Monday, 5 May 2014

Contra (Probotector) 2

1 Player or 2, to be brutally abused by a NES game?

Contra 2, Super Contra (not on the SNES) or Probotector 2, all of which are the same game on the NES in whichever guise you want to take them. Is likely the quintessential Run and Gun game for the Nintendo Entertainment System in all of its 8-Bit glory. Though in fairness, I'll state now that the 16-Bit versions with Super Probotector, Contra 3 (same game on SNES) and the Megadrive (......Genesis) version, are the same for that generation of console. It's a solid platformer series (I'll discuss the later games another time, or not, I'm talking of the sprite-based games here) and this game is no exception to the rule.

Toothpaste sales went through the roof

You take the guise of the two main characters, one Red, one Blue, which some will argue are Bill, Lance, Dave, Sharon, Twatface and Fuckwit. Names for this type of game isn't really an issue, it's the controls, it's the action and the challenge that is represented by the game. Which I'll say right now, it's a lot harder than the first game and a lot harder than the 16-bit games.

It's not actually a boss, it's a mid-boss. Hard to tell and where the hell is the background?

It's also different from the arcade version, which stops after the 2nd Bird's-Eye-View boss, while this carries on but I'm getting ahead of myself here. For the controls, which are much more developed and tighter than the arcade version (which may or may not have been trying to fuck cash out of your pockets with poor directional shooting) with your usual run, jump, shoot for the D-Pad, A and B buttons. You can shoot in all 8 directions though sometimes hard to shoot down unless jumping or falling as you'll ending up ducking. Your jump is a set height for a maximum and you've little to no inertia problems with acceleration and deceleration, movement is steady and consistently paced which makes for a near flawless control system.

The first boss, you're outgunned but not outplayed. Especially with the scattergun.

You've also got your selection of weapons to enjoy, standard shots from your rifle, machine gun, a much improved fireball gun from the first game, the spreadgun/scattergun and the laser. There's a few barrier shields for you too while there's also more smart bombs littered through the levels giving you a few moments of peace before the relentless armies assault you once again. It's a solid game with a decent mix of weapons and each one giving clear advantages over the other with a better balance to the system than the first game had.

It's big, it's ugly, it's... I've no idea what this thing is.

The level's are intriguing enough to be uniquely interesting though lack the coherency between levels without plot and such in that they simply become "levels" almost for the sake of levels with later levels steadily becoming more and more organic to match with the theme of aliens being the suppressive rates. There's also the inclusion of a few mid-bosses which comes as a bit of a surprise at first when you kill them and the level continues to be played while some levels have just one boss fairly quickly after the start of the level and of such low difficulty to make you think it's the mid-boss, then the level's over almost as quickly as you started it.

Mouths in the floor, spider things approaching, it's another day in bio-flesh levels.

There is however the key problem in that dying is very easy, very quick and usually instant as there's NO health and the mildest touch of a faint feather brushing to your cheek is just as lethal as the XM190BigDick-super-death-cannon (version 4) is to your character. On dying you lose your weapon and the advantage it gave you and dying often occurs at a new boss that's attacking you with a weapon, with which you are not currently familiar. Bonus points if it's the last life and by the time you get back to the boss on a continue, you're already dying and haven't remembered it has the Giant-Willy-Wang-Death-Blast move. More lives were lost.

And so it begins!

There is the further dick-move on the part of the developers where some enemies won't spawn until you're right at the edge of the screen with no indication they're going to spawn there, until they actually DO spawn and by then it's already killing you and mopping up your entrails with half a loaf of bread. There's few design flaws along this scale in the game but in a one-hit kill series, you can't help but feel cheated by not your lack of skill but lack of foresight on the designers part. Especially when everything else is so responsive, there's little to no lag/delay between hitting a button and getting a reaction from within the game, so unless reflexes are required of the super-human level, or there's simply insufficient time to get synapse to muscle firing within the boundary of "alive" character and "dead" character.

Always nice to see that someone is creative with the sprites and artwork.

The music picks along at a steady pace, suitably composed for your standard level, your creepy-alien level and works well for most boss fights where the tempo picks up and the further use of adrenaline inducing tempos add to the subtle increase in thrills when combating more difficulty opponents, from mid-boss, to bosses and the final boss. Though sometimes the music can be a little overwhelmed by the sound effects but there's always going to be that kind of trade off when you've a lot of action on the screen and only so much power available in the game and console as it is.

I'm sure there's a reason everything looks like this, I'll be damned if I know why.

Not forgetting, there's the co-operative mode, it should be noted that two players of equal skill in almost perfect synchronicity should attempt this otherwise one will become more annoyed at the other dying regularly, likely caused by the better player trying to rush on ahead and get through the level and traps. In this particular instance, the co-op mode is likely harder than the solo unless you're truly a co-operating pair of players. Having said that, it's not my place to put people off playing the game in this way but I'd recommend that both players KNOW the game somewhat before attempting it outright. It's a LOT harder than the first game.

H.R. Geiger might sue someone here...

But I love that it is. It's hard, it's proud that it's hard and it's going to bash you to death repeatedly for you making your own mistakes with this game. My real regret with this game though is that it feels shorter than it should do. There's an underlying feeling, an odd sensation when playing this game that there's some half-levels in here rather than full levels and that it's just not fully the game it was originally intended to be.

My mission complete, it's time to go enjoy some Chinese Takeout. Bring on the Lemon Chicken!

But, I still love it.