It was just after I finished beating Gradius and telling a friend about my mission to beat Nintendo games that Contra came up. I had told my friend Vandy, that I had beat Mega Man 1-6 which impressed him because of the shear difficulty of that series when he asked if I had beat Contra. I knew what Contra was, and had heard of it but never played it. So after my little talk about it, I decided Contra would be the next NES game that I would take on.
If you enjoy speed runs, and would like to kill 13 minutes watch this crazy guy beat Contra in 13 minutes. Insane.
There were no openings for Contra or cut scenes from the start so I had to google the story. The game takes place on an island off the coast of New Zealand where the head quarters for the organization Red Falcon are. I don’t really know what Red Falcon is all about other than the fact that they are now evil and under the control of aliens. Contra was originally an arcade game so when it was ported to North America the story changed a little bit. Originally it was set in the year 2633, but in North America the story takes place in 1987, the year of the release. I like the first year better. So who is in charge of defeating the Red Falcon Organization and the aliens in control? Leave it to Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, commandos in the unit of Contra, a special force used in war to defeat the alien race. In the arcade version they were able to look unique, but due to the NES graphic limitations, the programmers, just gave Bill a blue jumpsuit and Lance a red one.
Contra consists of nine levels, but nine insane levels. You will die. You will die a lot. You may never beat the game. I beat the game in three hours, but it took me around 30 times to beat the level two boss. It all really depends on which weapon you have. I had the flamethrower against the boss in level two and that was a big mistake. My favorite weapon by far was the gun that shot three bullets at once and all different angles, so even if your aim was off, you would probably hit at least one enemy.
One feature from Contra I really enjoyed and thought was innovative was instead of the whole game being horizontal side scrolling, it mixes it up with 2D vertical levels. Almost like a shooting range indoors, the player faces enemies head on while shooting at them, control panels and avoiding explosions. I really applaud Contra for putting this into the game. The level designs are generic but change at the same time. There is a jungle level, water level, snow level, factory level and cave level, so you get all the environments even though most level layouts are the same for the side scrolling part.
After each level, you face a boss that varies from difficulty. Some bosses I beat my first try but others like the second level boss (close to 30 tries) to the final boss (a weird alien sac that hatched little aliens that took me 15 tries). Most bosses show unique designs, which is refreshing, fighting the same boss over and over like in Gradius gets boring.
The game play was a lot of fun, like most Konami games are. The difficulty is number of lives you get. You start with three, which is like saying here are three lives to cross this giant field littered with land mines, good luck. Back in the day, I don’t know how anyone beat this game without playing it hundreds of time to memorize every enemy. So if you beat it in the 80s, kudos to you.
There is some good soundtrack music, although it’s not as good as Gradius. There is a brief cut scene once you beat the game. It shows the island exploding with Bill and Lance escaping in a helicopter. Which reminds me of how many games end like that….Uncharted 1, Dead Island, Resident Evil 2. They all end with helicopter rides away from the danger. Weird.
This review is kind of short, but Contra is kind of short. As you saw, that guy in the video beats it in 13 minutes. (no, not his junk)
Contra was action packed, and back in the day I’m sure it was hard as hell, it still is today but with emulators it makes it a bit easier. Solid soundtrack, good enemies and bosses but a little too short for my taste. A solid game 7.7/10.