Let’s face it–Contra/Probotector costs a lot of money. For a game with such simple concepts, its popularity has, ironically, rendered it prohibitively difficult to access in order to play. If you, like many others, are stuck in this predicament, worry no more, because a reasonably inexpensive equivalent exists which harbours just as much artistic quality.
The name of this title is Atomic Runner, outside of Japan. Originally an arcade game, its transition to the Sega Mega Drive saw it undergo a host of changes both in form and in substance. Both Atomic Runner‘s game-play and plot were altered (supposedly for the startling similarity that the original Japanese arcade game bore to the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor meltdown), but this rendered it a far superior game according to the critics (Sega-16 review and forum discussion, GameFAQ review, Krooze’s Haunt).
With impressive mid-life-cycle Mega Drive parallax scrolling, and large (if only slightly repetitive), colourful backgrounds and bosses, Atomic Runner sports very solid game-play. Against many run-and-gun games (and indeed many shoot’em ups) AR really does hold its own. The myriad of power-ups and environments through which to peruse are interesting, and the overall theme of the game, a synthesis of ancient cultures and ultra-modern technology, is well-executed.
It’s both an opportunity and a shame that this game has been overlooked, because its developer, Data East hasn’t really been remembered for any of its fun and imaginative games. I might return to Data East and go through its history.
The only issue that is commonly identified with AR is its length. Because the game is so short, Data East correspondingly made the obvious decision to crank up the game’s difficulty a fair amount. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, though. This was a fairly frequent design formula for many developers, as computer memory and system processing limitations virtually bound them to making short, difficult games.
If the reader needs some persuasion, they should find their attention directed to the following video: