Game Review: Contra

Contra Title Screen

  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Released: February 1988
  • Game Type: Arcade
  • Players: 1 or 2 (Simultaneous)
  • Product Number: NES-CT-USA
  • Rarity: E (Very Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Contra Screen 1 Contra Screen 2

    This is a game pak most NES gamers have many memories of. Orignally an arcade game, this title was the first entry in Konami's long-running run'n'gun franchise that has spanned many systems and titles. Whether Contra is remembered for its exciting 2-player action or its 30-man code, most NES gamers agree it's still one of the best platform shooters for the old gray box.

    In 1957, a UFO crashed in the Amazon basin, and very few people noticed. Thirty years later, reports are coming in of an alien creature known as the Red Falcon, who has taken over the region with his army of alien soldiers. This evil creature is out to conquer the universe, and the Earth is the first step toward its goal. In response the Pentagon decides to send in two men on a commando mission: Lance (aka Mad Dog) and Bill (aka Scorpion). Their mission is simple: wipe out Red Falcon and its army of aliens. (Note that originally the game was set in the year 2636 but was changed to the present day for the U.S. release.)

    There are eight action-packed zones in the game, and one or two players can go at it together. The object is simple: get to the end of the level by blasting your way through the waves of aliens and obstacles that come at you relentlessly. Your main weapon is a rifle with unilited ammo. As you proceed, flying pods with falcon symbols will float by, and shooting them causes an icon to appear that can give you a more powerful weapon, such as a machine gun, flamethrower, laser, spread gun and others. You can also find falcon symbols in metal pill-boxes on the walls of the stages that'll also give you some firepower. Be careful; one hit kills you instantly, and causes you to lose your current weapon, forcing you to start your next life with your plain rifle. At the end of each level, you face off against a giant alien boss and must find a weak spot to defeat it an proceed on your mission.

    While most of the game is side-scrilling, there are two levels seen from a 3D behind-the-hero view. Here you have to make your way through the bases room by room. When you enter each room, you're held back by an energy field, and soldiers try to shoot at you from the other side of the room. To proceed, you have to shoot certain sensors on the wall ahead of you, and destroying the required sensors will blast the wall and deactivate the laser field, allowing you to continue on. When you reach the last room, you have to destroy a series of sensors before the bos will appear, which you have to defeat to complete the level.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are pretty good. The stages are well done and do a good job of setting the atmosphere, with some nice details in the background like the shining stars in the first level or the floeing water in Level 3. The sprites are okay, with some decent animation, but the bosses look great and are well designed. There is quite a bit of breakup when too many sprites appear on the screen, though. As far as the audio goes, most Konami carts have excellent music and Contra is no exception. The background tunes range from good to great, with the first and fifth level music being the best. The sound effects are pretty good too, for the bullets firing to the explosions.

    The controls are spot on, which is helpful for this type of game. You can fire in eight directions and can even shoot while moving or jumping. It's slighty bothersome that you move while firing diagonally, but it can be overcome. Also you can control your jumps in mid-air, which is helpful in pulling off some quick moves or dodging bullets.

    Challenge & Playability:
    With this being a Konami game, Contra excells in the gameplay department. This cartridge is full of exciting non-stop shooting action that never gets old and roves to be very addicting. The two-player mode is also fun, and it definetly pays to have back up. The thing to remember in the two-player mode is you have to work together. You can't leave your friend behind, especially in Level 3; if you advance the screen up too fast, your buddy will fall off the bottom of the screen and lose a life. In the side-scrolling levels, the screen won't scroll forward when you're trying to make a jump and you could end up falling into a pit.

    However this game can be difficult at times. If you decide to play this game normally without cheat codes, you'll only have three lives to start, and the fact that one hit kills you means that your game will end quickly. The infamous Konami code that lets you start with 30 lives does help, but you'll still be dying a lot, so be glad you get all the extra men. If you can be this game without the 30-man code, you can call yourself a true expert.

    Contra is an all-out joy to play, a classic that has held up well over the years. The game is well-designed, the action never gets old, and the addictiveness ensures you'll keep coming back to this one even after you've beaten it. This game is also a good 2-player title, if you remember to stay together. While others may like the sequel more, Contra is still one of the top NES games of all time, perfect for old-fashioned blast-athons.

    - Review posted on July 27, 2007