Contra
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • US 02/02/1988
    • JP 02/09/1988
    • UK 12/28/1990
Score: 80%

This review was published on 07/29/2013.

Contra is a 2-D, side-scrolling game of the run and gun variety developed by Konami and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In Europe the game is known as Gryzor or Probotector, due to copyright issues involving the Contra name. Contra actually started out on the arcades first, and then a stripped down home console version was created for the NES and a few other platforms. The other platforms include the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, MSX2, and even a DOS version for the PC. People are most familiar with the NES version, so that's what this review will be tailored to. Contra is a series that is defined by its constant stream of completely unfettered action and extremely high challenge level. Completing any of the Contra games is worth bragging rights, especially if such a thing was done without resorting to the famous Konami code. The Konami code, for those who don't know, is a code that can be entered in a lot of Konami's action games, mostly in the Contra series, that gives you a bunch of additional lives. In this game, the Konami code gives a whopping thirty extra lives. You'll no doubt need them when going through the game for the first time. The first Contra is a game fondly remembered by many, and that's because it's pretty good.

Image

Bill "Mad Dog" Rizer and Lance "Scorpion" Bean are two elite military commandos with a mission. Perhaps they're on a mission to get less silly names. I sure hope so. No, they're actually on a mission to stop a nefarious force led by the evil Red Falcon, which is red, but not a falcon. In the Japanese version, Red Falcon is the name of a terrorist organization that is attempting to take over the world. I think they were watching too many episodes of Pinky and the Brain. The North American release of Contra changed Red Falcon into a mysterious alien, for reasons that I'm not privy to. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd assume it had to do with censorship, but I have no idea. The game's setting and time period also change depending on the region. The Japanese version has the game set in the year 2633 and it takes place in a fictional place called the Galuga archipelago, which is near the non-fictional New Zealand. As for the North American version, it takes place during 1988 in an unknown South American island. Talk about weird. Things get even more confusing when you look at the European release of the NES version, which replaces all the humans with robots. Apparently, this was due to certain censorship laws in Germany against violent video games. Just remember kids; it's okay to kill robots, but not people. Robots aren't people. Anyway, that's all the Contra trivia I have for today. Whichever version of Contra you've got, the story doesn't really matter. It's all about the explosions, not the exposition.

Image

In the North American Contra, you control a muscle bound man as he blows up a bunch of space aliens without so much as even wearing a shirt. If that's not the epitome of manliness, then I don't know what is. The sheer amount of testosterone emanating from your manly man pecks allows you to shoot in all eight directions, which is pretty sophisticated control for an NES game. You are so manly in this game that every single jump you make is a spinning flip in the air and it doesn't even make you dizzy. All of this manliness is starting to make me dizzy. If the action ever gets too intense for your manhood, then you can lay flat on the ground as you lay waste to enemies. This won't protect you against everything, though. Being that Contra is a shooter of the run and gun variety, it has a number of power-ups to augment your shooting capabilities. When equipped with the machine gun, holding down the fire button will shoot a continuous stream of bullets at any foes dumb enough to get in the way of your manhood. If you ever feel like you need something to penetrate a foe's defenses, give the laser gun a try, as it does just that. The fire gun is not as cool as it sounds, because it's not a manly flamethrower as you would expect. Instead, the fire gun fires out swirly balls of fire that swirl around in a circular pattern. As far as I know, this weapon sucks and isn't the least bit manly, so it should be avoided at all costs. The best weapon in the game, as many hardcore Contra fans know, is the spread gun. Admittedly, the spread gun is a little overpowered, as it basically tears through everything in the game while also providing the best attack radius of any weapon. There really isn't any reason to use anything other than the spread gun in this game. If you grab this one, keep it, because it will keep your manhood intact. Contra has great controls and mechanics, but the power-ups are a bit lacking in balance.

Image

The biggest thing about Contra is that you die in one hit, which is totally not manly. As a result of that, the game can be pretty tough, because the slightest misstep means certain death. Despite the enemy bullets being tiny, all it takes is one to take you down. The game is designed around this concept, though, so things never get too difficult. You usually have enough time to react to everything that's going on, and there is always a safe spot to stand. That's not to say that players won't burn through all their lives and continues on their first time through the game, of course. Becoming a real man is a real journey. The stages in Contra are all short and sweet, with plenty of action to keep your masculinity in check. Endless hordes of enemy soldiers will assault you from all sides of the screen. The enemies usually appear infinitely, so the game is about pushing on ahead whilst surviving the onslaught of alien forces. Even though the game is mostly about running and gunning, there is a fair amount of jumping, too. Contra is by no means a platform game, but it adds in some jumping to keep the experience interesting. For example, there is a vertical stage in which you scale a waterfall. I don't know about you, but that sounds extraordinarily manly to me. At the end of every stage is a boss, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has played a video game before. Bosses are like the stages, short and sweet, so they usually don't take too many hits to take down. Obviously you get taken down in one hit, which balances everything out. Most bosses generally have a magical spot that you can stand to avoid all damage, but the challenge is figuring out where that spot is, if it exists. To top it all off, Contra has a two player mode for cooperative action. Fun stages, fun bosses, and you can even share the fun with a friend.

Image

Every so often, the game will put you inside of what's known as a base stage. These stages are presented in a different perspective, which results in slightly different game play. During these base stages, you view the action from behind the back of the character you're controlling. It's sort of like a first-person view, except without the first-person part. When doing a base stage in the NES version, you can move left and right, and you're primarily shooting straight ahead at a bunch of opponents. Lasers will bar your way forward, so you need to shoot at several targets on the wall to destroy the door and deactivate the lasers, allowing you to pass through to the next section. These parts are less about pushing on and more about eliminating specified targets, giving the base stages a slightly different feel from the rest of the game. Enemies will often spawn infinitely in these sections, too, though, so it behooves you to destroy the targets as quickly as possible. Laying flat on the ground is much more useful for this section than in the regular game, as it renders you almost invincible. Only things that go along the ground, like barrels, bombs, etc, can reach you when you lay down, making it an effective strategy to avoid stuff. The downside is that you usually need to stand up to have your shots actually hit anything meaningful, so you can't simply duck and fire for an easy victory. Because of that, you'll need to rapidly pop in and out of cover to successfully destroy stuff without being destroyed, kind of like a cover based shooter. Not that you actually get any cover in this game, mind you. Men don't need cover. The bases help prevent the game from getting stale, and they're also visually very advanced for the NES hardware.

Image

Contra is a game of manly proportions. It's a fondly remembered classic from the NES era, and is one of the best games on the system. The game has aged fairly well for an old 8-bit title, with precise controls, charming visuals, cool music, and fun, action packed stages. It's challenging, but not too hard, and the simultaneous co-op was a rare feature at the time that is still great fun today. The only issue the game has is that the spread gun is way too overpowered, rendering the other power-ups all but useless. This is a relatively minor issue, though, and it doesn't really hamper the game's fun factor. Enjoy one of the NES console's manlier games by playing Contra today. It'll put hairs on your chest, even if you're a woman.

Word Count: 1,651

Tweet