Monday, 16 June 2014

Super Probotector/Contra 3: The Alien Wars


And so it begins, on the SNES!

I do have a rather fond relationship with the Probotector/Contra series of games, to a point. That point being this game in particular in which having played the first and second game in the series, then getting a SNES and seeing "Super Probotector" (an odd thing to name all games "super" just because it's on the Super Nintendo, causes a problem when you already called it Super on the NES... Right? SUPER Mario brothers...) and seeing the 8bit classic, favourite and challenge of a console brought to the 16bit era and sitting back and going "....wow..." having spent the first few minutes of the game running through a war-torn city, jumping into a tank, taking out barricades, tanks, being hit with an airstrike, somersaulting over fireballs and eruptions before fighting a giant mutant tortoise. FOR THE FIRST LEVEL.

The dynamic ways in which you'll have to fight enemies, are numerous.
It runs the same format as the other games before it have. You've yourself and maybe a second player, running from left to right with your guns, killing everything that moves and trying to get to the end where you can kill a boss. (usually... this game does mix it up a little). Accompanying this is your new abilities to climb walls, hang from ceilings and supports and now have the ability to select different weapons or fire both at once in a "web of death" spiralling move. You can also carry bombs that wipe out most enemies and do some damage to bosses too.

Because being stalked into the stratosphere wasn't scary enough, bring the spiked walls.
First thing you'll notice is that the graphics are stunning. There's no two ways about that one and the detail and focus on the 16-bit version here is mind-blowing, especially if you've not seen the games after this point. Destroyed cities look like truly dilapidated remnants of once former glorious locations, industrial landscapes as far as the eye can see, deserts within acres of canyons while riding a hover bike through along a fully maintained single road... Ok lost the plot a little on that one. But every single enemy, from standard alien creature up to giant flying armada space boss, looks stunning. The detail has been lavished on in every regard.

"I felt like such a twat when I turned around and saw what really scared them away..."
The gameplay hasn't suffered either. It's fast, it's fluid, your character runs and jumps as smoothly as the best of them and the added collar/shoulder buttons help with the standing still and shooting in all directions function while the jump and shoot are nicely placed as per muscle memory would accept while the switch and bomb buttons are added on and tend to be less used than the others anyway. (Unless you've an auto fire joypad, then it's double gun time!... yes I did do that back in the early 90's). If you die in this game it's for one of two reasons, either you've faced off against an enemy you've never met before or you didn't react in time. The controls are too solid for that to be the error here.

Once again, the computer can do something more cool than I can.
Musically and sound-effects wise, the game is fairly crisp, making good use of the onboard sound capabilities of the Super Nintendo, giving us heart-pounding beats and music filled with adrenaline to the point it'll be dripping from your ears while the shouts, screams, explosions and gunfire is almost constant but never quite enough to overpower the musical ensemble. Though some of the compositions rely on bridges that are dependent upon the character reaching a certain point in the level and it's not quite so smooth in such a transition.

Post-Air-Strike stance.
The multiplayer still holds the same issues that the first games did. If one person tries to make a huge jump that's beyond what you can manage if the screen doesn't scroll, and the other player doesn't jump... Then it's a quick trip to fuck-you town, population YOU.

First boss, suffering from Ectopia cordis (go look it up)
The game will overwhelm you at first, there's just SO much going on in each level, even the top-down levels where your view changes to a birds-eye-view of the battle, the shoulder buttons used to turn left and right and the d-pad to run around, jumping now makes you duck under bullets and some of the weapons take on different properties, the laser in particular is now a short range constant stream rather than the high powered beam weapon it was in the previous level.

Mode 7 used wonderfully here to show level 2. Though you really need to see it in action.
Your power ups range from the mundane but useful machinegun (of which you have anyway), crush gun that's short range but explodes powerfully, the flamethrower that acts like an actual flame thrower, homing bullets that do exactly what you'd expect; builds a house. No. The spread/scatter gun making it's almost trademark appearance and the laser. Bombs that will stop most bullets and small enemies and will also damage larger ones and the occasional Barrier that will give you a colour-coded shield that lets you know when it'll run out.

Level 1 and I get a tank, sadly not much else later on.
Throw in 3 difficulties of varying toughness, including the Hard Mode being the ONLY way to get the True Final Boss (a brain in an armoured suit that chases you up a pit while you're helicoptering out). Some obstacles also become invincible, some bosses speed up or hit in different movements, some enemies will now attack rather than sit in the background. There's a BIG jump from Normal to Hard mode that you will not see from Easy to Normal. In fact, with the Easy mode, you'll wonder why you even bothered, especially when most bosses are rather idle during the fights, the last boss has the 4 easiest options when fighting and you can likely outrun bullets. While conversely for hard mode, you'll be shot faster than you can say "what bulle...?", the last boss hammers you with every option and tends to favour even the grey snake special (you'll dread it when you see it) and then suits up for a final fight afterwards, and the giant turtle on level is invincible save for the heart (you can't break other bits of it).
The video game equivilient of "I'm a huge TIT", with guns.

It's a good example of how to do a strong, solid, run-n-gunner. Learn from it.