Review by antseezee
"One of the most definitive action shooters in its time."
In the earlier days of the NES, many supposed action shooting games were suppose to be fast paced. Instead, we got slow moving pea shooters which involved nothing more than the click of one button. Contra is one of a kind. It's the type of platform action shooter that comes once in a decade. Not only was it the first to inspire fast paced shooting games, but it did it in style. Contra is basically a platform shooter where you must advance through levels by the means of weapons and your trusty feet. Dodging bullets, shooting enemies, and picking up powerups is quite often. But what distinguishes Contra from the rest is that it's probably one of the best and most addictive shooters you will ever play. The basic storyline is based around two warriors who have to defend Earth from an invading alien race. Of course, we have no idea why there are only two soldiers up against millions of aliens, but who cares? This is Contra, prepare yourself for the greatest classic shooting game to touch the planet.
When you first start out in the game, most of the action is based around side scrolling platform shooting. Basically, you have your character on screen with his big gun, and the screen scrolls as you advance in a direction. However, as you move along in the game, levels alternate between a behind-the-back view to where the game gets a slight 3Dish appearance. Not only did this take a bite out of the typical side scrolling gameplay, but Contra has a good change of pace amongst levels. Quite frankly, the graphics are very good. There are excellent uses of shadings on levels, especially with the jungle backgrounds and alien fortresses. Your two main commandos, while limited in appearance to just a basic combat suit and bandana, still look very tough. Muscles popping out, guns blazing, it's all here.
Animations, while somewhat lacking are decent. The main problem with Contra is that animations aren't really super frame by frame, but rather almost instantaneous. Enemies are detailed, whether it be opposing armored soldiers, or mounted turrets in buildings. Levels can get detailed with control panels to destroy, or certain weaknesses to hit on bosses. Konami made a good use of ''flashing'' weak points on bosses to let the player know what to shoot at. Unlike other games where you just shoot aimlessly until the boss dies. The best feature of the graphics has to be the different weapon shapes. You can nearly remember each different type of weapon based on the unique sprite that is shot out after you pick up a powerup. For example, the laser powerup makes your gun shoot a long electrifying projectile. These type of experiences really connect the gamer to the overall experience.
Konami did such an ear appealing job when it came to music. Each level has a different song, whether it be highly pumped, or a dismal alien song. Each song has its own tone, giving the user an environment to fight in. While Contra doesn't really have a theme song, the Stage One song is the best to describe it. One of the very best songs you will ever listen to comes in level one. It has tons of upbeats and downbeats, and keeps you ready to kick more butt. Very few games can inspire a gamer to keep on playing, but Contra utilized the music department well. None of that repetitive stuff you hear in most arcade shooters.
As for sound effects, they're decently good. Bullets bouncing off metal machinery make a clinking sound, while destroying a boss could cause huge explosions. Powerups, extra lives, even the shocking sound of an electric wall all make unique sounds. Konami put so much effort into the sound department, and probably made it one of the most addicting features to listen to.
Very few shooters have come close to what Contra masters at - Pure Action Shooting Gaming. Contra was the first of its kind to feature a fully real-time world of constant shooting, blasting, and limitless killing. The control system is simple. The B button shoots, and the A button jumps. That's all you need. You can also crouch by pressing down, but otherwise you're set. This is what makes Contra such an appealing game to all gamers. The learning curve is to easy to learn, and you have limitless ammo (you are a commando after all) that people hardly have to take time out to learn complex weapons or skills. Contra comes down to how well you can react to incoming bullets, and counter those attacks with your own firepower.
Each level is similar, but not in the sense of actual design. Basically, you'll encounter tons of enemies in each level jumping platform to platform. You can shoot in 8 primary directions, which is great since you can pull off some angled shots. Powerups fly along the screen, or are contained inside of enemies after you destroy them. Some powerups give you things like a shield, increased weaponry (fire thrower, spread shot, laser shot), and an extra life. You start the game off with only three lives, but at least you're given unlimited continues. Bosses are at the end of each level, thus creating that mood that you must survive until the end. Many bosses can be overchallenging, but weak spots are usually distinguished by a flashing body part, or some type of indicator. Controls are very responsive, and are probably the sole reason why you live 99% of the time. With limitless ammo, and plenty of enemies to blast away, everyone can have fun with Contra.
Unfortunately, Contra is a difficult game. One shot kills you, meaning you have to be as agile as Spiderman. Mistiming a jump can lead to your death. But regardless, Contra is a true classic in gameplay shooters. While it may have insane difficulty, you will play this day in and day out. Contra doesn't lose any of the action elements, the game stays consistent throughout. You don't have to worry about a bonus stage or some sappy storyline, this is pure action gaming in the control of your own hands.
With the additional two player mode, some of the best NES gaming experiences are going to come directly from Contra. Teamwork can be essential to survival, since taking out a turret might be the work of your courteous friend. The gameplay elements never slow down, meaning it's all about shooting, sniping, and shooting some more. There are no complex puzzles (although fighting bosses and defeating structures might be), and strategy isn't too necessary. For the most part, Contra keeps the gamer ready for more chair bracing action. No other game can come close to what Contra provides in terms of joyful feelings.
With plenty of levels in Contra (8+), and some very unique cheat codes, expect to have a pleasant experience with this game. Since you can play one or two players, Contra is fun for both you and a friend. Action never ceases, and for some odd reason, it never gets boring. Even if you played this game once every day, and defeated it every day, you'd still come back for more. Whether it be the varying gameplay, or the constant challenge of enemies, Konami made a brilliant formula in designing Contra. This is why Contra is considered a classic in all forms; it simply outgunned any other shooter at the time.
Be very cautious though. This is one of the challenging games that you will play for the NES. Enemies placed in hard-to-snipe positions can be nuisances, and some levels have overwhelming amounts of bullets on the screen at once. Weapon upgrades give you a decent chance in defeating the aliens, but you still have to be careful. There are lots of drops in platforms, and jumps that have to be timed right. Agility is a must in Contra, and so is the player's willingness to beat the game. Three lives are too short for most levels, and you'll get use to pressing the start button to continue your game.
Final Factor [9/10]
After getting swarmed with detail after detail, you must understand that Contra is one of the greatest shooters to hit the Earth. Not many prehistoric games can really show how fun side scrolling action can be. Contra is just that. It provides a rush that no other action game depicted at its time. The jumping, shooting, and saving the planet from aliens really inspires the gamer to play more and more. Konami was an absolute genius when they created this game, since they knew the NES was going to have a game that never tainted the surface before. If you're looking for a must-have game for your collection, this is it. Contra is by far the most inspiring and exasperating gaming experience you will ever have. Don't avoid it, don't even try to ignore it. Buy it at all costs; this is a true classic in anyone's gaming library.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/03, Updated 07/22/03
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