Reviewed: January 31, 2007
Released: November 8, 2006
As a young kid I have fond memories of playing the original Contra on my NES. Needless to say I was excited to hear that it was being emulated on the Xbox 360. One thing I didnít realize was that there were two different versions of the game. The original NES version was what made the game popular while the Arcade version, while not bad, wasnít nearly as good.
Itís unfortunate that Iím writing this review about Contra, the arcade version. Iím not sure why Konami decided to go with this version as opposed to the more popular NES one, but in any case that is what happened. My only explanation is that it was an arcade game that they decided would play well with Xbox Live Arcade.
The story follows Lance and Bill (two ultra ripped guys) who will stop at nothing to infiltrate the Red Falcon organization that is plotting to conquer earth. A simple premise thatíll have you jumping, ducking, running, and blasting your way through eight stages armed with only a machine gun.
This isnít your daddyís machine gun; it can be upgraded to use fireballs and lasers. Not to mention it can also be used in rapid fire mode and used as a spread gun (talk about multiple functions).
Youíll be using your machine gun on a variety of enemies including aliens that look like human soldiers, turret guns, and a number of other alien creatures. Using the spread gun on these aliens is the best part of the game and is one of the best weapons I have used recently.
Given this games age, itís easy for me to say how simple the controls are. All you will use throughout the course of this action game is the D-pad and your fire button.
Beyond the short single player story is the co-op mode available both online and local two-player. Despite the promise of a patch several months ago, Digital Eclipse has yet to fix the totally busted multiplayer. Online, the two players will continually lose their synch so even if you see your partner fighting alongside, chances are they may already be dead and you just don't know it. This is a common bug you can recreate every online game if you play long enough.
Things are slightly better with two-player local co-op. At least the action between the two players is synched so you don't get any glaring bugs like you do online, but if one player dies you cannot reenter the game until the other player also dies. So despite the flashing PRESS START at the top of the screen you are merely a spectator until you both meet your doom. And even then there are frequent instances where player 2 cannot reenter the game, even at the proper time.
Like most other old school Xbox Live arcade games this one has the original version and the updated (graphically) version. The updated version isnít as updated as I was expecting and the differences are very subtle. In fact, Iím willing to say that all they did was smooth-out the original graphics as apposed to spicing them up. I canít tell a difference other than the lack of sparkly pixels.
The sound has also been upgraded slightly, but isnít far off what the original game offered. Slightly new, yet simple explosions and machine gun effects were added along with updated background music. The only thing this really adds or rather takes away from the game is the ďtrue old school feelĒ the game has without it.
Achievements are what most people are after with Xbox 360 games and this one offers up twelve like most arcade games. The majority of these are hard to get and two of them seem impossible to an amateur like me. Finishing this game in less than twelve minutes seems out of reach. And beating the entire game with only one credit seems utterly impossible. Iím sure veterans of the game who grew up playing it will have no trouble tackling all twelve of these achievements, but for novices like me and many others, it will require dedication to master this short game.
Digital Eclipse has done a nice job emulating Contra (arcade version). Unfortunately it wasnít the NES version everyone wanted, but once you get over that issue youíll discover itís a fun game.
The co-op mode has the potential to give the game a decent replay value if they ever get around to patching it, but for now you'll have to stick with the challenging eight levels that will make for a decent arcade gaming experience. Download this game if you have enjoyed any other Contra game in the past, it only costs 400 MS points.