Now on Xbox Live is Contra, but maybe not the Contra you remember if you’ve played the NES version. Contra was originally released as an arcade game with a vertical monitor and with pseudo 3D levels. The version on the Live Marketplace is based off of Konami’s arcade release, which some gamers never got a chance to play. Arcade or not, Contra is still Contra, the first run and gun shooting game.
In Contra your only friend besides your partner is your slow firing rifle. Your gun with its magically unlimited supply of ammo is the only stopping the Red Falcon troops from mindlessly running into you. Each stage has set areas where saucers carrying valuable power ups float overhead. Shoot one of these down to collect precious power ups like the spread gun to shoot five angled shots or the barrier power up to prevent death after touching a tiny circular bullet. Contra has five stages to master and two of them have a pseudo 3D perspective. In the tunnel stages electric fences prevent you from dashing through levels. When a fence blocks your way you have to shoot down all of the turrets to progress through. The tunnels have an additional challenge, time. If you can’t run though the tunnel quickly enough you’re going to lose a life.
Contra was a game that was always more fun and substantially easier to play with a friend and the Xbox 360 version adds in online play via Xbox Live. Nothing is more frustrating than playing an online game with lots of lag and getting killed by flickering bullets that vanish from the screen. Thankfully Contra doesn’t suffer from any severe lag problems. There are momentary periods of slowdown, but nothing that ruins the experience. In co-op online games each player is granted ten lives from the get go to beat the game. You can earn more lives by getting a high score, but after all of your lives are depleted all you can do is sit and watch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like many online players are willing to do this. As soon as they lose all of their lives they leave the game and if they are the host they end it too. This can be annoying if you’re trying to tackle some of the multiplayer achievements or if you get stuck with a player who thinks the best way to shoot down a tank is by running into it.
Considering that the only other arcade port is part of the Japanese only Oretachi arcade game collection and it costs about five times as much, Contra for the Xbox 360 is a pretty good deal. If you’re into the run and gun sort of thing.