Thursday, December 22, 2016

Contra (NES, 1988)

Today I'm going to look at a game that takes everything awesome about the 80's, puts all of it in a blender, and hits EXTREME PUREE~!

This game is so rad, it should be called Badder Dudes.

It's time...for A Contra Christmas.

We got PREDATOR! We got ALIEN! We got RAMBO! The only thing missing is a Terminator, but rest assured, this series will get to that.


Much like myself, this supports one to two players.

I be sure to punch in the Konami Code at the beginning to get THIRTY EXTRA LIVES! ZAPOW! Now I can kick out as many times as Undertaker in a Wrestlemania match.

Man, look at that bad dude. It'd be much easier with a second player, but I'm going it alone. Know what would be crazy? If I set both inputs to the same controller, and two-playered it with that controller. If I stacked the heroes up, it might work. It'd be the greatest thing since Ripley strapped a flamethrower to a grenade launcher.

Almost immediately, the game throws crumbling bridges my way. Luckily, this is the one level in the game where water doesn't kill you.

The first boss is... a wall. As far as this game goes, it's about as easy as things get. It can't even hit you when you stand in the top left corner.

And now for something completely different. Out of the eight stages in this game, the second and fourth are both vertical-scrolling. least, that's the best way I can describe it. You're given an entirely new perspective here, and I don't like it very much. The enemies fill the screen with bullets in this mode and it's harder to get out of their way.

Stage 2 is basically a series of room clears, and none of them are particularly interesting.

The boss of stage 2... is another wall, except this one is fought in the weird new perspective. It's another fairly easy fight, complete with a safe spot or two.

Safe Spot A...roughly

Stage 3 is the waterfall. I like waterfall levels, and they're nearly as much of a staple of old platform games as ice levels are.

Time to talk about the weapons a bit. This game is notable because you can fire in no less than eight directions, something that is particularly necessary because enemies come at you from everywhere. The jump controls are also really good for the era. There are multiple weapons, and you switch between them on the fly by taking down enemies and grabbing the powerups they drop.

There's the very standard Machine Gun, which rapid fires straight ahead. Spread fires a wave of five or so shots that spreads as it travels; I found it to be the best weapon so I stuck with it for most of the game. A particularly fun weapon is the Fire Gun, which sends out spinning fireballs that do a lot of damage. Lastly, the Laser. Which sucks, basically. I think I got it once and it was a horrific downgrade from the Spread. Aside from Spread, the only weapon I'd really use is probably the Fire Gun.

Course, get hit, and you're right back to using the default rifle... it isn't very good. Luckily, enemies drop weapons constantly.

Next boss: A giant Xenomorph! Holy shit!

They could have driven the point home even more by having an inner-jaw jump out of the mouth. Oh well, missed opportunity.

Another "vertical scrolling" level! I don't like this one either! One very important thing to know for these levels is that you can duck under most of the enemy attacks.

The fourth stage boss is a palette swap of the second stage boss. Honestly, I could do without these two vertical stages. If they had kept it at the other six stages, the game would have been better off for it.

Stage 5 is the requisite snowy level. I don't think you slide around in this game, mercifully.

For some reason, the screenshots are weirdly distorted for a lot of this game. Not sure what the deal is.

The hell! Stop killing me, game!

This stage has several bulldozer minibosses. They're pretty easy. Actually, the bosses in this game are pretty easy in general. They don't match up with the difficulty of everything else.

The main boss is this thing. Not sure what it is, but it teleports around a bit like a Wily saucer. Luckily, unlike Mega Man, this guy can point his weapon upward.

Sixth stage is probably the most difficult in the game, at least in my opinion. Huge difficulty jump here, and I'm guessing this was the final resting place for many, many forays into this game.

It gets ridiculous at times with flame jets shooting out of the walls at fixed, yet very quick, intervals. Swarms of enemies are everywhere, instantly-respawning lest you gain any ground on them, and... oh yeah, there are pits underfoot.

The boss of the level is just the right height for me to unleash maximum firepower on his groin. If it worked for Johnny Cage, it'll work for me.

I think this guy is the final boss in Operation C for the Gameboy. Now I want to play that again. In any case, this fight is a pain because the boss charges right at you and he's tough to jump over. Even once you get the hang of it, he sometimes turns around right away, catching you as you land.

Stage 7 is another tough one; it's spike-filled and generally awful.

Missed getting a shot of the boss here, but it wasn't very interesting either way. I was busy trying not to die, as I contended with instantly-sprouting spike walls.

Stage eight starts you off with a GIANT XENOMORPH. Good God! You know it's the last level when it starts with a boss fight.

What the shit? Facehuggers too? GET THEM OFF OF ME!

The final boss is Red Falcon, a giant brain that unleashes a horde of facehuggers at you. Seems vaguely Metroid-like, doesn't it? This fight is an absolute nightmare on every level, because the facehuggers are probably the most vicious standard enemy in the game.

After winning that fight, our heroes nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Everything in the congratulatory screen is spelled correctly! It sure as hell better be, after that game.

Bottom line is... THIS GAME RULES. The difficulty is pretty ridiculous at times, though.

Ya know, I'm going to try that idea I had earlier. Tape together a flamethrower and a grenade launcher and see what happens.


 This quickly starts to show issues, as when one character dies and respawns elsewhere it causes them to not overlap until I do some correction. In any case, it's double the firepower, but it's no substitute for a real person.

 Here's why. When they get separated, something as minor as this pit suddenly becomes a major issue to tackle.

 The vertical stages are certainly a lot easier like this, though. No pits and the extra firepower lets you breeze past the wall-defenses.

Yeah, this is pretty cool too, but I'll stick to one-player. Super C next, I think.

Other Contra Posts


  1. You should do one of these for Operation C! I remember that game. Two player with one controller looks hysterical, but I doubt it's possible to get very far with it.

  2. You touched on all but one thing. THE ROCKIN' SOUNDTRACK

  3. When I first heard about the Iran-Contra scandal in school, I thought, "CONTRA?! Awesome!"
    The bridge didn't blow up until the very end of For Whom The Bell Tolls, so to see one going down this early is a sign of how real things are.
    Pretty easy not to feel bad when the boss you're killing is a wall.
    I didn't know about the forward-scrolling battles; it's interesting they were confident enough to try so many different things.
    This weapons description right here sounds like the key to what made this game great. Being able to fire in different directions is waaaay different from, say, Mega Man. And tight controls? Excellent.
    It's pretty interesting that the vertical levels have you do trench warfare.
    Your hero is so badass he's running around in the snow without a shirt on!
    Looks like there's a TON happening in this game and it's a deserved classic.