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  1. #1

    Retro|Spective 025: Contra

    Now we cast our minds back to a time before Konami collapsed on itself like a dying star, to a time when it took cheat code tradition and making games seriously with ...


    Mainline Entry 01 - Contra
    Formats: Arcade, NES, MSX2, Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, PC
    Also released under the names Gryzor and Probotector, the side on shooter game saw players take on the roles of Bill and Lance as they fought their way through multiple stages of action and bosses in an effort to take down the Red Falcon Organization. Using eight way directional shooting the player can upgrade their default weapon to one of four alternates. Contra mixed up its gameplay from stage to stage, not afraid to change the player perspective to keep the shooting action fresh as you worked your way towards the end credits, a much easier feat on NES where the game was one of the earliest to feature the famed konami code. The PAL version of the game was known for its Probotector rebranding that changed the characters to be robots instead of humans in order to lessen the violence accusations.

    Mainline Entry 02 - Super Contra
    Formats: Arcade, NES, Commodore 64, PC
    With the Red Falcon Organization defeated it was only natural that aliens would invade and so Bill and Lance once again took to warfare to protect mankind. The game was originally released in arcade form but later home ports came along under the titles Super C and Probotector II. The new game added vertical, overhead sections in the game which was itself shorter than the original by only featuring five stages.

    Mainline Entry 03 - Contra III: The Alien Wars
    Formats: SNES, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance
    As always seems the way, the series abandoned arcade at this point with the third game taking its main home on Nintendo's second main home console the SNES. Known this time as Contra Spirits in Japan and Super Probotector in the EU, the third entry in the series continued the alien strand but this time made it a full scale invasion in the far future with Jimbo and Sully taking the lead. Adding vehicle chases and Mode 7 effects, the game stepped up the visual bar for the series whilst adding a selection of difficulties for players to rely on.

    Spin Off Entry 01 - Contra Force
    Formats: NES
    This 8-bit spin off of the series brought in a team of four for another five staged action game that had little to do with the main series. Originally developed to be its own game, the title was later reworked to bring it under the series fold in an effort to bolster its appeal thanks to the similarity it held to the series. However, a delayed release till after the SNES game and middling reviews led to the game drifting away in relevance.

    Spin Off Entry 02 - Contra: Hard Corps
    Formats: Mega Drive
    In some ways this spin-off took some inspiration from the failed NES title in following a team of four but despite being the start of the Hard Corps sub-brand, the new title was more in-canon than before by being set five years after the events of Contra III. Being set mostly from the side on perspective, the game allowed players to carry up to four weapons as they fought through the levels that now featured branching paths.

    Mainline Entry 04 - Contra: Legacy of War
    Formats: Playstation and Saturn
    Outsourced to Appaloosa, the new game used the power of the new systems to take Contra into 3D territory. The attempt was adapt the old school gameplay of the series by adopting an isometric viewpoint with the player now able to strafe and duck in conjunction with auto aim support. The game was considered enjoyable enough but it left many wishing for the traditional Contra experiences of the past.

    Mainline Entry 05 - C: The Contra Adventure
    Formats: Playstation
    Following up on Appaloosa's first attempt was this PS1 exclusive sequel that only made it to US shores. The new game continued right off from where the last one had left off in terms of gameplay but aimed to freshen the experience by resurrecting the franchise history of mixing up gameplay viewpoints throughout its ten missions. The idea didn't pay off though, the new game was the poorest received game in the series.

    Mainline Entry 06 - Contra: Shattered Soldier
    Formats: Playstation 2
    With the next game the series had fully submerged itself in the dark aesthetic the current games of the time seemed to like and despite the latest generational shift Konami committed to following the desires of fans and reviewers by making a traditional side on experience. Lance and Bill returned in this grim-dark alien battle scorched Earth tale and the result was a game that pulled in better results than the PS1 efforts but Konami was still held back by the series inability to move forward with the times.

    Mainline Entry 07 - Neo Contra
    Formats: Playstation 2
    After the first PS2 entry managed to turn things around for the series, Konami cracked on by developing this follow up that introduced sporadic 3D shooting sections. The game also carried a series of alterations to the set up including the removal of the ability to jump and in its place a dash move for enemy fire evasion. Thrown even further into the distant future, you once again played as Bill only this time as his clone.

    Mainline Entry 08 - Contra 4
    Formats: Nintendo DS
    Inserting itself into the canon between Contra 3 and Hard Corps, the handheld entry took place two years after Contra 3 and seeing Bill and Lance return, the game utilised both screens to carry on the action with the addition of a grappling hook. The handheld form and traditional experience proved a hit and the game was well received in what was expected to be a bit of a comeback for the series.

    Spin Off Entry 03 - Contra ReBirth
    Formats: Wii
    Despite the success of the previous game it was another five years till Contra resurfaced and even then it was a digital Wii game. The new title travelled back in time to deliver a fairly SNES era experience complete with the retro sprite visuals.

    Spin Off Entry 04 - Hard Corps: Uprising
    Formats: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
    Once again attempting to spring board the Hard Corps sub-brand into its own series, the traditional side on action returned for this game that took place two decades before the original Contra entry. The game was the last of the Contra series to see release and finished on a critical high at the least by receiving positive write ups.

    Share your thoughts on another Konami victim

  2. #2
    Contra: Shattered Soldier on PS2 must be one of the hardest games ever made it is brutal beyond all reason. Hard Corps: Uprising was developed by Ark system works looks great, but just lacks the gameplay of the earlier titles levels are a bit to long and boring. Not in the same class as Hard Corps and it was a bit of a disservice to use the same name and try to link the stories.

  3. #3
    All about the Game Boy for me.

  4. #4
    I just can't get into this series. I'm not sure why, you can see the quality but it just doesn't do anything for me.

  5. #5
    I remember going into Telegames on several Saturdays and blagging a go on Contra 3 on the Super Famicom... never did buy it in the end. I had a lovely Genesis copy of Hard Corps though, absolutely fantastic game. Although I never could work out why Konami chose to put it in a cardboard box, same with Castlevania.

    To be honest I find the generic Rambo character quite boring, I much prefer the Probotector mecha, even though it was censorship it made things more interesting.

  6. #6
    I loved the original arcade game - and then the Amstrad version known as Gryzor. After that, I remember liking the NES edition. The Game Boy Contra game is really nice. Contra III was the game that really grabbed me and went down as one of my favourite games; it's still my favourite run-'n-gun title. I also liked Hard Corps on the Mega Drive, which really shows off the tech and is a very nice addition to the series.

    After the 16-bit era, I thought Shattered Soldier was OK, but dull looking and too tough. Neo Contra offers reasonably fun action. Contra 4 on the DS is a nice looking retro-esque experience.

    Last edited by Leon Retro; 06-02-2018 at 02:43 PM.

  7. #7
    At some point I have played Contra 3/Super Probotector in both those forms as well as Shattered Soldier. It's a genre I've always struggled with though beyond the Metal Slug series. Even back in its heyday it was all too repetitive and simplistic to hold my attention.

  8. #8
    Pssssst...Super C came out on Amiga, not C64.

  9. #9

  10. #10
    I've only played the Gameboy game, which I think was called Operation C. I quite enjoyed it.


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