Thursday, December 29, 2016

Contra III: The Alien Wars (Super NES, 1992)

Time for one of the greatest action games of the 16-bit era. This game actually came out -before- Contra Force, but it blows away that game in every area.


My God! A big swirly cloud just appeared in the sky and blew up that unnamed city!

Who would do such a bad thing?

...oh, that guy would? This must be the mysterious Red Falcon. I thought the giant heart at the end of the first game was Red Falcon? I'm so confused.

SUPER-SERIOUS CLOSE-UP of the hero's face. If this game came out today, this picture would be on the cover of a Game Informer.

Game Informer. Games are serious business!

 By God they're serious!

Guile over here has a comrade for two-player co-op. Maybe this would be the Game Informer cover.

...I don't know what it is, but there's something creepy about these two.

The music for the first stage is pretty damn great. It's fittingly epic for the huge battle about to unfold.

This area features futuristic sports cars that you can blow up. Take that, The 1%! As usual, you can fire in all directions, and there are a number of different weapons to acquire. Best of all, it throws you right into the action. If this game came out today, you'd have to go through a ten minute tutorial level at the beginning. Press Y to fire? No way! Phew, we would have never figured that out on our own.

This game introduces smart bombs that clear the screen. You get one with every life, so these become quite useful if the game is kicking your ass. There's one late-game section where I'd basically be spamming smart bombs as the enemies killed me repeatedly.

The spread gun is still awesome. A technical thing to note is that unlike the NES games, this one displays all of the shots onscreen at once. There's no flicker (showing half the shots at any given time, then the other half in a rapid blink) because the Super NES can handle far more particles.

This was one of the selling points of the system, and I think the first Ghost House in Super Mario World was designed specifically to be a tech demo to this end.

...I should cover Super Mario World.

The laser returns, and it's more useful here than it was in the past. Wait, what the hell is going on with that dog back there? It's almost definitely a reference to the Thinged-out dog in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The first miniboss is the wall from the end of Stage 1 of Contra. It's the return everyone was clamoring for! Here we see the homing gun in action. It's quite potent in this game, and actually beats the spread gun in usefulness.

In this stage you get to commandeer a tank and blast through a bunch of enemies with it. Unfortunately, it doesn't last too long, nor does it show up in any later stages.

The next miniboss is a slightly more badass enemy tank. Can't steal this one, unfortunately. Did they pack a lot of stuff into this first stage or what?

DUCK AND COVER! A bomber jet flies in from the background using state-of-the-art Mode 7 effects, launching bombs right past our hero. Bad-ass!

It also sets fire to the area, causing you to have to climb your way through the ruins for a bit.

Ya know, I don't say this often, but... this game is outstanding. It brings the awesomeness right from the get-go, and this first stage blows you away by the time it's over.

After all that, we battle The Queen Metroid the first boss.

But seriously... Queen Metroid.

After completing a stage, you're treated to still shots of our heroes being all bad-ass.

This reminds me. Unlike the earlier games, you can have two different weapons equipped at once in this game and switch between them on the fly. Best of all, if you lose a life, you only lose the weapon you have equipped. So it's possible to keep, say, a homing gun stashed away for the tough parts.

Stage two is overhead-view, and lets you choose your starting location.

It's a quick, oddly easy stage where you have to destroy five stationary enemies at set points in the level. It shows you where they are before you start, points you towards them with arrows, and they're easy fights. I finished this stage in a couple of minutes with no lives lost.

The boss is a little bit tricky, and comes from the Axelay school of "giant spinning boss with one weak point". This game has quite a bit in common with that one, from the alternating stage viewpoints to the sound effects/music being very similar.

Moving onto stage three, this one has another outstanding BGM. It sounds similar to Akuma's theme from Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha.

Visually impressive stage too. It's some kind of steel mill that just goes on for miles. Creepy, like something out of The Matrix. Actually, this looks a lot like the modern Jersey Turnpike. Man, I hate that place. Just industrial plants for miles on either side of the highway.

Oh yeah, so... that's the fire gun. It seems to change from game to game. I liked it as a big fireball that flew across the screen, but this flamethrower variation on the weapon works too. I'm surprised it took them this long to go full flamethrower with it, considering how much this series rips off Aliens.

The most frustrated I ever felt while playing this game was this miniboss right here. You have to hang onto its arms while shooting the red eye, and the arms swing you around in a big circle. This fight is just frustrating on every level; it's difficult to stay on the arms and there's no forgiveness here. A rare misstep in the design of this game.

The miniboss procession continues as I have to fight this thing while clinging to a wall. They really thought outside the box for some of these fights...

This part is tricky until you get the timing down. It repeatedly tries to slam into you, and it moves faster than you climb. So you need to anticipate it in advance.

A helicopter attacks here. It's a pretty simple fight compared to the earlier minibosses. This part is noteworthy because you can get infinite lives here by standing to the left and blasting the enemies that the boss spawns for about half an hour. Well, 30 lives, because the game won't go any higher than that. It's definitely something you'll want to stop and do if it's your first go at the game. Emulator frameskip helps immensely.

Did you think Terminator was oddly missing from this Alien and Predator reference filled series? You were right. UNTIL NOW. The next boss is a fight with these two terminator-things that stalk around the room. One of them would have been enough to contend with, and this is a bit much.

Just to really drive home that they're terminators, if you blast them enough their torso rips off and their top halves crawl around the room trying to reach you.


So after all of that, you have to fight a giant terminator that rips its way through the wall of the room. This fight isn't too bad, but taken in its entirety, stage three was brutal.

Stage 4 is even harsher. At the beginning you go all Sons of Anarchy, riding a motorcycle. Just when you think it'll be a fun cruise...

...a battleship swoops in! As is tradition in this series, the enemies are becoming more and more extraterrestrial-looking as the game goes on.

Yet another miniboss. The homing gun is particularly useful here, since it reaches the vulnerable top section with little effort.

Our hero GETS TO THE CHOPPA as the most difficult part of the stage begins. This next part has you hanging off of missiles as your "footing".

That's right. Any time this game makes you hang off of things with a huge pit below you, it's bad news.

The boss here is absolutely brutal, as you have to shoot it in these very out-of-reach barrier generators while barely having time to leap from missile to missile as they kamikaze into the barrier. It's rough.

Onward to the desert. Great tune here, which for some reason I can't embed as a video. This might be my favorite track in the game, but it's hard to say since there is so much great music here.

This is another super-easy vertical-view stage. It's welcome after the harshness of the previous stage. The floor shifts, pushing you around (and spinning you, in the case of the swirly things). Makes this a bit harder than stage 2, but it's still simple.

The boss here is a giant tumor. This is an easy fight because it doesn't move, and you can blast the hell out of it without having to readjust too much from movement. Take that, cancer!

And here's the sixth/final stage. The walls are all Xeno-y, ala the ship in Alien.

The music here is intense. It also contains the theme from Predator. Seriously. At 1:48, it turns into the exact same tune.

GIANT XENOMORPH ALERT~! This was the miniboss from the last stage of the original game; what's it doing here?

I remember you!

Onward to the giant heart that comprised the final boss of the original game. Once again, it launches facehuggers at you, and once again they're painful to deal with.

What a difference a few years can make, eh?

Here's the Space Jockey/Engineer Redux, as expected. This was the final boss of Super C. None of these fights are particularly difficult; the issue comes from fighting them all in succession.

Here it is in 8-bit. Odd how it's so much bigger here, especially relative to the player size.

Here's something new...I think. It's a wyvern-type enemy that you have to fight while scaling a wall. The weapon I'm using in this shot is one I haven't touched on yet, the Crusher Missiles. Probably the most powerful weapon, but fairly short range. They travel about halfway across the screen and explode. Seem to make short work of most enemies, though.

This thing has a stabby Xeno-tail, so beware. It also has a bit of a Xeno-head. Basically, there are just Xenos everywhere in this level. It's like the penis notebook at the end of Superbad, only with Xenos instead of penii.

"Fear Me!"

Next boss. It's... vaguely Xeno-y. Looks like the malevolent face from the destroyed city in the intro, so I blast it with my flamethrower. Wait a minute, wasn't this thing in one of the other games?

Yep, another Super C boss, this time from the third-to-last stage. I'm so confused about which one of these things is Red Falcon. If this is Red Falcon, does that mean he got promoted to endboss after Super C?

Winning that fight triggers the final (for real this time!) battle, as you face off with a giant floating brain. THIS must be Red Falcon. Notice the Xeno-ribs in the background? I think the Xenomorph might be the only movie monster in history that you could make a whole video game level out of. It's so well-designed that you could use every part of the Xeno, much like the Native Americans used every part of the buffalo.

In any case, this battle is a bit difficult, but nothing insurmountable after the path to get here. It has four orbs that rotate around it, and shooting one of these orbs causes the boss itself to alter its attack pattern for a while. For instance, hitting the eyeball causes the boss to rain eyeballs. It's a bizarre fight.

When you win, the brain crashes to the floor and grays out, ala Super Metroid.

With that, it's time to GET TO THE CHOPPA! yet again as this series concludes.

What a great, great game. This might well be the king of SNES action games, and everyone should play it once.


  1. Happy Thanksgiving - and thanks for giving us so many of these :)

    One little thing: I don't think the plane in the first stage is a miniboss. It drops bombs to change the stage layout, then leaves.

    1. Thanks for the thanks, and you're right about the plane. Fixed!

  2. Enjoyed the music links.. Moar of those please. Contra: Hard Corps on the Genesis was better than this game IMHO. You should play that one too. Red Falcon is the brain at the end, FYI.

  3. Back in the future, and far enough ahead in time the game won't seem outdated later.
    The two heroes are still Arnold and Stallone.
    I didn't know the spread gun in the NES was alternating things to animate to fit everything. That's pretty fascinating. Very smart to bring the Ghost House up as an example, too! We take it for granted now but that must've been such catnip for developers.
    WALL! Wall should make the list of "greatest game villains" is this all in one stage? This first stage is a masterpiece, a game all its own.
    This enemy turtle is really famous, and his look is so SNES. This is the next stage of retro graphics.
    The double equip sounds great, too.
    "Creepy, like something out of The Matrix."
    The funny thing is this industrial wasteland is the Earth we're -saving-! It still seems likely this we'll happen if we don't get more serious about the environment.
    I noticed they got rid of all the humanoid bad guys, too.
    My brain is melting from the awesomeness of this game.
    I'm so impressed by how many different kinds of fights there are here. Like they made a rule that no two could be alike.
    FINALLY, the Terminators are here!
    AAHHH that one that came out of the wall though! That was shocking!
    Motorcycle fight THEN shooting while hanging off a chopper? I'm breathless!
    You have to jump from missile to missile while shooting at the boss? ::hyperventilating::
    I appreciate that they kept these Mode 7 overhead stages in here to show what new things you could do.
    Even though they're using Xenomorphs, the sheer extent of their creativity in designing new ones in this last stage is worth some credit.
    That heart is massive. And having you fight all body parts? Raining, whoever made this is a genius at appealing to boys' imaginations.
    The SNES remix of the Super C boss is more in line with what I would expect.
    "Hard Corps" is a great pun.
    A final wall-fight? Fighting a brain inside a ribcage? Man, this was so exhilirating. Thanks, and thank you Konami for making this.

  4. I second the Contra: Hard Corps request. Great work here as usual. This should have won an award for variety in mini-bosses (and so many of them).

  5. Thanks for the comments! Contra: Hard Corps is indeed on the way next, so tune in for that.

  6. Whoa, good job beating it, that game is damn tough.

    Let's attack aggressively!

  7. When you are playing on hard the brain will climb after you up the giant rib cage and you have to defeat it again while hanging from chopper-mounted missile.

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