"After the disaster that was C: The Contra Adventure (fun fact: it was my first PlayStation game), the Contra series was pretty much dead at that point in time. I didn't believe that, if a new game did come out after, it would be like the originals. But, four years after C: The Contra Adventure came out, Contra: Shattered Soldier was released for the PS2, and, well... I didn't get a chance to play it. "
After the disaster that was C: The Contra Adventure (fun fact: it was my first PlayStation game), the Contra series was pretty much dead at that point in time. I didn't believe that, if a new game did come out after, it would be like the originals. But, four years after C: The Contra Adventure came out, Contra: Shattered Soldier was released for the PS2, and, well... I didn't get a chance to play it.
Skip another six years.
So, was Shattered Soldier anything like the PS1 titles? Nope, it was a return to how the series used to be, delivering lots of side-scrolling action and a tough challenge. Every stage in this title will offer you something different, throwing you from one intense situation into another. The second stage is a good example of this, where Bill Rizer (or, if you prefer, the female cyborg Lucia), busts through a billboard and into a dock on his hoverbike. As he races across a narrow bridge, a blue submarine jumps out of the water in the background, and starts firing projectiles and laser beams at your character. If you survive that, the ship will submerge into the water, making you wonder what's going to happen next. Well, you won't have to guess long, because the bridge you're on starts getting bumpy, and if you're not in the right spot, you'll get hit by the submarine as it pops out again, this time in the foreground, annihilating the bridge in the process.
If you think this is about all the sub has to offer in terms of attacks, then you're gonna be in a world of hurt for the rest of the game. Eventually, it'll transform into a helicopter, where this beast will hover above your little bike and throw everything it has. You'll have to avoid torpedoes, a row of lasers shooting down, and a turret that sets the bridge ablaze. Oh, yeah, and soldiers flying on rockets, can't forget about them. I should point out that you're not even at the mid point of this stage yet; you still have a lot to go through, like fighting a canon on a moving train, destroying other bikers, taking out a mini-ship, and, finally, fight a giant robot that chases you while you're on what's left of the train. Don't expect to complete the stage right away, too, because you're gonna die a crap load of times before you even see the words "Mission Complete". Shoot, the first time I played the level, I lost all of my lives before the ship even got a chance to turn into a helicopter.
Simply trying to survive until the end of each stage isn't gonna be enough in this game, however. At the top of the screen is a box, a hit rate. Depending on how you go about playing a stage will determine how high the percentage inside the box will rise, and will ultimately decide what type of rank you'll get at the end of each one. How do you get it to rise? Well, the simple answer is by blowing up anyone or anything that's destructible. Though, it's not as easy as it sounds. Random enemies appearing don't count, and most of the stuff you have to take out are usually hidden, which means you'll have to experiment during several moments in each mission to see what can be destroyed. It can be a hassle at times, actually, especially if you're going for the S rank. Thankfully, you won't have to perform that well in the first four stages in order to advance to the remaining levels. That's right, if you suck, you can't go any further in Shattered Soldier.
Despite the difficulty, it's still fun to play. Like I said, you'll die a crap load of times, but it'll motivate you to do better the next time and figure out what you're doing wrong. Trust me, when your shit's getting ruined by a giant, skeletal worm on a snowy mountain, or dying multiple times trying to kill a huge slug attached to a truck, it just seems way too hard. But when you finally figure out how these moments function, it literally looks like a breeze, making you wonder why you had so much trouble in the first place. Though, in some instances, this makes once tough fights become really repetitive to play through, making you wish they could've went by faster. The giant robot that skis on the ocean that you fight while hanging onto a flying, controllable missile (yes, you heard all of that right) is a very good instance of this. Once you figure out its patterns, it's absurdly easy to destroy, however, the damn thing has way too many destructible parts, making for a drawn-out fight. This is made more annoying by the fact that you have to wait for a couple of patterns to repeat until a certain weak point reappears.
The biggest gripe I have with Shattered Soldier is how it handles the final stages. No, not the actual stages themselves, but how you reach them. When you start a new game, only the first four stages are available, which you can select in any order. Of course, if you want to get any further than that, you'll have to first complete those starting stages, and do it with good ranks. I remember the first time I started the fifth stage, because I had zero credits and two lives left. Seconds into the stage, I died . Really now, how was I suppose to know jumping into a shallow stream of water was fatal? I "saved" and was forced back to the title screen. I was fine with that. I mean, surely I can just pick stage five at the stage selection screen, and just play it over and over until I can get by without failing, right?
You'll have to replay the first four stages again just to get back to the fifth mission. Considering each stage last about seven or eight minutes, about 32 or 33 minutes total, it gets annoying when going through the later stages for the first time, since you'll die a lot. There's a training mode in the options menu, but it is utterly useless since you have to COMPLETE a stage first before it becomes available there. What kind of logic is that? If you're gonna include a mission select screen, don't half-ass it. A shame that such an annoying aspect has to be in a solid run and gun title; I know it's a Contra title, but give me a break here.
Featured community review by pickhut (August 06, 2008)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
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