C: The Contra Adventure
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Appaloosa Interactive
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • US 08/31/1998
Score: 45%

This review was published on 09/26/2016.

C: The Contra Adventure is a run and gun shooter video game developed by Appaloosa Interactive and published by Konami for the Sony PlayStation. It was originally exclusively released in North America on August 31, 1998. The Contra series began in the arcades and on various other 8-bit systems in the late 1980s, and it continued onto 16-bit platforms like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis in the early-to-mid 1990s, eventually making it to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in the late 1990s. Konami owns the Contra IP and normally develops the games themselves, but The Contra Adventure is the second of two games outsourced to Appaloosa, the first of which was Contra: Legacy of War, which came out in 1996 and 1997 on the PlayStation and Saturn. That game was terrible, and this one is no better. In fact, it may very well be worse. The Contra Adventure is wildly regarded as the worst game in the series.

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This game is a direct sequel to Contra: Legacy of War. In Legacy of War, Ray Poward and the other members of the Hard Corps saved Earth from an alien takeover by destroying the living planet they came from. As the ending of that game revealed, however, a single alien survived and hitched a ride on a meteorite. In The Contra Adventure, the surviving alien makes its way to Earth aboard the meteorite, eventually crashing near a Mayan temple somewhere in South America. Taking up residence within the temple, this lone alien somehow manages to amass a large force that it then uses to launch an all out invasion. A member of the elite Contra Force named Tasha was sent to infiltrate the alien stronghold, but goes missing during the mission. Having retired after the events of Legacy of War, Ray is brought back into active duty to find Tasha and destroy the alien infestation.

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Before each stage starts, you get a mission briefing in the form of a monitor with text on it. This is annoying due to the blaring noise the text makes. The briefings are also needlessly long and totally useless. It's clear that the only reason the briefing texts exist is to mask the long load times. You can sort of skip the text, but it won't make the stage load any faster, so you'll still be forced to stare at the virtual monitor for a few awkward seconds. The FMV sequences are also embarrassingly bad. There's not too many of them, but they all look silly, even by the standards of 1998. It doesn't help that the content within these FMVs is often conceptually ridiculous. For example, watching a cockroach-like alien riding a meteorite into Earth is stupid, no matter how good the visuals are, and they aren't. The in-game graphics aren't too bad, though, but the music is lacking. Ray will also occasionally say laughably bad lines with laughably bad voice acting, like "who's your daddy?" This game is laughably bad.

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This game is divided into many different perspectives and control schemes. Which perspective you get depends on the current stage you're on. There's a training mode that lets you familiarize yourself with the controls for the third-person mode, but it strangely doesn't show you how to control everything else. Regardless of the perspective, you have a life bar in this game. Normally, you die in one hit in most of the Contra games, but that's not the case here. This isn't the first Contra to feature a life bar, though, as the Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps on the Sega Mega Drive also had one. You still immediately carry on from where you last died like in the other games, but obviously, you have limited lives. This makes the game quite a bit easier, which may ruffle your feathers if you're a hardcore Contra fan and want things to be as hard as possible. However, this is one of the few things the game does that isn't actually bad.

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Almost all perspectives feature power-ups. The power-ups function like a mixture of how they did in Contra III and Hard Corps. Essentially, getting power-ups gives you different guns, and you're able to carry up to four weapons that you can freely switch between. You still lose whatever weapon you were currently using when you die, but since you've got a life bar now, you can take hits and still keep the weapon so long as you remain alive. The weapons include a flamethrower, laser gun, homing missiles, grenades, and the classic Contra spread shot. Most of these power-ups return from previous games in the series, though there are some new ones. Additionally, some power-ups are exclusive to certain perspectives, but most aren't. There's not much wrong with the power-up system in this game, but two things that do suck is that you can't replace the basic machine gun and everything is lost in between stages anyway.

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In a perspective the game's manual refers to as "Classic Contra," you control your guy in a side-scrolling view akin to the traditional Contra games. Everything is still technically 3-D for these parts, but the controls work like a 2-D game, similar to other 2.5-D games of the time like Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. The camera rotation during these parts is a nice effect. Anyway, the d-pad moves your guy and aims your gun, the square button fires, and the X button jumps. The classic somersault jumps are back despite being absent in Legacy of War. You can hold the L1 shoulder button to lock your character into place to make aiming the gun easier, and the R1 button lets you strafe. The circle button switches the currently equipped weapon and the triangle button lets you use a massive bomb that you have a limited supply of. These sections are definitely the best parts of the game, because they almost play like a real Contra game. If the whole game were like this, then it'd go from being the worst in the series to merely mediocre. Sadly, only the first and last stages play like this.

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The game falls apart during the third-person perspective areas. For this perspective, you view your character from behind as he explores fully realized 3-D landscapes. That may sound cool, but you have tank controls. In other words, pressing left or right on the d-pad will cause your character to slowly turn to face those directions, and pressing up or down moves you forwards or backwards. Pressing select makes you do a quick turnaround to face the opposite direction. You can also still jump by pressing X, but it's really awkward. Then there's the matter of shooting stuff. L1 raises your aim, L2 lowers it, R1 lets you strafe, and R2 makes you go prone. There's a little bit of auto-aim and you've got a laser sight, but aiming is still incredibly obtuse. Controlling this is an absolute nightmare. As if that weren't bad enough, missions in this perspective task you with searching for and destroying switches to open gates, giving them slightly maze-like layouts. The odd perspective and bad draw distance make it very easy to lose your sense of direction here, further adding to the frustration. This is by far the worst part of the game, and it's the most prevalent.

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Because two perspectives in one game weren't enough, there's also an overhead perspective. This works like those overhead stages that everyone hated from Contra III: The Alien Wars on the SNES, only much worse. All the controls for the overhead sections are precisely the same as the third-person parts, except you get a bird's eye view of the action. Jumping from this perspective is awkward, because it's hard to judge your elevation. Unfortunately, the game will make you do plenty of platforming during these parts, as if to rub salt into the wound. Thankfully, you don't have to worry about aiming the gun with the L buttons as much while in the overhead view, though it's strangely still possible to do that. Like the third-person stages, the objective of the overhead view ones is to locate and destroy special targets to unlock barriers. While annoying, finding stuff is admittedly less painful with a bird's eye view, but it can still be confusing due to the bad level design. The overhead sections are nowhere near as bad as the third person ones, but they still control like butt.

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Besides the third-person perspective, one of the worst viewpoints is this one with a fixed camera angle. At first, it may seem like this is the same as the third-person perspective, but it's not, because the camera isn't behind you, and there are no tank controls. This unique, rare perspective is used specifically for certain platforming sections. However, due to the fixed camera that always seems to be pointing in the worst possible angle, figuring out where the platforms are relative to you is a major issue. As a result of that, you'll probably die a lot during these parts through no fault of your own. There aren't many sections that utilize this awful perspective, but they're so atrocious that a single one is enough to ruin the whole game. Not that there's much of a game to ruin.

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Late in the game, you'll be stuck inside a "weightless elevator," which is basically yet another perspective and control scheme to deal with. When inside this freefalling elevator, you'll be restricted to the machine gun and can float around the screen by using the d-pad, similar to side-scrolling space shooters like Gradius. Unlike Gradius, however, the way you aim at stuff is different. Usually, you'll be able to spin your body in circles to shoot in 360 degrees. The problem is that this is extremely hard to control, making the simple act of aiming your gun an irritating hassle. You can still use L1 to lock yourself in place and R1 to "strafe," but that doesn't make aiming any less clumsy. Sometimes you'll be shooting stuff in front of you instead of to the sides, kind of like an on-rails shooter such as Star Fox, and aiming like this is considerably easier. It's still hard to maneuver yourself in the air, though. So yeah, the elevator section also controls like garbage, pretty much like everything else in the game.

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There are countless outstanding games in the Contra series, many of which are considered to be some of the best action games of all time, like Contra III and Hard Corps. To think that such an awful game came from such an awesome series is ludicrous, but it happened, and The Contra Adventure is proof of that. The reason it sucks is simple: there are too many perspectives and they all control poorly. The worst perspective also happens to be the most common. Contra's transition into the 3-D realm couldn't have possibly gone worse. This game is a disaster.

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