As great an action game as it was, the arcade version of Contra wasn’t the audience grabber the NES version would turn out be. It’s still a quintessential piece of action gaming, including a solid Xbox Live translation. The arcade sequel, Super Contra doesn’t mix up the formula, but still provides a brutal challenge that die hard retro gamers and 360 owners can appreciate.
The Red Falcon returns to ravage Earth and once again, only two soldiers can take care of the problem. In the classic side scrolling fashion, players wipe out the invading forces while two stages break up the action from an overhead view. Power-ups are plentiful and like the original arcade board, continues are limited.
The main issue with both of the games in the arcade is the control. It’s overly loose, never really allowing you to immediately switch a position to hit an enemy above of below you. It compensates for all of the points missed between the 8-direction firing so many games have used in the past (and still do). It’s frustrating to run right by an enemy on a platform above you with guns firing only to see the bullets pass right below him.
Jumping is also somewhat floaty, especially if you have become accustomed to home editions prior to this first true arcade translation. There’s an issue with the weapons too. You have no way of telling what you pick up. Every power-up looks alike, adding to the game necessity to memorize everything.
Otherwise, the action is still intense, fast, and fun. With two players, it becomes an even deeper experience, rich in piles of enemies. This is a game that will challenge even the die-hard Contra experts. Two overhead levels radically alter the gameplay mechanics. It leads to some careful navigation, and required rock solid cooperation when playing with a friend over the smooth Xbox Live co-op feature.
Most of the upgrades to the graphics engine are evident in the backgrounds, including some nice parallax and increased detail. Digital Eclipse has also taken the time to update the detail, including some stunning heat effects from the explosions. This can lead to some lost bullets buried into the backdrops when the screen becomes filled, so those gunning for the high end achievement points will likely want to stick with the classic sprites.
Super C also features a pounding, brutal, and fast paced soundtrack. It’s unforgettable material. Like the visuals, there have been some modern tweaks to this portion of the game as well. This upgrade is subtle but powerful.
With a reasonable $5 price tag and flawless co-op online play (unlike its predecessor), Super Contra is a steal amongst the crowd of Live Arcade titles. While it doesn’t have the length or depth of its NES counterpart, the sheer difficulty and urge to take down the alien horde is still present.
Super Contra is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence.