

 - Adjust your lives from 2 to 7
 - Five difficulty settings
 - Screen adjustment
 - Mono / Stereo
 - Button configuration.

After you bump the lives to max and set the difficulty to extremely 
hard your ready for action!

The first level has your trusty little ship side-scrolling through what
appears to be a living organism complete with blood vessels and of
course defense mechanisms.  Cruising left to right you can maneuver your
ship up or down, forward / backwards as long as you continue moving
ahead.  Lag too far back and the screen will just carry you along on
your journey.  There are of course plenty of objects to dodge and shoot
at as you traverse the internals of this living being.  Cells walls
regenerate and try to close in on you so you must stay in constant
motion just to survive.

There are loads of other ships flying in strategic formations that you
must try to destroy so that you can pick up the various power-ups that
they leave behind.  You can obtain multi-directional lasers, missiles,
bombs and other assorted goodies to help you along the way.

Of course you also have your big boss at the end of each level battle
that you must win in order to advance.  The Bosses are creative and
quite large each with their own patterns that need to be discovered 
to ensure a victory.

Complete the first horizontal scrolling level and you are thrown into a
vertical-scrolling match.  Now all of the object are coming at your from
top to bottom as you travel up the screen.  Same basic premise, just a
different perspective.

Lifeforce is essentially the same game as Salamander 1 with a few
notable tweaks.  You now only have a maximum of 6 lives and the game 
is much harder.

You travel through what is basically the exact same environment, but the
enemy AI has been improved and bit more obstacles are thrown in your
path.  Even the end bosses are the same except they are harder to beat
and they are graphically represented a bit better.

I found the ship control in both of these games to be a bit too sluggish
for my tastes.  The ship certainly moves when you command it to, but it
always seemed just a tad too slow.  Also, when trying to back off from a
particularly crowded screen of nasties the ship seemed to be moving
through molasses.  Once you get used to it though and adjust your
strategy appropriately I found both game to be highly enjoyable.

Salamander 2 uses the same formula as the two previous games but brings
things into the `90's.

First up, you get up to nine lives, with continues once you have
exhausted those lives.  The nice thing is that the continues leave you
off exactly where you died last...not back at the beginning of the

The objects that you face are much more detailed and challenging to
fight.  There is also a whole hell of a lot more going on in the screen
at one time than in the two previous games.  I often found myself losing
sight of my ship because the action got so busy.

While you still travel horizontally or vertically from level to level,
the game has a more three-dimensional feel to it, due largely to the
enhanced graphics and overall level design.  You now have to dodge
flames, huge space faring battle cruisers and other intricately detailed
obstructions.  It's a darn good thing that the ship control has been
tightened up and feels more responsive than the prior games so
everything seems to fall into place better.

The end bosses are absolutely enormous and really give you a go for your
money.  It's pretty easy to suck up a good deal of lives until you get
their pattern down and implement your attack strategy.  I really like
one of the levels in which you are chasing after one of the bosses and
all of a sudden a bigger boss enters the screen from the right and
gobbles up the smaller boss.  Very nice and unexpected...a good 

The two-player game is basically the same, except you can team up with a
buddy and cause mass destruction instead of by yourself.  A second
player is able to jump into the action at any time during the game by
just picking up a controller in port two and pressing start.  Easy...

Overall the Deluxe Pack Plus is a great shooting package that combines
the best of the old and new shooting genres onto one disc.  It's
straight ahead, no nonsense approach is both refreshing and challenging
and entices the player to forge ever ahead.

Value for Money

While I would tend to believe that the showcase title on this disc is
certainly Salamander 2, the other two games that are thrown in are 
like icing on the retro-cake.

All three games play very similar to each other, but offer up just
enough differences to each warrant a separate play.  The only downside
is that the games are a bit short, and once you have completed them 
you may not wish to play them over and over again.
GRAPHICS: 16/20 The Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus will surely offer up a nice enough diversion in your daily game-playing schedule.
The level design is top-notch and the difficulty factor walks the fine line of frustration and enjoyment perfectly.
While the graphics on the first two games are a bit dated, the games themselves are still just as challenging now as they were then.
The real star of the package though has got to be Salamander 2 with it's above average graphics, great sound effects and appealing level designs. Getting the other two games thrown in just rounds out the retro package perfectly.
If you like twitch based shooters, you will in all likelihood enjoy this package, otherwise I would recommend a rental just for the novelty of the games. My overall scores will reflect the package as a whole and have been reflected as such.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 16/20


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