|Enough crap, it's Arnie and Sly.|
Some will argue this is one of the hardest games out there in the Run and Gun category of gaming. I however, feel that the follow up game to this one is FAR harder but that's for a later review, possibly. That being said, it is still a very tough game and the arbitrary limit of continues on the machine itself is just only a small part of that problem. Though it's not a very big problem as it's great to see games that have that one thing that a lot of games nowadays are missing, challenge!
|It's an odd perspective/ratio and keeps you from seeing too far ahead.|
Contra follows that lovely idea of starting from the left and running you rightwards (usually, more in a second) where you'll be jumping platforms and hammering the shoot button to fire in as many directions as possible at the limitless spawning enemies, the set-piece enemies and all the way until you meet the boss of the level and have to blow it up. There's no back-story mentioned in the game and to be fair, it's really not needed as the premise is simple, "Run, Gun, Kill, Win" though that last part is a little bit of a challenge.
|"We really wanted to be Aliens" is all this game screams.|
You've your usual spectrum of weapons in Contra, gun, machinegun, fireball thrower (avoid this like the plague), laser, Spread/Scatter gun and the rarely found, occasionally picked up, Barrier which makes you invincible to everything except falling off the bottom of the screen. The guns have their uses, machinegun negates the need to press the button but lacks the stopping power of the bigger guns. Laser is highly powerful but requires a lot of accuracy which isn't that easy in this game as there's a sort of sweeping direction movement going on with the aim rather than the arbitrary key 8 directional points. Spread/Scatter gun is great for clearing out waves of enemies but only does heavy damage when up close so that all shots hit at once. Fireball thrower... Well, the less said, the better. There's enough variety there for those that like it and a weapon for everyone's preference. (Mine's the spread gun, stay off it)
|Mix it up with some pseudo-first person fighting|
The controls in Contra are an odd bunch at times. They're less precise and more fluid than the home console versions of the game and by that I mean that you can shoot in angles between the 8 key directions (Up, down, left, right and all 4 diagonals) as the game takes a sort of turning momentum when you're pointing to consecutive directions, but if you change suddenly from Left to Right, you'll switch immediately, however in turning from Left to Up/Left and Up, you'll spray in multiple directions while the aim turns towards the new directions. Going from Left to Up with a slight pause though, will switch the direction immediately, this tends to catch most people out when trying to aim for something that's going to kill you and needs to be shot, as it's usually miniscule in size and very fast.
|Some of the bosses offer quite the challenge. Others offer a HEAVY challenge.|
There's plenty to hear in Contra, ranging from the pops and squeaks of dying enemies, explosions from bosses, klaxons going off as bosses are damaged and near death/destruction while there's the semi-synonymous noise of dying that seems to have carried from most games across the series, they're clear and precise and don't strictly interfere with the music which is another bonus point in favour of the game. Konami seems to have nailed it perfectly with Contra in that the levels, challenges and bosses in the game are punctuated with suitably appropriate music and most key boss music really sets the adrenaline going, especially after the tunnel levels.
|It's not a boss, it takes about as much damage as one.|
Graphically, Konami looks stunning. The action and motion is fluid as you traverse the levels and the gameplay is never overwhelmed by what's going on but the looks and appearance of the mechanical structures, odd alien-esque biomechanics (Though I feel Geiger might have been more than a slight inspiration here...) and even the ice levels, jungles and underground tunnels are lavishly designed and realised through the artistic merit of the game.
|Space American Football Player Boss... The what now?|
It is a tough game though, while there may be several camps of people decrying it as either IS or IS NOT the toughest game of the genre before we start looking at games like I Wanna Be The Guy or platform bullet-hell games, it's difficult but not the toughest. That said there are some issues regarding jumping and shooting accurately especially when trying to aim for diagonal shots but these were ironed out in the console releases (Which have far more levels too).
|Laser, Scatter/Spread, rapid fire. All good weapons, just don't get the fireball gun. It's crap.|
Play Contra if you can in the arcades, it's quite different from the NES version of the game and will have enough surprises and similarities that would interest and keep a steady gamer curious as to what changes there are. Just remember there's a credit limit before it's an auto-game over and there's no 30 lives cheat for this one.