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Contra holds a special place in my heart. The blitz of action and super powered weapons, two player co-op, and shooting the heart at the end bullet by bullet to see how fast it would actually beat never really got old. Then there was the Konami code and the 1ups stolen between me and my brother. Good times.
So when Super Cyborg showed up, it was like getting an invitation to take my reflexes back to "those days". Super Cyborg isn't Contra, but it has plenty of its DNA programmed into its pixels which immediately makes it something special. It's more like a homage to Konami's famous series, one that liberally borrows from it to take players back to a time when a D-pad and two buttons were all that stood between you and alien conquest.
PixelProspector tipped everyone off on this 8-bit homage-in-progress for the PC developed by Artur Games which, for the moment, looks to be a two man effort by the programmer/designer "leftij" with music provided by Darkman007. Artur Games' blog is all in Russian, though Super Cyborg comes with an English readme file. Not that you really need it.
Like the inspiration that it follows, you can just dive into this one thanks to controls that hearken back to a simpler time. Just slip back into those warm, nostalgic NES memories if you have a gamepad for your PC and let A+B and Select handle the rest. If you don't have one, you can still get away with the keyboard.
The demo comes with two finished levels capped with boss fights, everything lovingly rendered with an 8-bit brush. The first stage eases you in and the next stage starts letting you have it with some clever enemies and tough obstacles such as turrets and exploding flies. And it's all awesome.
An undeniable Contra design vibe bleeds into everything from the weapons (laser, the machine gun) to the pods that weave through the air. Some of the glowy bullets even look borrowed from another NES classic, Lifeforce. Darkman007's 8-bit inspired tracks easily hit every 8-bit note.
And yes, life stealing even made the cut allowing one depleted player to rob his buddy to get back into the game.
The blog also has many more progress shots of how the development for the full game is going which will have several more levels and bosses, just like the original Contra, though there's no estimation on when it's going to be available. "When it's done" seems to be appropriate enough at this point.
So, Super Cyborg is off to a great start. You can download the demo from Artur Games' blog (the link is at the bottom of the entry for Super Cyborg) or pull it from Gamershell. In both cases, just extract the contents into a folder, double click the .EXE, and get ready for a little NES-styled action.