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Contra: Shattered Soldier (PlayStation 2) artwork

Contra: Shattered Soldier (PlayStation 2) review


"Ahhh, yes. It is the ever-so long awaited return of one of the most notorious video games series of all-time: Contra. Contra had “returned” in many forms throughout the recent years on the PlayStation (One) and such, however, the “return” was more like a slap in the face of us Contra fans. This, as well as the not-so-true-to-the-original remake of Contra III: The Alien Wars on The Game Boy Advance, proved to most gamers that the Contra series was just a far, long lost memory, and shell of its fo..."



Ahhh, yes. It is the ever-so long awaited return of one of the most notorious video games series of all-time: Contra. Contra had “returned” in many forms throughout the recent years on the PlayStation (One) and such, however, the “return” was more like a slap in the face of us Contra fans. This, as well as the not-so-true-to-the-original remake of Contra III: The Alien Wars on The Game Boy Advance, proved to most gamers that the Contra series was just a far, long lost memory, and shell of its former self. Until now.

THE RANT

Yes, now that I have played a brand new copy of the next installment in the REAL Contra series, I must admit that I have “saw the light.” I think it is safe to say that this new Contra, entitled Shattered Soldier after the story of the game, is a real keeper for Old School Contra fans, as well as fans of older arcade games such as Metal Slug alike. Newer gamers may not “get it” at first, and may be turned off by the way the gameplay revolves around simple, unrealistic gameplay intended for the Nintendo Entertainment System. But like a good puppy in training, they will learn to obey.

So I see that you have noticed my reference to the lack of realism in this title, eh? Let me express my love for what this game has proven, amongst other things: Gaming today revolves around equipment, logic, and reason. If Contra were to be “revamped” for today’s action genre, there would be a limit to the ammunition that you are packing, and you would have to get enough money to buy more ammunition. In this old school edition of Contra, you can shoot at thousands of bullets at unlimited ammunition per minute. Why, you ask? Simply because you can.

If Contra were “revamped” for today’s genre, you would wonder why so many enemies appear out of nowhere to attack you, and why they all go down in one hit (as well as yourself). You would ponder why a Transformer looking robot would get crushed by a giant made-of-flesh turtle, with a human head made of muscle tissue on its butt, literally OUT OF NOWHERE. But if you are an old school Contra fan, you need not excuses. You simply mumble “That was cool,” and kill the darn thing right then and there.

In case you do not see what I am getting on, games do not NEED logic to be fun. In fact, in most cases, this logic ruins third party games constantly. This is why we see so many platform games fail, because the developers pay too much attention to the fine detail of games in general, as opposed to the lush setting of simple that were applied to those NES games long ago. After all, the most successful games of all-time tend to have little logic. Why IS Link an elf, anyway? Konami knows this, and hence they made Contra: Shattered Soldier with little to no logic at all, and pure fun. And you know what? It worked. With flying colors, at that.

THE GRAPHICS

When creating atmospheres, Konami has done a brilliant job of bringing out the best that the Contra series has to offer. Settings in war-time futures, filled with rubble and debris, in a vibrant tone that shines through the dark atmospheres presented to you. In other words, this game’s graphics are amazing in a very simple way. They are not too complex, and they get the point across with little hassle whatsoever. This is another thing that gamers that have played the original Contra games on the NES can appreciate.

As for the game’s basis on graphics, I think it has to do with a very less cartoon-ish version of the settings in Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super Nintendo. Placing characters and some enemies from The Alien Wars into a real life looking backgrounds with flesh tone skins, and ULTRA cool detailing, revealing the Contra world, as we KNEW it, in a dark version of the real world as we KNOW it. Hats off to the crew that detailed this game, as it is polished way beyond compare.

Even the demons and aliens that fly into view (or drop down into view, for that matter) are polished so well that they look life-like. The well known Swooping Aliens from Contra III: The Alien Wars are back, and are a perfect example for this paragraph: Before, the futuristic aliens looked like something straight out of a comic book (or a bad horror movie, for that matter). This time around, they look like giant mosquitoes that can swoop down and pick you up.

Speaking of giant mosquitoes, the main character in which you are, Bill Rizer (known most for his appearance in Contra III: The Alien Wars and destroying over half of the world’s population), is very highly detailed. The characters move in a very unrealistic fashion, however, that is to be given with a Contra game. Afterall, how many people can do a 360 somersault jump into the air and land with perfect ease whilst carrying three massively huge weapons and blowing stuff up all at the same time, anyway?

THE SOUND

Ahhh... Now we are getting to the sound of the game. This is the very, very juicy part of the game that screams: “Huh?” Because trust me, once you get done hearing the very extreme heavy metal music, you will realize that it is complete non-sense, much like this game’s rhythm and style. And I do not mean that in a bad way, either. The music is very fitting, as well as the sound effects, which sound a lot like that of Twisted Metal Black. No matter which way you stroll to, you will probably agree that the sound fits like a smooth glove with the game’s pace and production.

THE GAMEPLAY ELEMENTS

Now we go onto the weaponry, in case you are curious about the gameplay this time around, there are no weapon pick-ups in the game, unlike in the Alien Wars, or many other Contras before it. You are stuck with three weapons that you can choose at any time during the game by pressing the L1 and R1 buttons. They consist of your normal gun that spits out bullets like there is no tomorrow, a handy dandy flamethrower which is short ranged, but very deadly when attacking, and the last of the three is the Diver Mine, which acts a lot like Snake Man’s weapon in Mega Man 3 (its fire will roll around on the ground, searching for an enemy or target in whichever direction you fired it in).

Charged shots also exist in the game, which can be a major hassle. At times, you can accidentally release a charged shot of each weapon, which will more than likely kill you in an enemy is close and your charged shot happens to not connect with their puny bodies. Regardless, the Charged Shots work well when you are trying for them. They consist of an object which will take center stage and sweep the area with bullets, a high impact flamethrower that can travel through objects (great for shielded enemies), and lastly, a homing bullet sweep which fires in several different directions.

The jumping tactics pretty much remain the same as the casual good Contra game. If you are hanging from an object, such as a pole, you will hop instead of jump like a regular, every day Joe. Actually, Bill Rizer has never jumped like a regular, every day Joe. As I stated before, it takes a lot from a man to balanced all of that weaponry, destroy a lot of alien scrum, and land a perfect 360 somersault on his tip-toes. And boy, does he ever pull it off. The jumping sequences add to the experience of the gameplay in the good part of the Contra series, and thus, it complements the style very, very well, indeed.

The stages are a mix of your regular old Contra theme of side-scrolling action that mixes constant firing of your big guns with the new school style of changing the atmosphere. I think one of the best parts of this game is how random everything can be. Along with the mentioned flesh-looking turtle landing on a Transformer look-a-like, you have random snow worm skeletons that can attack whilst snowboarding, random maggot-looking creatures eating tons (literally) of ground up human flesh, and Donald Trump eating a steak. Okay, so I made that last one up, but still.

This just goes to show you that the gameplay is never stale, and always changing while remaining just as fun as the obstacle before it. While you could go around, shooting everything in sight, this might not be the best of ideas if you are trying to get a good rank at the end of every stage. May this be a lesson to you: If you go around, shooting everything that moves, even if you only lose a couple of lives, it will come back to haunt you on your final grade. And you want those extra goodies, don’t you?

If you are having trouble fitting into the games difficulty, then why not try out that lovely, sexy bonus feature, the Training Mode? In this mode, you are given 30 lives (which should be more than plenty) to pass whichever round you choose. This is very good training compared to the lame training modes that you casually see in video games today, in which they throw a really terrible enemy on the screen and teach you how to attack. In Contra: Shattered Soldier, the Training Mode is very simple: They take the normal stage with no alterations, and give you 21 extra lives to take out the stage from top to bottom.

THE FINAL OPINION

The main problem you may have with this game is that it is now out of print (along with Suikoden III), so finding a brand new copy of this game may be a lot of trouble. Regardless, you can probably get lucky and find a used copy at your local game store for around (or near) $45. If you have to pay more than $60, however, I would probably advise that you weigh your options.

If you are new to the series, this is not really the game to start out with, as the game is considered one of the hardest games ever created by most editors and journalists that know their stuff. Even on the Easy difficulty, it is no walk in the park. If you are new, start out with Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super Nintendo. If you are an old school fan, or if you just simply like the series a lot from the Super Nintendo days, you definitely should pick this up.

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)

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