Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #144: Contra

Title : Contra

Publisher : Konami

Developer : Konami

Genre : Run n Gun

Players : 1 / 2 Players

Release Date : 1988

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $10-$15

Take a minute and just think about what's the first thing that comes to mind when you see the above images of that CONTRA box art? Is it the fact that it's an obvious rip off of Arnold Schwarznegger? Or perhaps the Xenomorph from aliens happens to be lingering in the background. Maybe, you're thinking about the countless evenings you spent playing this game in a meager attempt to beat it with your friends. Even 2 people versus and armed alien invasion seemed impossible.

Perhaps, it was a fabled code that you overheard a couple of kids talking about in school by their desks during lunch. "What are you guys talking about?" you'd ask. They'd look up at you and very silently reply, "Haven't you heard?"

"Heard of what?"

They look to one another then swallow hard.


Oh yes, CONTRA was the game that forced you to milk the code to no ends. I feel like the code should have just been put into the instruction manual, because after all this game was almost impossible to beat without it. For some reason the Konami Code has been passed down through the generations as a gamers calling card, or some password into a secret society. We all know it. It's ingrained in our brain.

It makes you wonder....where did the Konami code come from? Was it released by the developers, or stumbled upon by some lucky gamer who had been smashing the buttons on his controller in frustration. The world may never know (or it may be known and I am too lazy to look it up)

But enough about the Konami code, let's talk about one of the greatest games on the NES. A game that is sure to strike a chord in your nostalgic gamer hearts. Let's play some Contra.

You play as one of two soldiers, Bill Rizer or Lance Bean (bad names...)  from a group of guerilla warfare specialists known as the Contra unit tasked with discovering the true intentions of an evil organization, The Red Falcon. You have been sent to the Amazon jungle, where you need to infiltrate their base, destroy it, and uncover a hidden alien group hell bent on the conquest of Earth. Oh, I have chills just thinking about it.

Well, you don't really need a story for games like this. After all, it's all about the mindless slaughter. And let me just suggest, that this game is a lot more fun when playing with a friend. Trust me on this. 1 player mode is great, but the co-op mode is that much better. But just don't get angry when your friend dies all the time and he starts stealing all your lives. Bastards..

Contra is a classic run n gunner - you move across the terrain from left to right, blasting enemies as they come and collecting power ups as they fall. The game also incorporates some platforming elements by requiring your avatars to make death defying jumps at certain instances. It can be a pain, but it just adds to the challenge element. Nothing quite like avoiding hundreds of floating ball bullets while trying to make a jump over a pit of water that will kill you.

What's with water killing you in games...does no one know how to swim!?

There are a total of 8 stages you'll have to clear in Contra, and each subsequent level is just exponentially more torturous than the last. For the most part, the levels are side-scrolling, but there are also other levels that have more of a 3D perspective view as if you are running forward into a maze-like dungeon. I never really did like these levels, because the perspective always threw me off, and I didn't like having to duck down and roll to fire at enemies. But, it does change up the pace of the game which helps, and it provides a different sort of challenge. Nothing like blowing up a core in the middle of a long tunnel to brighten your day.

Power ups in this game are the real kicker. It's funny how if you are playing co-op, you and your friend will always be racing for the same damn power up. I was always a spread shot kind of guy, but my friends always preferred the laser canon. The NES also introduced a enemy clearing blast power up, that for some reason I always missed out on. Just my luck, eh? Right when I needed it I'd end up dying. Loved watching those medals on the top of the screen fade away.

Contra was one of those games that if you had played the arcade version, then moved over to the Nintendo version, you wouldn't feel that much of a difference. Sure, visually the arcade would have always been better, but Contra for the NES stands the test of time as one of the most popular NES games ever.

Controls were flawless, difficulty was unforgiving BUT fun, and the visuals for the time were spot on and impressive. I don't even want to give Contra a lengthy review, because what's the point? We all know the game, and we all know how good it is.

Why spend our time reading and writing, when we could spend our time playing this awesome game. Get to it. And bring a friend.

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!