Operation C
  • Genre:
    • Run and Gun
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publishers:
    • JP Konami
    • US Ultra Games
    • UK Palcom
  • Released:
    • JP 01/08/1991
    • US February 1991
    • UK 05/21/1991
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/31/2015.

Operation C is a run and gun video game developed by Konami for the original Game Boy. It was published by Konami in Japan on January 8, 1991, Ultra Games in North America in February 1991, and Palcom in Europe on May 21, 1991. Mattel also published it in Australia. Despite the unusual name, this game is part of the Contra series, and is the first one in the series to be released on a portable system, in addition to being the first one released on the Game Boy. In Japan the game is simply titled Contra, but the North American release changed the name to Operation C for some reason. As for Europe, it was called Probotector there, though that was usually the case with the older Contra games. The game itself is similar to the Nintendo Entertainment System versions of the first Contra and its sequel, Super C. It is, however, a unique game featuring content not seen in either of those games. For an early portable Contra, Operation C isn't half bad.

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Similar to the NES Contra games, the exact details of the story differ depending on the game's region. In the Japanese version, the protagonist is Bill Rizer, the primary hero from the previous Contra games, and his mission is to stop an unnamed army from a hostile nation that is using an alien cell to create weapons of mass destruction. The North American version, on the other hand, changes Bill's identity to that of Lance Bean, Bill's partner from the previous games, and puts him up against an alien menace known as the Black Viper. Lance's codename is also Scorpion, because that's manly. Lastly, the European version changes the main character and many of the enemies into robots, something that was frequently done to the European localizations of Contra games back then. This was done as a sly form of censorship, because some countries banned violent depictions of biological beings in media. Remember, it's okay to kill robots, but not people. Robots aren't people. Anyway, the plot hardly matters, because you'll be too busy causing explosions to care.

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You can freely shoot in all eight directions and jumping around feels great with the precise controls. Like most Contras, you die in one hit and lose whatever power-up you had at the time. Power-ups are integral to the Contra experience and that's still the case in this game. You start off with the machine gun this time, a fully automatic gun that constantly shoots a stream of death at your opposition if the button is held down. This used to be a separate power-up in the older games, but now it's the normal gun when you've got no power-ups on hand. An actual power-up would be the iconic Spread Shot, which shoots bullets in a spread pattern that makes it extra easy to cause extra explosions. Unlike the console variants of Contra, picking up a second Spread Shot power-up when you already have one will upgrade its potency. After that is the Fire Shot, a power-up that sacrifices range for raw power, being that it shoots large balls of fire to do tremendous damage, and it also does a little bit of spread damage. Finally, this is the first Contra game to introduce the Homing Gun, a convenient weapon with bullets that home in on enemies. Absent from this game is the Laser Gun, a gun that has appeared in practically every other Contra game. Operation C doesn't have many power-ups, but they're all good.

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Five stages total are packed into this tiny Game Boy cartridge. All stages are linear jaunts from point A to point B, with plenty of explosions in between. A lot of the stage music is borrowed from the first Contra on NES, and that's admittedly a bit lazy. Graphically, the game looks a lot like the NES Contras, minus the color. The stage design is where this game departs from the NES originals, however, because they're all mostly different. For example, instead of being set in a jungle base like the first Contra, stage one in this game consists of a naval base with an elevator segment. Still, some of the future stages do borrow design concepts from NES Contras, even if the stages themselves are laid out differently. A good example of this is stage three, which mixes the waterfall climbing segment from the first Contra with the jungle and rivers bit from Super C. The way stages mix old elements is endearing, though, and there are still enough new things to keep them interesting. Also, the final stage is pretty unique. Even on the tiny Game Boy screen, the stages are action packed, as they should be.

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Every even numbered stage, of which there are only two in this game, is played from an overhead perspective. These are fairly similar to the ones from Super C. Despite the overhead perspective, there's no exploration or degree of nonlinearity to these stages. It's still going from point A to point B, except this time, you're traveling upwards instead of to the right. Shots fired during these stages don't have limitless range like they normally do, so you'll have to get a lot closer to shoot down foes. The same rule applies to enemies, though, which means you can keep your distance to stay safe. My favorite part of these stages is the giant door you blast through in stage two. It serves no real purpose in game play terms, but it provides the catharsis that the series is known for. The overhead stages are simple, but they do their job in giving the game more variety. In the event that you don't like them, that's okay, because there's only two.

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Bombastic bosses await your manly explosions in Operation C. The bosses, like the stages, are mostly unique to this game. Many of the bosses have multiple destroyable parts to them, and it's quite fun to slowly disassemble them with your gun. Destroying the different parts to a boss progressively disarms it, as guns or turrets are common destructible parts. That means the fights get easier the more you damage the boss, which is a nice touch. Normally, video games do the opposite, but this makes more sense when you think about it. The bosses, while not particularly mind blowing by Contra standards, are all fair. One of the coolest bosses also happens to be the first boss; the boss at the end of stage one is a giant submarine. It sits at the bottom in the water firing bullets and missiles at you, while you pelt it with bullets of your own from above. Let's face it; there's nothing manlier than watching one man destroy a submarine armed with nothing more than a machine gun. The final boss is cool, too, but I won't spoil that one.

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Operation C, or whatever you want to call this game, is a solid portable representation of Contra. The controls are spot on, the graphics are all right, and while many of the music tracks have been reused from the first Contra, that doesn't make them any less good. The Homing Gun is a nice addition to the Contra power-up family, though the absence of the Laser Gun is slightly disappointing. Operation C doesn't quite beat any of the console releases of Contra, but it's still a decent game that will enhance your masculinity, even if you're a woman.

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