Review by Ice Water

"This game alone is enough reason to riot the arcades and make them bring back the classics."

In the year 1986, quite possibly the greatest game in the world was created: Contra. Silently busting into the Arcades, and becoming a cult classic on the NES within minutes, Contra had enough ass kickin' to make even Ash himself from the Evil Dead trilogy jealous. A year later, Super Contra was put into the arcades and renamed Super C for the NES. The lesser known Arcade version of Super Contra was harder than the original, brought forth new weapons, and then was completely changed for the NES.

One year after Bill and Lance kicked Red Falcon's ass, they are sent into a new jungle to investigate another possible infestation. Dropped in by helicopter into the remains of an enemy base, Bill and Lance within seconds of landing already have more ass to kick than ever before.

Not too much of a story, but since when did two guys with rifles need anymore story than that?

Game play
Being the sequel to the classic Contra, Super Contra is more of the same. A simple joystick, jump button, and shoot button are all that you get in order to slay just about everything you come across in your journey across five levels that are increasingly difficult. Three of the levels are your standard side scrolling fare, with you moving Bill (player 1) or Lance (player 2) to the right side of the screen, shooting everything that attempts to come your way. With infinite ammo, you can definitely keep hittin' that button, seeing how it's the only way you're gonna stay alive in this adventure. Unfortunately, Bill and Lance just cannot take a hit like most super bad asses, and will die in one hit if ANYTHING touches them, be it bullet, rock, bottomless pit, getting' touched by a soldier, etc. And with limited lives to see you through the game, this adds to the challenge of survival as you and possibly a friend go and try to eliminate the alien infestation.

Unlike the first Contra though, Super Contra seems to be more of a side scroller, than a freedom of location. What I mean by this is that Contra I allowed you access to ANY platform that you saw, be it in the river on the bottom of level 1, the top of the cliffs of level 1, and other paths similar on following levels, especially level 5. In Super Contra, you are constantly moving left to right on the side scrolling levels, which kind of sucks since choosing which path you wanted to go on was pretty fun.

On level 2, and 5, you are put into an overhead view, much like in Smash TV, where you must head north while shooting everything in sight. As an added bonus, your Jump button will trigger super missiles when you pick them up that will clear out a room instantly until you use the missile or die. Great stuff, especially in level 5 when you have aliens coming at you from all directions. The only bad thing about these overhead levels is that you have to move to be able to aim your gun in the direction you want to shoot in. This can be trouble if you have to quickly turn up-left and an enemy is waiting exactly one space away in that direction, meaning that you will die even if you do turn to shoot him. Bummer.

What kind of Contra game would this be without power ups? The floating icons are harder to shoot down in this game than they were in Contra, and the items no longer show what exactly they give, as they are all in the shape of a gun, which makes it harder to figure out which weapon you will get. The noteworthy power ups you get in this game are:

-Machine Rockets (replacing Contra's machine gun)
-Spread Gun
-Grenade Launcher

All of these simple power ups are all necessary to kick even more ass than before with your regular rifle. Unfortunately, the Barrier from the original, and the seemingly useless rapid fire icon have been removed, making this version even harder than the original arcade game.

On another note, some arcades may differ from each other by giving you more lives on one machine than another. The standard amount of lives you are allowed per quarter is usually 3, but some may even give you less. And you can only continue 3 times before having to restart on level 1. This was an issue in Contra 1 as well, but at least you start off exactly in the same spot you lost your last life in, unlike the NES counterpart.

Comparing Super Contra to Contra I, Super Contra brings bigger sprites than what the original could handle. The bigger sprites allow for you to see the action even better than before, and allows for cool death sprites with the aliens exploding. Cool! Along with the bigger sprites, the backgrounds are well detailed to show exactly that you are in the enemy base, or the alien infested area. Only problems with the graphics being better though is in the Jungle, where you actually have to go behind the trees, which hinders your sight and may cause unnecessary deaths.

Music and Sound
If the machine you play can actually play sound, then you'll score the chance to hear some of the late 80's greatest arcade music. The rock music blaring through the speakers is in higher quality than the NES counterparts, while not even coming close to the catchiness of the original game's. The sound effects, if you can hear them, are great as well. The explosion sound effect is awesome, the helicopter in the first level actually makes chopper sounds that get weaker as you kick its ass, and the guns also have their own sound as you fire them!

Comparing this version to the NES
Comparing this version to the NES version is quite a challenge. On the one hand, the graphics are way better on the arcade version, but on the other, the NES brings forth more power ups, easier to grab power ups, and a longer game in general with longer levels and more stages. Then again, the first run of the NES version is a hell of a lot easier than the entire run of the arcade version. That and the Super Missiles have been removed from the NES version, causing me to frown upon the overhead view levels. Other than that, the Arcade version is the shorter of the two, yet at the same time the most difficult.

Why the hell can't I play this game?!
Sadly, the time of Super Contra has come and gone, but if you manage to get lucky as I have and find a machine somewhere, play the hell out of it. If you see this and Contra, first make sure you thank the arcade owner for having a severely bad ass arcade, then play the hell out of both games. For only a quarter, you can get in a good amount of ass kicking before you lose all of your lives, and with seemingly unlimited replay value, you can probably keep playing these classics and never get bored with them.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/12/05

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