Contra – NES
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Release Date (NA): February 2, 1988
Genre: Run & Gun
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Dovahkyle
Although my first impressions of this game were in the arcade, I remember going to various friend’s houses and laying down some killer co-op. I will admit, as much as I loved this game, it is one of the hardest games I have ever played, and without the Game Genie codes, I don’t think I would have ever seen the end. Now depending on the version (I played the US one) the storyline, time setting and name of the game are different. In Europe the game was called Gryzor (which did not have two player co-op, they took turns instead) for the PC and Probotector for the NES (which featured robotic replacements for the human enemies, to comply with non-violent game laws), and the Japanese release put the game in the year 2633 off the coast of New Zealand and the antagonist is the Red Falcon Organization, while the version I played is present time, off the coast of America, and the main enemy is an alien force.
Remember a simpler time when ammunition was infinite but lives were not? Game overs actually meant the game was over, and you have to start from the beginning? This allowed for the game to be essentially short (with infinite lives code it could be completed in under a half hour), but because of the limited amount of lives and the “one shot, one kill” method, many game overs are inevitable, so the game will take forever to beat even just the first few stages.
Now if you have ever played Contra on the NES then you will know that the alien enemies and bosses look identical to James Cameron’s Aliens movie. Including by not limited to, egg looking things with face suckers flying out, full size aliens running on the ground and the ceiling, and of course the Stage 3 boss is the queen. Strangely enough the main characters look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone in one of their famous action movies.
There is no information whatsoever about who the characters are or what the mission is in the NES version, unless you have the game insert, and then you actually read it. But the mission is pretty cut and dry, run and shoot, and don’t die. Everyone in the game besides the player (and his co-op partner) are enemies, so there is no reason to ever stop shooting, just mash that shoot button until you reach the end of the ten stages and watch out for all those annoyingly slow enemy bullets, because just one hit and BAM your dead.
The main characters, Mad Dog and Scorpion, will fight hordes upon hordes of enemy soldiers and aliens, robots and bosses, and of course all those bright, flashing sensors need to be destroyed. The game is of the platformer type most of the game, but the enemy bases are played from behind the player in an attempt (a bad one) to make it seem 3 dimensional. When moving forward through the bases, the screen “chops” or jumps from position to position, to get into the next room. Remember if anything is blinking a red and blue color, that is always what your supposed to be shooting at, it makes defeating bosses less about thinking and more about dodging and shooting.
The player starts out with a standard military type rifle, but there are 6 types of weapon upgrades to be found throughout the game: Machine Gun, this allows the player to hold down the shoot button instead of mashing it to pieces; Shotgun (Spreader), this is the best gun in the game in my opinion, completely devastating; Laser Gun, really slow and lame, more of a downgrade; Fireball Gun, kind of a cool looking twirling flame thrower; Rapid Fire, this is just what it sounds like, and Barrier, gives the player temporary invincibility. Each one of these upgrades can be found by shooting down floating capsules and they will be represented by the first letter of the upgrade (“M”=Machine Gun, “S”=Shotgun, etc…).
The storyline is all but missing in this game, although the Japanese version had cut scenes between stages, the US one has none. So other than knowing what your doing is for the good of the human race, there is no clear story. Aliens and enemy soldiers have apparently teamed up to take over the world, and destroying large robots and alien bosses is the only way to save everyone.
The controls are as simple as they come, jump and shoot. You can even jump and shoot at the same time, which is the only way to shoot enemies below the sprite. There aren’t any buttons combos or difficult tactics to learn, just shoot, run and jump allot.
The electronic dance music really gets me in the mood to kill aliens, I mean what other kind of music can do that? The graphics are pretty standard for arcade games of the late ’80s, but maybe a little more pixelated than the typical NES game. Still acceptable for the time and graphics are really the last thing I was paying attention to as this game is filled with non-stop action from start to finish.
This is a great game to play over and over, which really isn’t a choice if your not using a game genie. If you do decide to play it again after finishing the whole thing, the game difficulty becomes harder (how is that even possible?) with more enemies and they are a little harder to kill.
Overall this is one of the best video game memories I have, and having just beat it last night with my brother-in-law, I remembered how timeless this title really is. If you let it take you back to the days of no save points, short life spans and many game overs, you will surely remember why we all loved this game as kids. There is no doubt in my mind, this was one of the best run and gun titles of it’s time and even today.
Oh, and how could we ever forget the Konami Code?! Contra is probably the game that put the Konami Code on the map!
30 Lives: At the title menu, press UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, Start. This will give you 30 lives at the start! 30 much needed lives.
– Reviewed by Dovahkyle
“I could never forget my first experience with Contra. Contra was one of the games that defined my childhood.” – Nerdberry
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