December 20, 2006

[i]Contra[/i] is one of those games that has very deep roots in the world of gaming. It originally debuted in the arcade in 1987 and quickly made its way to the NES where its popularity skyrocketed. Revered as one of the classics, [i]Contra[/i] has seen its fair share of ports from the NES to the Sega Saturn and now the Xbox 360. [i]Contra[/i] was released in November on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 points. Let’s see how this 20 year old classic makes the transition to “next generation.”

The first thing that you will notice about this version of [i]Contra[/i] is that the port comes from the original [i]Contra[/i] arcade and not the NES version. [i]Contra[/i] underwent a lot of refinement before its release on the NES and it would have been a much better version of the game to bring to the Arcade. The game touts “enhanced graphics”, but you can only enhance them so much without getting away from the concept of XLA. Ultimately it’s a 20 yr old game so the graphics were never going to be astounding as we make the jump to HD, but as a personal preference I would have much preferred a later revision of the game as the basis for the port.

The controls were mapped out perfectly on the 360 gamepad making use of the A and B buttons, although a little part of me would have liked to see them throw in the use of a trigger for firing.

From what I can tell, the game stays true to form, and delivers a perfect arcade rendition of the original [i]Contra[/i] complete with insane difficulty. This version of the game is much shorter than its console brothers, but is still a tough game to complete. Lucky for us, the Konami Code made it into this release.

As with many of the new XLA games, [i]Contra[/i] has a co-op mode, but unfortunately I was unable to try this mode out. My research on the issue has revealed major issues with the co-op and the final consensus is that it just flat out doesn’t work. The 2 players engaged in the co-op game will become disconnect and each will be playing their own version of the game and see different things as they progress. Konami promised a patch for this, but I have yet to see one.

We set out to find out how this classic would fare in this high tech, next generation world and the bottom line is that it doesn’t fare very well. With a completely busted co-op mode, arguably the best reason to have the game, the game is relegated to offline gameplay which drastically lowers its value. I have my personal preferences about the graphics, but they don’t detract from the experience. [i]Contra[/i] is one of the greatest co-op games ever and Konami managed to release a half working port of it. Despite all these things it still might be worth the 400 points ($5) that it’ll cost you. I highly suggest you check out the demo first because I certainly don’t want any emails about people asking for their 400 points back.

If you have somehow managed to pass over [i]Contra[/i] all these years, this is not the version you want to start with. Find yourself an NES or pick up a Wii and hope that Nintendo ports the NES version to the Virtual Console.

P.S. Spread Fire is where its at!

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.