Midnight Resistance by Data East, released in 1990 in the arcade and shortly afterward on the Sega Genesis.
I was always surprised that more developers didn't rip-off Konami's über-popular action game Contra in the 1980s and 1990s. It was one of those games, like Mario or Zelda, that everyone had and loved and played over and over - also, the design wasn't particularly complicated (or so it seemed). For the most part Konami had this whole genre on lockdown.
For this reason, when another half-decent run'n'gun showed up, any self-respecting vdeogame fan would take notice. Thus when Midnight Resistance appeared in the arcade, it was absolutely worthy of plunking a few quarters into.
Very quickly, it became apparent that MR was quite dissimilar to Contra. Though the theme was familiar, and it was a 2-player simultaneous game, the gameplay was quite different. Contra was loose and fast, with an emphasis on "plow forward, scavenge for pickups, and dodge/destroy relentlessly." MR was a bit of s slower and more calculated affair; for starters, the input was unusual (similar to the older Ikari Warriors cabinet, there were rotary joysticks which controlled your weapon aiming). This was a unique method of input, particularly considering that this was a side-scrolling platform game rather than a vertically-scrolling top-down where such controls were more prevalent.
Also of note, unlike Contra you had to collect currency (in the form of keys) to "unlock" different weapons between rounds. The most important point to mention is that, owing to the unusual control setup, the entire game plays very differently from your standard side-scroller.
The game showed up (with little fanfare) on the Sega Genesis home console some time later, which was notable as there were absolutely no run'n'guns (straightforward, or otherwise) available at the time. The game looked and was laid-out faithfully enough to the arcade source, but the control setup was less successfully translated than the aesthetic. It was fun, but certainly not the "butter smooth" experience that a "spoiled Contra veteran" would have expected (and they even ditched the 2P feature, come on this is 16-bit!)
Overall Midnight Resistance is a worthy title which has stood the test of time, due to it's unique presentation, cool 80's Action-Hero motif and appreciable alternative to "vanilla Contra." It's a game which many players could still find some enjoyment out of today, and it's absolutely worth a look.
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