Retro Game of the Day! Super Contra
Super Contra, or "Super C" as I guess it is officially known (ecchhh!!) was released to arcades by Konami in the beginning of 1988 - the well-known (and much more playable) NES conversion released two years later, and two years after that for Europe (man....!)
As any good gamer knowns, Contra was really the prototypical side-scrolling shooter - run to the right, kill lots of alien soldiers and mechanical threats, dodge traps and cannon fire, collect powerups to become a more efficient killing machine. Unlike in the original, the sequel featured special top-view levels to break up the main horizontal-scroll levels (unlike it's predecessor, which used over-the-shoulder "first-person-rooms"). These vertical levels were remniscient of games like Ikari Warriors or Commando, though not as well-thought-out.
Anyway, Super Contra was more of the same that we saw from the original. The NES version was a little more colorful, with bosses that were probably a little more extravagant, but overall it just felt like a continuation of the first. That's fine, it just felt a little like "they could have put something a little more" in there, somehow - as a result, I tend to more fondly remember the original version, the second one feels like a B-Side really-
Another thing to mention is the famous Contra Code, which would give you an army of warriors to go forthand kick ass with in the first game (30 man code). They left it in the sequel, but stripped it to a 10 man code, hoping not to make the game as much of a wash. It was still fairly easy to blow through this game (remember, talking about the NES version here!), so I'd suspect they tempered the difficulty considerably. I mean, I don't remember having much trouble plowing through the game - but I don't think I have ever finished off the first without the 30-man code (Yeah, I am a pathetic excuse for a gamer, excuse me)
It should be noted that the arcade version, as was usually the case, looked and sounded considerably better than the home version - this was the difference between a custom 16-bit board and an 8-bit home console. Although, in the case of both Contra games, the home versions are just much more enjoyable to actually play. I remember being excited to see the Super Contra arcade at our local arcade as a kid, putting a quarter or two in, and just getting ruthlessly mangled. Not an easy game. Not even enjoyable! The NES one, while perhaps to dumbed-down, was at least considerably more forgiving.
Overall, Super Contra (in any of it's iterations) was a suitable follow-up to it's legendary pedigree. It's a mostly forgettable game in all aspects, not because it's a bad game but rather just kind of standard. The Contra series would grow by leaps in bounds in subsequent iterations, but in this gamer's humble opinion, the peak was the very first one - and it is still the most enjoyable.
That all being said, any fan of the first would do poorly not to check this sequel out. It may be more of the same, it may be a bit toned-down, but as I said "it's a B-Side Contra" - like with any band, you wanna see all the work that an artist did, at least the stuff that may not have been top-tier but was still good enough to release. It's still a lot of fun to play (and leagues ahead of things like Contra Force...)