LIFE FORCE / Konami / NES
Hmm. Life Force is one of those beloved classics of the NES, but that's probably mostly due to decades-old nostalgic memory. Firing it up again in 2011 was a pretty disappointing experience.
I mean, it's got some things going for it. Classic upbeat soundtrack, good pace and feel, and one of the relatively few console space shooters that lets two people play simultaneously. But it's also the very definition of a "memorization-based" shooter. You'll be punished harshly not a minute into the first level if you don't know where a bunch of walls are going to suddenly expand out on you. It teaches you how obstacles work by ambushing you and killing you with them rather than demonstrating them at a safe distance first. And a lot of the later levels are predicated on knowing what weapon configuration to have ready at what time, and if you get killed, you lose all your weapon upgrades, which is a virtual death sentence farther into the later levels.
I guess the best thing to say is "it hasn't aged well." The graphics were drab and low-detail even in the NES era and time really hasn't been kind there. Oh, and the ending is beyond terrible. Literally, Death Star explodes and you get a minute of Konami logo - not even credits thanking Fish Man and Hip Tanaka for their work.
* Gameplay Video