Contra: Legacy of War
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Developer:
    • Appaloosa Interactive
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    PS1
    • US 11/29/1996
    • UK 03/30/1997
    Saturn
    • US 05/21/1997
Score: 45%

This review was published on 09/21/2016.

Contra: Legacy of War is a run and gun shooter video game published by Konami for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Konami normally develops the Contra series, which began in the late 1980s in the arcades and on various other platforms like the Nintendo Entertainment System, but this particular entry is the first of two games that was outsourced to Appaloosa Interactive, the second of which was C: The Contra Adventure in 1998. The PlayStation version of Legacy of War was originally released in North America on November 29, 1996, and Europe on March 30, 1997. Later, the Saturn version was exclusively released in North America on May 21, 1997. A Japanese release for the game was planned, but it got canceled. This is the first console game in the series to retain both the Contra name and human characters in Europe and Australia, where the series was usually called Probotector and had robots due to censorship. Strangely, the game was packaged with 3-D anaglyph glasses. Speaking of, this is the first Contra game to be rendered in 3-D graphics. Unfortunately, none of that matters, because this game is awful.

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The game begins with an opening cinematic done in CG that has absolutely no dialogue and looks horribly dated, even by 1996's standards. Unexplained by this cinematic, the villain this time is a man known as Colonel Bassad, a dictator of a small country that has suddenly become a worldwide threat after amassing a massive army of soldiers, robots, aliens, and mutants. Bassad teamed up with an alien entity of unknown origin to acquire this power, and now, he wishes to conquer the whole world. Ray Poward returns from Contra: Hard Corps, which was released for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive in 1994, to fight against the evil dictator. He is joined by three new members of the Hard Corps team: a female mercenary named Tasha, a robot referred to as CD-288, and an alien called Bubba. Together, they will do everything in their power to thwart Bassad's wicked scheme. There's an FMV scene near the end where Bassad speaks to you with hilariously bad voice acting, which perfectly encapsulates the quality of this game.

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Despite the game featuring 3-D graphics, the action itself still functions much like a 2-D overhead shooter like Ikari Warriors. Another apt comparison is the overhead sections from Contra III: The Alien Wars, which was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. However, unlike those games, the 3-D visuals allow for the camera to zoom in and out and rotate around. There's also the element of elevation, like slopes and raised platforms. The graphics are pretty bad, though. The backgrounds consist of archaic polygons with poor textures, while the player character, most enemies, and bullets are typically rendered as badly animated 2-D sprites. However, some enemies, usually bosses and mini-bosses, are done in poorly textured polygons, too. The weird, constantly changing camera angles and mixture of 2-D and 3-D elements make it hard to gauge where things are in respect to your characters, especially bullets. As a result of that, you're going to get hit by a lot of things that didn't appear to hit you. The music and sound effects aren't much better; the way your character unceremoniously flashes and groans when he or she gets hit is dumb. All this makes the game feel unpolished.

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You can walk around like a headless chicken, fire your currently equipped weapon, and go prone. Like the overhead sections in Contra III, going prone is useful for dodging body high bullets. You can also activate and deactivate strafing by pressing buttons, but it's awkward. Unlike all the previous Contra games, you no longer do majestic somersaults when jumping. That may not impact game play, but it does reduce the game's overall coolness factor. Something that does impact game play is how slow and clumsy the jumps are. There's a huge delay between when you press the jump button and when your character jumps, which is a good way to get yourself killed. Shooting anything above the ground without a homing weapon is especially frustrating, because you have to keep jumping and shooting repeatedly, and this action just doesn't feel natural given the overhead perspective. If you thought the overhead sections of Contra III were bad, then you should see this game.

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Similar to Hard Corps, there are multiple playable characters to choose from. Two people can simultaneously and cooperatively "enjoy" the game together, but they both must use different characters. All characters control pretty much the same, but each one has a different movement speed and can obtain some unique power-ups. Everyone starts off equipped with the basic machine gun and can eventually get the flamethrower through a power-up, but the rest of the weapon power-ups are specific to each character. For example, Tasha can get an electricity gun, CD-288 has homing missiles, and Ray is the only one with access to the classic Contra spread shot. Like Hard Corps, you lose whatever weapon you were currently using when you get hit. Also like Hard Corps, it's possible to hold multiple guns at once and switch between them with the press of a button. Basically, this whole system was ripped straight out of Hard Corps, except it's not as elegant here.

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Everything wrong with this game is apparent from the first stage. Enemy soldiers aimlessly wander around, shooting in no particular direction, and will even sometimes die for seemingly no reason. At first glance, you may mistake these guys for friendly units due to how unthreatening they are, but there are no friendly units in this game. The level design is an absolute mess. Every stage is a chaotic minefield of haphazardly placed objects and enemies. Foes appear from all sides of the screen without any rhyme or reason. There are also countless badly designed sections. For instance, after beating the first boss, a rotating platform appears over a pit and you're supposed to make your way across it. You can still fall and die here even though the boss and stage have already been beaten, which is stupid. Platforming is also generally terrible in this game due to the awkward perspective and bad controls. There's a long platforming section towards the end of the game that's particularly painful. The only intriguing part of the game is the final boss, which is an alien planetoid you run around on similar to Super Mario Galaxy, but the poor camera ruins it.

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Stage three is mostly comprised of a river you ride a raft across, but it eventually culminates in you hitching a ride on a small boat of some kind. This would be cool if the game didn't find some way to make it suck. During the boat segment, you have radar and are able to maneuver around the map and shoot bombs. This section is unique in that it's the only part of the game that lets you go off the rails to do some minor exploration. It's annoying as heck, though, because your boat excursion is constantly interrupted by mini-bosses that remove the radar and alter the camera angle, causing you to lose your sense of direction. Initially, it may be unclear what causes these fights to even occur, but the mini-bosses are actually marked on the radar via red dots. To move on, you're supposed to destroy them all, but that's not made obvious to the player. First timers will likely go around in circles a few times before accidentally stumbling onto the solution. Also, some of the mines here go through walls. That's some bad game design.

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During the second stage, you can make use of some classic arcade machines to play a few mini-games. These are probably Easter eggs, as they wouldn't make sense otherwise. One of the mini-games is a Pac-Man clone, but with tanks. Essentially, you use a tank to collect dots in a 2-D maze with an overhead perspective, but you also shoot missiles to destroy mines, barriers, and other tank-like enemies. You've limited ammo, but you can get more by collecting crates. This might have actually been fun if it wasn't so mind numbingly slow. There's also a space shoot 'em up mini-game that's basically a clone of the original Gyruss arcade game that was made by Konami in 1983. This one is a bit better than the tank mini-game, because it doesn't deviate from the source material too much. The sad thing is that these mini-games are all better than the main game.

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The Contra series is full of amazing games, but this isn't one of them. Legacy of War has unresponsive controls, vomit inducing graphics, deafening sound effects, and atrocious level design. There are no redeeming qualities here. Without a doubt, this is one of the worst games in the series. This would probably be the worst game in the series if it weren't for C: The Contra Adventure, which somehow manages to be even worse. You could say that Legacy of War ruins Contra's legacy.

Word Count: 1,518

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