Way back in the days when the NES was king, a little game called Contra lit up consoles with all the action and gameplay excitement that a title like Gears of War would deliver today. Konami had delivered a game that two people could play cooperatively and have a blast while doing it. For those who are old enough to remember beat-em-ups like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and Ikari Warriors know the kind of game they could expect. Players participated in an up-scrolling shooter involving two commandos saving humanity from an alien invasion, and, two decades later, get to relive that fun on the downloadable version of Contra for the Xbox 360.
Or do they?
For starters, Konami decided to port the arcade version of Contra and not the NES version that is so highly regarded among gamers. Whether the decision was technical, financial or personal is unclear, but what is clear is that the versions are different enough to change any potential buyer’s attitude from “yay!” to “meh.” Add in the complication of the online play being horribly jumpy and non-functional a lot of the time and you have what can basically be called a “misfire” title for Live Arcade. Konami did, however, include the thirty-life cheat code the NES version had, but disabled the achievements when you use it.
The game involves a player taking control of one of the commandos and blasting their way into the enemy stronghold and defeating all enemies and boss characters. The weapon power-ups that are now considered cliché were the order of the day at the time, including rapid fire, spinning fireballs, lasers and a weapon enhancement that fires a “spread” of projectiles for handling many (or one very large) enemies at once. Yes, this is a fire button masher of a title if there ever was one. The difficulty can be really challenging at times as well (the way many games were designed during the “Golden Age” of gaming), but exceptional players can finish the game in twelve minutes. That’s right… twelve minutes. There’s even an achievement for doing so.
The graphic design seems a bit smoother than you might remember it from back in the day, no doubt due to whatever tweaks Konami has done to it for the Xbox 360. If you’re a fan of the arcade version of this title and want to take a trip down memory lane, then the 400 Microsoft points will be well spent. If you’re an online gamer who gets horribly frustrated by lagging co-op play, then by all means stay away.