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Contra (NES) artwork

Contra (NES) review

"Back in the glory days, when video games came in cardboard boxes and Dr. Phil didn't exist, there were games that two people could play forever competitively. Duck Hunt would prove itself competitive as two people would put their dignity on the line just to say they shot more ducks than the next man. An obscure baseball game entitled Dusty Diamonds would be a blast for hours on end with its simple, yet entertaining, game play. "

Back in the glory days, when video games came in cardboard boxes and Dr. Phil didn't exist, there were games that two people could play forever competitively. Duck Hunt would prove itself competitive as two people would put their dignity on the line just to say they shot more ducks than the next man. An obscure baseball game entitled Dusty Diamonds would be a blast for hours on end with its simple, yet entertaining, game play.

However, when you think back, there’s one multi player game that stands above the rest of the eight-bit games: Contra. Contra was known throughout the gaming world for its quality and difficulty. On top of that, it featured belligerent looking men that mean business, minimal storyline, no reading, intimidating weapons and massive explosions. What else could we ask for?

The storyline, or lack of, goes like this: Red Falcon has sent aliens to Earth and it’s your job to defend it the world under any circumstances. You’ll have to rip through deep jungles, enemy bases, treacherous waters and scorching factories to make a foray into the mother brain’s hideout

Contra also did away with all other girly things like having the ability to take a chest full of metal and still be able to conquer a whole country with one leg and half an arm left. You get shot once; you succumb to death. You’ll come back seconds later as a flashing sprite. While you‘re flashing, you‘re immune to everything the enemies shot at you. You’re given time to get back to the hang of things before you travel back to the war torn battleground. This feature has made me survive past parts we I’d die over and over again.

One more bullet will lead this contentious warrior to an agonizing death. Don’t get worried, though, you’ll still have one more chance to get back at whatever just killed you this second time, but this is your last shot. You die here; it’s all over for good. You’ll find yourself starting at the back of the level with one less continue. You have a few continues before the game makes you start at the beginning again.

Sound hard? Of course it is. To top all that off, you have to deal with a myriad of jungle-bound warriors and mechanical monstrosities. Gulling guerrillas hide behind ripe foliage just to jump out at you. Mechanical turrets that rise from the moist, verdant jungle ground to slaughter you. Towering edifices equipped with two destructive guns ready to stop your raid into the festering alien’s heart no matter what. Oh, and this is just level one.

Once you make your way to level two, the only thing that‘s new isn‘t the area; you’ll also have a third-person perspective. This time the camera will be located right behind your character. You’ll be following him as he tries to destroy turrets that are strapped to a wall firing at you. Getting in closer to get a better shot will prove impossible, as there are lasers to hold you back. Enemies in green jumpsuits will hop across the screen, throwing grenades or shooting guns at you. There will be around six of these rooms you’ll have to travel through before you meet up with the boss. These levels are excellent at breaking up the action and keeping from being redundant. They’re certainly better than annoying mini-games that a lot of developers tend to throw in between “real” levels.

These “between levels” also included everything you’d find in the real ones. The exact same weapons were here as before. You still had a spread shot, that’d decimate anything within a five-foot radius. The flamethrower was still able to incessantly shoot out links of torrid fire at whatever enemy was unfortunate enough to get in its way. There were still items that’d allow you to become invincible so you could get through some of the game’s hardest parts easier.

The pattern continues like this throughout the rest of the game. After you complete that third-perspective level, you’ll go back to another regular level. You’d find yourself fighting for your life, climbing a cliff to the top of a waterfall with new monsters and new challenges to beat. Half an hour later, if you were skillful enough to kill the bosses, you’d beat the game. Contra wouldn‘t let you just destroy the bosses like they were nothing, either. Some of them would have multiple parts and functions to them so you’d always have to be moving. During a battle with a mechanical cyborg, you’ll have to keep jumping to avoid his ground attacks and jump to avoid him walking into you. Even before the bosses, some stages included mini-bosses. One that comes to mind is a mammoth truck with spikes on the front side and a gun mounted on top. You’d be given only a certain amount of time to abolish this mini-boss before he’d come charging at you.

If you think back on the way I described Contra, it’d almost seems as though any game that involved fast-paced action with guns could’ve made a lasting impression on the avid gamer. But, this is not true you see. Contra wasn’t excessively long; it wouldn’t become needlessly redundant and make you bored. Each level brought a new twist in the level or monster to keep you interested. I can recall many times just wanting to turn an action game off because it was long, repetitive and boring. You’re also able to choose what path you want to take during some levels. In the hanger level, you’re able to take the high road or fight it out with some foot soldiers. This gives Contra the ability to change its difficulty mid-game given what path you choose to take.

Essentially, Contra is whatever game developer of the time strived for. It’s renowned throughout the gaming community for its difficulty. A kinship of fanatical players would swear to beat the game without dying once. Others would have to use the Konami code to conquer the infamous mother alien and her wicked henchmen. Contra was able to appeal to both audiences, be loads of fun, start a unbelievably successful gaming franchise and still make you want to play it through again with your friends (provided you have some.)

Sclem's avatar
Community review by Sclem (March 07, 2004)

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