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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Midnight Resistance

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

In the first of a regular series, we take a look at one specific game from the Antstream Arcade Retro vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay and tips, as well as what to expect when you play the game on Antstream Arcade. This month we present Data East’s brilliant arcade classic, Midnight Resistance, a meaty run ‘n’ gun extravaganza, originally released in 1989.

So what’s it about?

Midnight Resistance is Data East’s spiritual follow-up to another game, Heavy Barrel, and uses the same rotating joystick that became synonymous with the publisher’s previous hit, Ikari Warriors. Resembling the classic side-scrolling Contra, the game follows two brothers on a mission to rescue their kidnapped family, including their world famous scientist grandfather. Fortunately, the two are trained warriors, and able to wield a vast array of weaponry.

How does it play?

The game scrolls from left to right across a range of varied, but mainly dystopian levels. The player is armed initially with a machine gun, but this can be upgraded using keys that are dropped when enemies are destroyed. These enemies include common foot soldier grunts, gun emplacements, tanks and some downright weird machine/human hybrids. At the end of each level there’s a store where the player can spend the keys they’ve collected, from extra bullets and shields to more powerful weapons such as a shotgun, flamethrower and three-way shot. The brothers also have a backpack each, containing a useful additional weapon, similar to a smart bomb. Homing missiles fire out missiles that, erm, home in on opponents, while shower drops deadly projectiles from above.

What’s the aim of the game?

To spring your relatives, some of whom will be imprisoned in a box at the end of a level. If you don’t have enough keys to let them out, they’re not present at the end of the game and there’s a downbeat and awkward air to the subsequent family reunion. Makes a change to arguing about Brexit, we suppose.

Sounds Easy.

It’s not. Take a hit and all those valuable keys are scattered around the level, and not every baddie drops them in the first place. There’s also a massive horde of enemies up against the brothers and nine large, eight-way scrolling levels, each one a chaotic mix of platforms, buildings and tunnels.

Whoa. Ok, any tips?

First objective is to master the rotational gun control, and fortunately the initial mission is a relatively stress-free stroll through the city. Controlling the brothers can be tricky, too: they can jump, run and shuffle along the ground, and all three of those skills are vital to survive the later levels. Most enemies are eliminated with a single shot, making them dangerous only when in groups, or when they approach from two sides. The boss fights require a bit more nous, however, and it’s imperative you’re packing a more powerful weapon such as the shotgun. Otherwise, these bullet sponges will soak up your ammo before returning it – with interest.

What can we expect on Antstream Arcade with Midnight Resistance?

While there are no challenges yet for this Data East classic, there are some impressive scores posted on the game’s leader board. Antstream Arcade user Brandon Harris currently sits on top with just over half a million points, flanked by VeeRay (325,100) and Miles Tails Prower (301,200).

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to knock one of these guys off the podium?

That arcade cabinet looks familiar…

Maybe that’s because an original Midnight Resistance arcade cabinet makes a brief cameo in the 1990 movie sequel, Robocop II. Also appearing in the scene are fellow Data East video games, Bad Dudes Vs Dragon Ninja and Sly Spy; on a (probably) related note, Data East published the original Robocop arcade game back in 1988.

Finally, what about the home conversions? Wasn’t Antstream Arcade’s Jim Bagley behind one of them?

Indeed he was! Jim took on the ZX Spectrum home conversion of Midnight Resistance, and it’s regarded as one of the finest arcade ports on the Sinclair computer. “I loved the arcade game,” Jim tells us. “It had so many baddie types, lots of weapons and quite a few levels to complete, too.” Employed back then at developer Special FX, the coder remembers the day work began. “Ocean would basically send us games that the in-house teams were either too busy to take on or didn’t want to. One day, a guy came into the office with a silver briefcase – inside was the arcade board, controllers and cables to hook it up to a TV. That was all we got, no source code, no source artwork, just the board to play and work out a way to get it into the Spectrum.”

Together with Chas Davies (graphics) and Keith Tinman (sound), Jim created a marvellous adaptation of the arcade game, both colourful and fun to play. “It was such a great game, and I wanted to do as good a port as I could, adding colour and detail to the backgrounds. The multi-directional fire was always going to be an issue, as the Spectrum only had one fire button on the joystick. After trying a couple of ideas, I ended up with the method in the game as being the best way without over-complicating things.” Although Jim had to omit the arcade game’s multiplayer mode, he made sure pretty much every other element of the game was retained, a fact noted in the effusive reviews of the time. “I was very pleased with the final outcome – especially given all the effort we put in. That’s the best part, the fact that the players not only enjoyed it, but regard it so high as one of the best arcade conversions on the Spectrum. One of my many proud moments!”

Our thanks to Jim for his time – watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!

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