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Contra ReBirth (Wii) artwork

Contra ReBirth (Wii) review

"What I love about Contra ReBirth is, for being a manly, run 'n gun title, it doesn't take itself seriously. Case in point: the first stage begins on a spaceship orbiting Earth, where the only plausible way in is by bursting through a wall, Kool-Aid style. Neither of your two starting avatars are donning astronaut suits, instead having their six packs exposed for all to see! And the vehicle that brought them into space? A standard helicopter."

What I love about Contra ReBirth is, for being a manly, run 'n gun title, it doesn't take itself seriously. Case in point: the first stage begins on a spaceship orbiting Earth, where the only plausible way in is by bursting through a wall, Kool-Aid style. Neither of your two starting avatars are donning astronaut suits, instead having their six packs exposed for all to see! And the vehicle that brought them into space? A standard helicopter. The static cutscenes between stages are just as kooky, either showcasing the Contra crew fist-pumping with discussions of emancipation, or, in the most shocking moment in the series, Bill Rizer undercover as a woman, complete with dress, lipstick, and... top hat? Beat the game on various difficulties, too, and you'll receive the complete ReBirth team, consisting of two, shirtless men, a female robot that sprout flowers when she dies, and a lizard man that shouts the franchise's most infamous lines, such as "Let's attack aggressively!"

However, for me, the wackiest moment is the entire third stage, taking place exclusively on the highway. Without explanation, you're on top a speeding enemy truck, and for the first few seconds, you blast away goons on huge insects, take on a fleet of missiles flying in awkward directions, and encounter a ninja riding upside-down on a missile. Just a typical day in a Contra game. Eventually, though, there's camels... giant, robotic, purple camels that keep crashing into your truck in an attempt to knock you on the road. Let enough time pass, and you're forced to abandon your original means of transportation in favor of the herd now cramming the highway. But the numbers quickly dwindle, and you then find yourself making timed jumps over gaps between the mammals. Ending the trek is a giant missile boss that dispenses missiles, with a very ironic weak point to boot.

But as much as I enjoy the game for its sense of humor, not to mention the tidbits of references to previous titles with visuals and a remixed soundtrack, this second ReBirth title is a bit of a letdown. I feel like a broken record saying this, but just like Gradius ReBirth, Contra ReBirth is a competent game that sticks to the basics. That doesn't mean by any means the game is bad, because there's plenty of the trademark jogging baddies to kill, mixed with soldiers that actually stop to shoot. Of course, this always comes off easy until you stop scrolling the screen and try killing a stationary sniper two ledges above. This is mixed with varying segments that include traveling down a pit while avoiding death by razor balls and laser traps, and carefully navigating over a group of mutant, mammoth bugs that love to leap into the air at random times.

The problem with Contra ReBirth is it doesn't want to go the distance, which gives off the feeling of being a teaser game. Sure, you can crank up the difficulty, which adds more enemies and new, alarming attack patterns to the foray (the camels now have mouth laser blasts!), as well as an absurd difficulty setting called Nightmare which truly is a nightmare; you know how in Gradius games, enemies release bullets when you kill them? That's Nightmare difficulty. But even with these elements, you're still getting an experience that feels incomplete. The best example is the second stage, which occurs inside a city under siege, a la Contra III. You have countless enemies popping in from both sides of the screen, walls to tear down, and even crows that rummage through trash until you pass. Following this is a brief wall-climbing segment where you need to simply hit slow homing-missiles to deflect them back at the robot hiding in the background.

Now let's compare these to the original moments. Contra III's city stage consists of not only those mentioned parts, but also had a controllable tank, a section where you have to climb poles over a fiery street with eruptions, and then jump over flames seeping out from cracks. The wall segment from that game's third stage has a more beastly robot sub-boss, which latches its hands to both ends, trapping you between its spiked arms while firing tiny rockets. The robot's second attack pattern opens the wall, turning the immediate surroundings into a spiked arena, where you now have to avoid the machine's drill lunges. Afterwards, you still have snipers, another sub-boss, and more platform climbing in a building before finally reaching the end stage boss.

Contra ReBirth is the type of release that's good due to proper execution of normal play mechanics, which is more than I can say for a certain Hard Corps prequel, but disappoints because it just plays it too safe. Again, like Gradius ReBirth, there's a lot of missed opportunities that could've transformed this title into a great product, putting it on equal footing with something like Contra III. I consider that game a casual Contra, so that's saying something. Unless you just want to gasm over playing a new Contra title on the Wii, I'd recommend downloading the SNES classic on the Virtual Console, instead. Not only do you get more content, but it's cheaper, too.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (September 18, 2011)

I can only imagine what the dev meeting for Yaksha's character design and animations were like...

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honestgamer posted September 18, 2011:

This was a good review. You did a great job of making the game sound like something I would want to play, despite the score you gave it, while making your reasons for awarding that score easy to appreciate. Your writing throughout was quite polished, too, with clear and effective sentence construction and word choice. First rate!
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pickhut posted September 18, 2011:

Appreciate that, Venter. I really wanted to love the game more than I actually do, because of the humor and because the game actually played like a normal Contra game. But I just couldn't, especially after experiencing Contra III and Hard Corps.
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Masters posted September 19, 2011:

Nice job, Pick. So Contra III>Rebirth? Cuz Contra III is hella cool, but still inferior to 1 and 2. I hated Hard Corps: Uprising, btw. It just didn't FEEL right. I even preferred Operation C for the GameBoy.

Anyway, I look forward to your Castlevania: Rebirth review. I have that game, and should play and review it, but haven't gotten around to it.
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pickhut posted September 19, 2011:

Hey, hey, hey, what makes you think I'm planning on revewing Castl... ok, yeah. Thanks for reading the review, Masters, and yeah, Contra III is better. I enjoy playing the game, and I used to have (horrific) co-op sessions with bluberry on an emulator a few years back with it. I remember us always having the worst luck when it came to basic platform jumps for some reason XD.

Btw, you talking about the arcade or NES versions of 1 and 2?
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Masters posted September 20, 2011:

NES versions, for sure. I rate them thusly: Contra>Super C>Contra III>Contra Hard Corps>everything else to come out.

A lot of people will disagree with me and call me a SNERD for having C3 above Hard Corps, but Hard Corps has ugly colours and has weird heroes, despite being a blast to play.
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zigfried posted September 20, 2011:

Here's the right list...

Contra Hard Corps > Super C > Neo Contra > Gunstar Heroes > Shattered Soldier > Contra > the 3D Contra games on PSX and Saturn > Ethiopian Alien Invasion > Contra III

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Masters posted September 20, 2011:

These Sega Genesis sympathizers always get things backwards.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 21, 2011:

Your last statement struck a chord with me, because it's been the standard complaint I have for WiiWare games. They're good, but for the same price or lower, you can download a VC title that's better and has more content. Why play Jett Rocket when you can download Super Mario 64 for the same price? Sure, Jett Rocket has crisper graphics, but SM64 is a much better game.

Great review, pickhut.
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honestgamer posted September 21, 2011:

I think most games that are released now days (aside from the obvious exceptions) are good. The problem is that "good" isn't enough when we have so many superior options waiting to be explored. If a new game catches my eye, it's probably an improved sequel, or a retro reboot based on an old favorite game, or it has amazing polish or I've just never seen something like it done before (or at the least, in such an ambitious style). There's less and less room all the time for the competent games that are released all the time and offer none of those things.
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Masters posted September 22, 2011:

Well said, Venter.
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overdrive posted September 22, 2011:

Yeah. Even "bad" games released now tend to be at least technically superior to bad games of the past. Like that Clash of the Titans game I got a year or so ago was technically sound without the sorts of horribly unresponsive controls and blocky, muddled graphics you'd get in the old days from games like Heroes of the Lance and Hydlide. Its flaws were more along the lines of being a rip-off of God of War that was nowhere near as good as that game. That's usually what you get from the average "bad" title (average being the key word, as there are some games that just flat out suck, but they're rare): a game that's fundamentally decent, but just pales in comparison to the better games of their genres.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 22, 2011:

I definitely agree. It's been a while since I've played a legitimately bad game in the newer generation, or even in the previous one. I've played some that are pretty meh (some of which are actually WW games, too), but nothing absolutely horrible.
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SamildanachEmrys posted September 22, 2011:

I read an article about this recently. The gist of it was that there are now literally thousands of game releases a year (not many thousands, but still thousands) and most of them are competent, so we increasingly have to choose carefully what we want to play. It used to be that you could play all the 'essential', top-of-the-line games for a given system, plus a selection of others that you personally just fancied trying. Now there are too many 'essential' games for us to even play all of those. The article compared games from now-ish onward to films: you'll have mainstream, predictable popcorn-fodder on one side, groundbreaking indie output on the other, and a slew of competent stuff in the middle, from which you'll choose whatever stands out to you for some reason.

The article was coming at it from a journalism point of view though. Its emphasis was on the growth of specialists. As the field becomes too large, we won't have gaming journalists anymore; instead, we'll have FPS journalists, RPG websites, RTS columnists...

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