Contra: Shattered Soldier – PlayStation 2
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date (NA): October 22, 2002
Genre: Run n’ Gun
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Ugh. Why? Why do I put myself through such torturous emotional damage? After a pretty good 2-player run through the original Contra with my buddy recently, I started thinking about the other Contra games on the market. Contra’s direct sequel (Super C) is one tough mother. But as tough as Super C is, it doesn’t quite walk the line between crazy-fun and rewardingly challenging the way Contra III: The Alien Wars does. There would be four other Contra releases between Contra III and Contra: Shattered Soldier, but only 1 of those was great. Although not a perfect game by any measure, Contra: Shattered Soldier boasts some impressive graphical visuals and absolutely absurd difficulty (would you expect anything less?), the latter of which gives me massive headaches. So I am going to do my damn best to get through this game, and this review, without losing my friggin’ mind.
Contra: Shattered Soldier always stood out as a pivotal moment in the franchise’s history as Konami sought to undo the awfulness that Appaloosa Interactive unleashed upon unsuspecting Contra fans with the ill-received Contra: Legacy of War (1996) and C: The Contra Adventure (1998). For whatever reason, Konami thought it wise to allow a 3rd party to develop games for one of their more popular series not once, but twice. Contra: Shattered Soldier marks a return to Konami’s in-house development of the run n’ gun classic, as well as a return to the 2D side scrolling action that we know and love. When this game first came out, it had been 8 years since we experienced a real Konami-led Contra game, so you can imagine that the expectations were high.
After saving earth during the Alien Wars, Bill Rizer murdered his fellow soldier Lance Bean, took over an ultra-magnetic weapons facility, and wiped out 80% of the world’s population. His punishment? 10,000 years imprisonment in cryo-genic stasis.
But now a new threat has emerged to strike fear into humanity and push them to extinction. The army is no match, but one hero looms as the only solution: Bill Rizer. Bill is being called forth again to save the earth and stop the Blood Falcon enemies. Can Bill save humanity and help the humans move forward and recreate society?
Quite the story and perfectly complicated and confusing to say the least! I wouldn’t expect anything less from Konami. And that’s just the set up for the game. The story actually progresses very well as you advance. There are some nice turns in the story as well as a couple of twists! I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll enjoy it if you’re skilled enough to make it through any of the first four levels.
Since Lance is now a dead dude, you are paired with Lucia, a sexy little cyborg created to be the ultimate soldier. She’s more than capable of handling her own, although she is only present when there is a 2nd player… hm… why can’t she help me out in 1 player? Geez.
Being as this is the first classic 2D side scrolling Contra run n’ gun game (I’ll refer to this as “classic Contra”) to be featured on a 32-bit or better gaming system, one would expect an entirely new experience. But that’s not exactly the case. Konami was very careful to take Contra to a whole new level all while maintaining the same feel of its classic predecessors. In that regard, Contra: Shattered Soldier certainly has the “feel” of a classic Contra game!
The controls are much tighter than in games before, as to be expected. I found the use of the analog stick to be really great, which is odd because I’m a bit of a traditionalist. It can be quite the challenge to run forward and shoot backwards, and I was a bit disappointed with how often I had to do that in 1 player. Overall though, the controls are really tight, very responsive, and a fine part of the development.
All is well in the graphics and sound department as Konami really put it all on the table here. Indeed this is played from a 2D side view perspective, but all of the characters, enemies, and settings are fully polygonal graphically, instantly updating the moderately tired run ‘n gun genre. The graphics are sharp and really advanced for a 6th generation system. The colors are a bit dim but fit perfectly well for the dark apocalyptic-style setting they were going for. Aside from the graphics, the heavy metal music fits in quite nicely and the sound effects are absolutely brilliant. They are accurate and beyond detailed (at least from what I can tell. I’m honestly not sure what huge enemy robots in the ocean sound like). I couldn’t have been more pleased with the big 3 here (graphics, soundtrack, and sound effects).
When I play this game, I can’t help but feel like Konami is mad at me. It’s like, “What did I ever do to you?!” Contra: Shattered Soldier is unforgiving and unrelenting in its ability to crush your dreams. I always thought Contra III: The Alien Wars was the most difficult of all the Contra games, but nope. Contra: Shattered Soldier is THE most difficult Contra game I’ve ever played personally. I hate to sound like a sore loser, but there are quite a few cheap shots here. One thing is for certain, this feels like a classic arcade game from the 1990s. Granted it has all the beautiful graphics and top-notch sound of a 6th generation game, but it really feels like a true arcade run n’ gun with its myriad cheap shots, extreme difficulty curve, and the use of “credits” as lives.
Overall, Contra: Shattered Soldier is a fine work of art yet not a game for the weak willed. Only pure determination, skill, and a little luck will get you through this tough-as-nails Konami action title. It may not have the same lasting legacy as its precursors Contra, Contra III, and Contra: Hard Corps, but it did revive the series after a couple missteps in the mid to late 1990s. The introduction of the “hit rate percentage” system was a great way to replace the dated “points system” with something that would motivate gamers to brag. I would rate the game higher if it weren’t for the absolutely insane difficulty. Armed with excellent graphics, edge-of-your-seat action sequences, and stellar sound effects, Contra: Shattered Soldier is worth a go if you’re into emotional self-mutilation. Here at The Bacon, we’re into cutting. Hardcore (hard corps?) cutting.
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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