Now Playing: Contra series (1987-?) Part 1

Oh, original Contra, how I love thee. Ever since I played you at my cousin’s house, then begged to have you for Christmas, then my grandparents bought me GOLF instead, and I cried like a little bitch. Anyway…Contra is still one of the greatest games ever made, to this day. I’d put it in my top 5 greatest games of all time without hesitation. It was amazing then and it’s still amazing now. I must have played it hundreds of times by now and I still never get tired of this damn game. It is the ultimate arcade shooter with awesome combat, level design, boss design, and music. It’s also one of those rare games where the home version was actually better than the original arcade version it was based on. The arcade version had better graphics, but was inferior in every other way. The music was nowhere near as good, the controls (especially that weird jumping) were a bit awkward, the levels were much shorter, and some of the best bosses were completely missing. No contest. It’s really kind of a shame that there have been so many damn sequels, yet not one of them has ever been as perfect as the original. Still gonna play em all though!

Super C was by no means a BAD sequel. Technically speaking, it had improved graphics and sound, and it still had everything that made the original so great in it, yet somehow it was just lacking a certain something. The bosses, while numerous and even more challenging than before, just weren’t as memorable or exciting for the most part. The music, while still good, just didn’t have that ultra-catchiness most of the songs in the original had. The level design was serviceable, but again, not as exciting somehow. I guess it just tried too hard to replicate its predecessor without really adding anything new or interesting and suffered a little for it.

This was a weird little game. The levels are all blatant mash-ups of previous levels from Contra and Super C and the music is just ripped straight out of original Contra, but at least they added some new bosses I guess. It’s noticeably shorter than any other game in the series and isn’t particularly challenging or memorable, but I guess it’s a decent enough waste of time for 45 minutes or so.

Contra 3 learned the lesson that Super C failed to. Not only was everything bigger and better, but the level and boss designs were inventive and exciting again, and interesting new gameplay mechanics like dual weapons, ledge hanging, and bombs were added. To offset the advantages of these new gameplay mechanics though, they made the game insanely difficult. I often see the original Contra on a lot of silly-ass “most difficult old games” lists and it really makes me shake my head. Contra was a walk in the fucking park compared to a lot of other, much, much harder NES games like Battletoads and Ghosts n’ Goblins. Contra 3 was where the series really started getting “hardcore”. This game is tough enough as it is on normal, but then it rubs your nose in it in the end when it tells you that you can’t face the real final enemy and get the full ending until you try again on hard mode and holy fuck is it serious when it says hard mode. Still, like I said though, much more memorable and exciting all around than Super C was. Looks like there’s updated version of this on Gameboy Advance with extra levels added though? Guess I should have played that instead. Oops.

Contra Force was the bastard child of the Contra franchise that no one knew or cared about, as far as I know. Really, I never knew anyone who had it or played it. It came out really late in the lifespan of the NES, when everyone was already moving on to Genesis and Super Nintendo, and from all the previews of it, it didn’t really even look much like any Contra game we’d ever seen before. I’m not really sure what they were trying to do here. There are no aliens. Instead you get exciting bosses like LARGE GREEN MAN WITH A HAT. There’s no connection at all to any other Contra game. It’s basically just a completely different game that they slapped the Contra name on to make a quick buck. It’s a disgrace to the series and I gave up after 2 whole levels.

Hard Corps was Contra’s first departure from Nintendo systems. It was actually a pretty great sequel, continuing the difficulty and menagerie of crazy bosses in the vein of Contra 3 while also adding a few branching paths that resulted in 5 different endings, each with a few unique levels and bosses of their own.

There was also apparently this secret area and ending that I never knew about back in the day, which is absolutely nuts.

Sure. I just went back to the prehistoric age and married a monkey, because why the fuck not.

Next, Konami said “fuck this, we’re moving to Playstation”. I never played either of the PS1 Contras back in the day. I always heard they were terrible. Legacy of War is…unbelievably shitty. This is clearly a victim of the early 90s 3D craze, much like Castlevania 64, you know, where everyone was all LOOK WE CAN MAKE GAMES IN 3D NOW BUT HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE HOW TO DO IT AND PROBABLY SHOULDNT EVEN BE TRYING BECAUSE EARLY 3D GRAPHICS TECHNOLOGY IS ACTUALLY PRETTY FUCKING AWFUL! Anyway, this tries to get all clever and multi-perspective, but just ends up having really bad controls and a really bad camera that’s fixed too close to your character and can’t be controlled in any way, so basically aiming properly is impossible. There is a button you can hold down to fix your aim direction, but it doesn’t seem to always work for some reason? It’s just a mess. Look at this futuristic 3D graphics too:

What the fuck even is that? A robot? An alien? An anthropomorphic cheetah/pancake hybrid? I tried to keep playing just to see how laughably bad it gets and it just gets worse and worse. It even tries to throw some insta-death platforming your way. I cannot believe they did that with how bad the perspective and camera is. Wait. WAIT. LOOK AT THIS CUTSCENE. LOOK AT IT.

THIS IS A REAL CUTSCENE SOMEONE MADE. FOR A GAME. FOR MONEY.

I don’t know though. If you put in the infinite lives cheat and stop trying to play by the broken game rules then it’s fun in an awful train wreck kind of way. Oh fuck, and the next one is also made by the same dev team too? Should I even bother? Urrrgh. I can’t help it. I gotta at least try it once.

Huh. Actually this one was kinda fun. The devs are still confused as fuck. The perspective changes every damn level. First side scrolling, then 3rd person shooter, then back to awkward top down. Only the first and last levels were sidescrolling for some reason. The 3rd person part was the most fun, oddly enough, despite its own set of flaws. Your guy suddenly starts spouting catchphrases at random when he kills things. Shoot a guy? “CHECK PLEASE”! Blow up a tank? “TASTES LIKE CHICKEN”! Yes, he actually says that. Half the levels seem to be completely missing music for some reason too. Gee, I wonder why no one has heard of Appaloosa Studios since these games came out??

The bosses are a bit more inventive this time around at least. One I remember especially well was this weird kind of medical split dog type thing that hopped around on two legs for the first part of the fight, then in the second part gave birth to the other half of itself that recombined with the original half and attacked you, then you blow its legs off and it starts flying around on these little flappy flippers and shooting acid and maggots at you. WTF.

Well, I’ll have to continue this later, since upon digging up my ancient Playstation 2, it seems to be dead. When the replacement arrives, I’ll try to continue with Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra…

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