Review by Slateman

"Classic Contra - in virtually every aspect"

I suppose there are 2 type of people in the world. Those who have yet to play a good Contra game, and those who have. I say 'Good' simply because there were some shoddy updates to the series. By Good, I mean the first few installments, Contra, Super C, Contra III, Contra: Hard Corps.

If you've played one of these Contra games before, you know how it goes. Shoot everything you see, marvel at the amazing animations, enormous boss battles and shudder at the sheer difficulty. Contra: Shattered Soldier (Shin Contra in Japan) has all of these elements in spades.

Newcomers to the series will be amazed by the very same elements. However, they may get turned off by the utter impossibility of the game! As virtually every review will say, this game is HARD. Plain and simple. You're going to die, over and over and over again. If you weren't to die, you could probably get through the game in under 45 minutes, perhaps in less than half an hour. But you're not going to do this in your first sitting, I don't care how great a gamer you are. Unless you're using cheats, you will need to return to the game before getting to the 5th level, and so forth.

Now...this is a classic side scroller shooter and that may not be everyone's cup of tea. By putting the necessary time into the game though, you will feel rewarded when your fatality count lessens. Progressing through the game requires you to play through multiple times, remember enemy patterns, learn which weapon to use when. Due to this, the Contra: SS is unlike 90% of games you'll find on shelves today. There are no save points. It is truly a classic game in virtually every aspect. Fans from the NES days will revel in such attention to detail and the throwback gameplay. Just be prepared to be frustrated, whether you're an old gamer or a new one.

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Gameplay
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This really is simple. Shoot Everything. With 3 different types of weapons, which can be charged for a separate shot, you essentially have 6 different weapons at your disposal. Enemies will come for you from every direction, left, right, up and down. Just kill everything.

Of course, that's the basic way to look at things. You can progress through the game in such a way. On the other hand, you can strive for the elusive 100% on every level. You'll do this by defeating every specified enemy on any level. The rewards for doing so are spoilers, and to tell you the truth, I haven't gotten that far yet. But it's an added aspect of the game that only makes it better. For instance, the first level contains a mini-boss that can be defeated in a mere 30 seconds. However, if you were to try for the 100% goal, you need to destroy many other objects therefore elongating the boss battle and kicking the difficulty up a notch. Whichever manner you decide to play, the gameplay is as right-on as it was 15 years ago.

An added gameplay feature found in the later titles is the lock feature. By utilizing the L2 and R2 buttons, you can lock your character into position. If an enemy is above you, simply hold L2 and lock your gun in a 45° angle. You can still maneuver this way. In fact, without this feature, the game would certainly be unplayable! It's an integral part of the gameplay, and like everything else, it shines.

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Graphics & Sound
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Exellent in both regards.

Several failed 3D attempts at Contra has allowed the designers to go back to the basics. Most of the game is side scrolling, but the presentation is perfection. A bright and detailed 3D graphics engine has given life to what really is a 2D game. Blow up gas barrels and watch as lush explosions take place and enemies crumble engulfed in flames. The animations are incredible, from the normal minions to elaborate bosses. Simply put, the graphics are phenomenal and stay true to the series' roots.

The game excels in the sound department as well. The soundtrack is a mix of pure heavy metal and techno, but fortunately the songs don't typically incorporate both. Contra's music is perfect for blowing everything up and the sound effects follow suit. Explosions are gritty and booming and the gunfire sounds as I'd imagine it. I've never been a big critic of sound effects, so I have no complaints here.

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Replay Value
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Considering the fact that you won't beat this the first time through, it's safe to say that there is a decent amount of replay value here. If you're a gamer who will just beat a game once and be done with it, you will still need to go through the levels several times. You will have to remember patterns and locations. On the other hand, if you are yearning for that higher hit count and the bonuses along with it, you will definitely be hitting the game over and over, regardless of whether you've completed the game. Repeatedly playing one level may seem tedious, but nothing beats that sense of accomplishment when you can complete one stage without continuing, or when you actually hit that elusive 100%. Due to this, the replay value of a game such as Contra is truly based on which kind of gamer you are.

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Final Thoughts
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I loved Contra when I was 12 and I love Contra now that I'm 27. Konami kept everything that was good about the series and added much more. Ultimately it's a perfect upgrade to one of the premier series' in gaming history.

While the game itself is short, don't anticipate beating it quickly. If you're up for the challenge, buy the game. If all the talk about the difficulty level frightens you, try the 30 live code and rent it. Any way you look at it though, Contra: Shattered Soldier is classic in almost every way, and for that, it gets a near perfect score from me!


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/21/03, Updated 01/21/03

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