Salamander (MSX version) mini review
One of the main reasons I bought a Japanese Wii U was to play MSX games on my GamePad so when the Wii U received the MSX version of my second favourite shoot-em-up of all time (after R-Type), it was an instant day one purchase. I was introduced to Salamander on the original PlayStation and shortly after bought the Famicom cartridge (unfortunately not the transparent one!). Despite three versions being available on the Wii U Virtual Console, each version is significantly different from the other.
The storyline of Salamander is pretty standard: you already saved the innocent people of Gradius from the vile Bacterions, but now you have to rescue the millions of Gradians from Zelos; an all-engulfing, planet-eating alien who’s hungering to take a bite out of you! Salamander begins very much like Gradius -being an unofficial official sequel- and features the same power-up system (I’m a Ripple and Option guy!), the main difference being simultaneous two-player action plus several vertical scrolling levels.
Salamander starts as expected with the first two levels resembling the arcade (and PC Engine) version(s). The next three are playable in any order and all absolutely excellent (apart from the lights-out section!) with the final level again being a variation of the arcade (there’s actually a bonus level playable after plugging a Gradius 2 cartridge into the second MSX cartridge slot and finding every in-game ‘prediction’ hidden in each level, although this extra level is unfortunately not playable on the Wii U version).
Also a negative is the horrible choppy scrolling of the MSX although it can certainly be lived with. The graphics are otherwise excellent with the soundtrack typically brilliant for an eighties Konami game. Where the game really shines is with the bosses with Konami easily outshining Nintendo in the end-of-level stakes. Trying to determine which of the three Virtual Console Salamander releases is the best is certainly subjective. It might be a cop-out answer but shoot-em-up fans really should check out all three.