Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • JP 02/28/1992
    • US 04/06/1992
    • UK 11/19/1992
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/31/2013.

Contra III: The Alien Wars is a 2-D run and gun game developed by Konami and originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. It's the third game in the Contra series and the only one to be released on the SNES console. This is one of the first games in the series to start on home consoles instead of the arcades. In Japan the game is called Contra Spirits and in Europe it's called Super Probotector: Alien Rebels. The first two Contra games were stripped down ports of the arcade originals, but there's nothing stripped down about Contra III. If anything, Contra III will strip you down. Contra III was designed to leverage all of the unique capabilities of the SNES, like the fancy Mode-7 effect. The defining aspect of the Contra series is its insanely hard difficulty, and Contra III takes that hard difficulty to a whole new level of insanity. This game is way harder than the previous two games in the series, easily being one of the hardest games on the SNES. Few are man enough to man up to the challenge that is Contra III. It's a great game, but boy, is it hard.

Image

The year is 2636 and the Earth is being attacked by aliens. Not illegal aliens, but aliens from outer space! The aliens weren't very happy after having been defeated so many times by the human race, so this time they decided to go all out. Leading the alien invasion is Red Falcon, which is not a falcon, but might be red. The only two people man enough to stop the new alien threat is Jimbo and Sully, descendants of the two heroes from the previous Contra games. That's if you're playing the North American version, anyway. The Japanese and European versions change up the story a bit. In the European version, most of the characters were replaced with robots, because the death of humans is a violent thing. As for the Japanese version, it's mostly the same, except it keeps the heroes from the first two Contra games, Bill and Lance. All you really need to know about the story is communicated via the short, yet impressive intro scene that plays on the game's title screen. The intro scene has a little bit of Independence Day in it, even though Contra III predates the movie by a few years. That's all there is to the story, really. Games like this didn't waste your time with long, drawn out plots with tons of cinematic cutscenes stalling your progress every step of the way. It got straight to the point, just like a man would. Contra III's story is for the man in you.

Image

In Contra III, you can run, jump, and shoot your way to victory with enough testosterone to level a city. You're so manly that every single jump you make is a majestic spinning flip, and you can even shoot during the spin. It makes no sense, but is very masculine. Speaking of masculinity, you're able to fire in all eight directions, unlike pansy robots like Mega Man. There is nothing mega about that lack of a man, I'll tell you that. Unlike the NES Contra games, you start out with the machine gun, so you get automated fire if you hold down the shoot button. A fully automatic rifle is the epitome of manliness. Well, except for all the power-ups this game has. Contra III adds a couple of new power-ups while also changing some of the old ones. The spread shot is back and pretty much the same as before; it's a gun that fires in a spread pattern for maximum manliness. It's not quite the game breaking weapon it was in the previous Contra games, but it's still useful for clearing out a large amount of weak foes. The laser gun is another returning power-up that can be used to penetrate an enemy's defenses, for when your manhood alone can't do the job. The flame gun returns from previous games, too, but it's received a massive makeover. This time, the flame gun is an actual flamethrower, as it always should have been. It's one of the lesser useful weapons in the game, but hey, there's nothing manlier than a flamethrower. Two weapons featured in this game that weren't in the NES ones is the Crusher and homing missiles. Homing missiles are weak, but they do as their name implies and homes in on the nearest target, which can be pretty useful in certain situations. As for the Crusher, it also does what its name implies by crushing foes. The Crusher is an explosive missile that goes in a straight line and does massive damage. It's the most powerful weapon in the game and perfect for killing bosses. What's truly great about the power-ups in Contra III is that they finally hit the perfect balance. Every power-up is useful for something, and none of them are game breaking.

Image

One hit is all it takes to kill you off, so you better watch out for your manhood. The stages in this game really are brutal, as they always have droves of enemies storming you from all directions of the screen. Most of the time, enemies will spawn infinitely and shoot a ton of bullets at you, which makes it really easy to get pinned down in an unmanly spot. The manly thing to do is to never stay put in one area too long and always push ahead forward, making sure to kill anything that shows up before it kills you. You can dodge and duck out of a lot of situations, but often times things will get too hectic for that and you'll be put in a situation where no dodging can save you. That's why the best defense is a good offense in Contra III. It's also particularly essential to keep an eye out on your rear end, because enemies love to sneak up on you from behind. Being taken from behind is not at all manly. This game is so hard, even the first stage will kick your butt. Lose all your lives and continues, and bam, Game Over. That's just on Normal mode, too. If you want to fight the true final boss and see the real ending, you'll have to beat the game on Hard. It'll take you many attempts to get good enough to accomplish such an ordeal. Luckily, this game has some of the best level design in history. The people at Konami have expertly crafted a bunch of stages that never stop throwing crazy action sequences at you. A good example of this is a part where you're literally hanging onto missiles being fired by a helicopter as you fight a huge alien space craft, and you need to jump from one missile to the next just to stay alive, because the missiles explode. That description I just typed was so awesome, my head exploded. Contra III is hard and in charge.

Image

Some of the stages change things up on you by going with an overhead view. The majority of the SNES' Mode-7 effects are used here for various rotational effects. This is similar to the previous Contra game, but the controls and general design was altered a bit. Instead of merely moving forward and destroying everything in your path, you now have a number of targets that you need to take out. You can access a helpful map screen that will show you where all the targets are by pressing select, so it's just a matter of getting to them alive. As per usual, enemies are in abundance and will attack aggressively. The controls for this part are a little weird, but they make a lot of sense once you get used to them. You move around with the d-pad and can shoot anywhere you want, but the catch is that you use the shoulder buttons to turn either left or right. It's admittedly convoluted, but it allows you to do sophisticated strafing techniques, which you'll definitely need to survive. The bosses of these stages are also fought in the overhead mode, and that makes for some interesting fights. To be honest, though, these stages are the weakest part of the game. They basically amount to scavenger hunt missions that rarely have anything as awesome or action packed as the main game. If there's anything wrong with Contra III, I'd say it's these overhead stages. It feels like the only reason these stages were included is to show off the fancy Mode-7 effects. The good news is there are only two of them in the whole game, so you don't have to waste too much time slogging through these bore fests. Still, the game would be way better without them.

Image

Contra III is so hard, it makes even grown men cry. It's one of the hardest video games in existence, but also one of the best. The graphics, music, and controls are all fantastic. In addition, the stage and boss design is absolutely amazing. The only thing about this game that sucks is the overhead stages, but there are only two of them, making this a minor complaint. Of course, the ridiculously high challenge level could be considered another stumbling block, as most people won't be man enough to get past the third stage, let alone beat the game. That shouldn't deter anyone from trying, though, because the game is worth beating, especially on Hard mode. Contra III will make you a man, even if you're a woman.

Word Count: 1,612