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Mechanical City Stage ( Salamander Fortress )[edit]

Life Force stage6 screen1.gif
  • This is the final stage, where you make your approach to Zelos' fortress, breach it, and destroy the evil force threatening your home planet. It starts out with squadrons of Beruberumus attacking you. Unlike most stage beginnings, most of these enemies are blue and do not provide you with any power-ups. However, a few gold squads will be mixed in with the crowd, and the first set provides you with a Force Field. After the Beruberumus, a new kind of ship arrives. Each one will take fly down, stop near the top of the screen, take one shot at you, and retreat.
  • Life Force stage6 screen2.gif
    As the stage progresses, the terrain will scroll into view. You will see orange glowing bursts rise from the ground, and they are quite lethal. They must be avoided entirely. After the ships stop appearing, the only other enemy you must worry about for a short while are the Crystal Bombs. They appear from various locations at the top of the screen, and generally streak toward you. They also fire projectiles at you quite aggressively. If you don't have sufficient fire power, the safest maneuver is to fly around the bottom in a sideways figure 8 (fly to a bottom corner, then about half way up the side, then to the opposite lower corner, up the opposite side, and so on.)
Life Force stage6 screen3.gif
  • After the Crystal Bombs stop, a few more ships will appear to attack you before you head deeper inside the fortress. There is less to be concerned with in the NES version compared to the arcade version. There are no tiles ripping off the floor. There are, however multi-directional cannons that fire as soon as they appear on the screen. This means even if your Missiles get to it quickly, you will still have to dodge fire from both sides at least once.
  • Life Force stage6 screen4.gif
    Orange bursts will still appear here and there, especially near narrow passageways, so be on the lookout for them. Additional craft fly through, some giving you the opportunity to power up. The next enemy to worry about are small cylindrical objects on either side of the wall that wait for you to reach their height. When you do, they cross the passage to the opposite wall, and then launch at you from there. They are easily removed with Missiles.
Life Force stage6 screen5.gif
  • Deeper into the fortress, you will discover a surprise: the Moais. The Easter Island statues make their appearance in every Gradius game and Life Force is no exception. For the most part, they behave the same as before. They open their mouths and fire glowing rings on to the screen. The rings don't move quickly, but a large number of them will appear. Firing directly into their mouths will make them explode after you do enough damage to them. In the wider regions of the fortress, the path may split. You will find Moais on either side.
  • Life Force stage6 screen6.gif
    Deeper in, multi-directional cannons will appear behind some of the Moais. Their close proximity to the statues makes them hard to hit, even with Missiles. Eventually you will begin to hear the boss music. At this point, two separate Moai statues will appear, one on each side. These statues can actually leap off the sides. They will spring towards you before opening their mouth to fire at you. Try to destroy them before they have a chance to land and jump again. Beyond those two, a handful of statues and cannons await before you reach the boss.

Boss: Zelos Force[edit]

Life Force stage6 boss.gif
Life Force stage6 escape.gif

Zelos is a little different in this version. Rather than appearing from behind and becoming mounted to the wall as he does in the arcade version, his heart is suspended in the middle of a room. Once in view, a green salamander dragon will appear and fly around and through Zelos' heart. As it does, it rains blue orbs down on your ship. The heart will be invincible as long as the green dragon is alive. Avoid the orbs that fall from the dragon, and shoot the head as fast as possible to remove it from the chamber. Once this happens, the screen will begin to slowly advance. Now the heart is vulnerable, and you must shoot it before it crushes your ship.

Once Zelos has been destroyed, the fortress will engage in an effort to lock itself down before it self destructs. As a result, you will be forced to fly through a variety of barriers that extend from the walls on either side. The pace of the scroll is extremely fast, and you really won't have a lot of time to react to the appearance of the barriers. Even flying all the way to the top of the screen will result in you dying at least once if you're not careful. This strategy is fine if you've managed to store up a couple of lives. Once you slip past the last barrier, you will be free to watch the ending. After the ending concludes, you will begin back at Stage 1 again at a higher level of difficulty.