Mind you, this my own opinion regarding this, while their library is awesome and they were ever present in arcades and on home consoles, Data East is a company that is rather slotted in the second tier of video game developers and manufacturers. A staple of the industry throughout the 80's and early 90's, they weren't necessarily the same household names Konami and Capcom were. Speaking of Konami, the subject of today's "The Boot", as we call it*, takes some mild liberties from the iconic run-n-gun series Contra with Midnight Resistance.
Midnight Resistance started out as an arcade game in 1989 and was ported to the Sega Genesis a year later. It also saw ports to the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and the Amiga. The arcade game, from what I remember, didn't name the characters, you just got the cold opening of the protagonist wishing his mother and sister stay safe as they come and rescue them. For the Genesis version, the character is named Johnny Ford, a militia fighter battling to save his family from a drug lords. That's so awesomely 90's, damn, I love it!
As the images show, it looks a lot like Contra. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but considering Data East was also taken to court by Capcom over Fighter's History's resemblance to Street Fighter II (a case Capcom lost). Some producers and artists in Data East's office are standing around mouth agape and palms skyward, indignantly asking, "What!? We DECIDED to have freedom fighters armed with assault rifles battling extradition! We also have rough ideas of three frogs, FROGS...rescuing a princess from a sexy evil queen. But you probably have a problem with THAT, DON'T YOU!!?"
The graphics are pretty good, this port does bear a pretty strong resemblance to the arcade, almost screen for screen. Some details in animation are missing, but other than some changes to the HUD, it's pretty beat by beat on par with the arcade. Right down to some of the general sluggishness Midnight Resistance suffers from. Can you call it slowdown when the entire game feels like you spilled a grape Nehi all over it and it got all gummy?
While the game is probably running at a locked 14 frames per second at all times, even portions where it feels like the screen stops to "load" up the next part of the stage (it looks more like someone putting a new slide on the overhead projector) I do like graphics. The backgrounds may be a little on the flat and lifeless side, but it's not short on expressive, comic book-like hues and sprites. It's also another run-n-gun where the enemies you're fighting start getting WEIRD. For a few levels, you're mowing down your soldiers and grunts in heavily armed military vehicles. Suddenly, your side-scrolling action game dabbles in some pages from the Necronomicon, rolls its eyes back in its head, speaks in tongues, and suddenly you're fighting demons from the fifth circle of Hell. Doesn't that beat all? Sometimes you just wanna blow up some tanks and stuff without trying to invite Satan to the party. And these are merely drug lords, what happened?
Control-wise, Midnight Resistance again sports a striking resemblance to Konami's series, but not quite as fluid, specifically with the aiming. You can fire in all eight directions, however, you can't crouch and shoot forward without locking the direction you're firing in. This is determined by which control setting you decide to play with, which is cool they give the option to toggle it. Depending on the setting, you can either hold down the B button and the designated direction, or toggle between modes that rotates your aim by continuous presses of the B button. Either or is entirely up to you, but Midnight Resistance does feel a touch more mechanical and stiff compared to Contra.
Power-ups are earned by how many keys you gather by defeating a certain enemy type, in this case "the red guy", and cash them in at the end of the stage (you can spend up to six). Th great thing is, and I might even give this a mild leg over Contra) the add-ons and weapons you buy don't go away after you die, you have a chance to collect dropped icons and keys. The downside is, this makes Midnight Resistance a game that doesn't provide a lot of resistance. It can get very easy, because these weapons are POWERFUL and can flatten even the end boss in a matter of seconds. Even when there's ammo caps or bumping up the difficulty, there's seldom a point where you feel like the odds are greatly stacked against you.
All in all, while Midnight Resistance is a perfectly serviceable game, there's very little reason to play any given Contra game over it. There's decent music, the controls are functional, the graphics are cool, and the stages are short and sweet. That being said, Super C, Super Contra, The Alien War, and Contra Hard Corps delivers much more enjoyment and satisfaction that Midnight Resistance can't.
I love ya, Data East.