Contra (Arcade)

The year is 2633. Strange activities have been detected in Galuga, an archipelago off the coast of New Zealand. Military intelligence has been monitoring the location closely after reports of a meteor crash two years ago. They soon find out that an alien army, codenamed "Red Falcon", is preparing for an attack on the entire world.

Two elite commandos are sent in to neutralize the threat - Bill Rizer and Lance Bean. They bear the title "Contra", a title given only to those who possess uncanny skills in guerilla warfare. Will they be enough to stop Red Falcon from achieving their goal?

Editor's review

Here it is, folks. The game that defined a whole genre and enabled players to blow things up in an explosive killing frenzy long before the likes of "Metal Slug" and "Gunstar Heroes" saw the light of day. Contra is simple and clean arcade shooting at it's best. Although the graphics and sound are nowhere near what today's games may offer, the spirit of Contra is still alive and kicking after more than 15 years in the industry. In the end, that's what really matters. You take on the role as either Bill Rizer or Lance Bean, two of the toughest soldiers on earth, given the honorable Contra title for their combat skills. Oh, and on their spare time they enjoy participating in famous action star look-alike contests. The alien terrorist-organisation Red Falcon has emerged on an island off the coast of New Zealand and are, like most aliens in videogames, plotting a terrible scheme for world destruction.

Although Contra is well known for stable maneuvering, the early arcade version had a few minor problems that were later improved in the console versions. My main grudge is the jumping, which is rather slow and provides narrow space between you and the enemies. For the untrained, this means you'll probably die a few times by misjudging your jumps. The game also feels a bit shorter than on NES, because the final levels are all mixed together into one level, which means you only get a brief visit to each location. Then there's those pesky bullets that can't seem to go the same direction you're pointing the gun in if you switch your direction fast.

I'm not exactly an expert on old arcade games, so I've little to compare with when judging the graphics in here. But I will say that for what they are, they're colorful and work just fine. Some animations deliver seemingly unintentional comic relief, like when you see the heroes Bill and Lance do their funny walk and jump around like acrobats (another trademark of the series). As explained by the producers, a small dose of humour is sometimes needed to make a good action game.

I don't think I need to explain too much about why the music in this game completely rocks! Contra has catchy, upbeat tunes that obviously were inspired by a lot of 80's metal. Each song successfully delivers the tempo and mood of the level. But I'm not too impressed with the crude FM-synthesis sound produced by the arcade hardware, I much rather prefer the NES versions of these songs. As for sound effects, well... they're as good as they can get considering the soundchip they had to work with.

Although not very near the perfection of Contra 3 or Shattered Soldier, Contra still deserves praise for the joy it's brought us action fans. One of the best and often central point of these games is how well cooperative gameplay is handled. Players can help eachother out, focusing on getting rid of several targets or simply giving enemies more firepower than they can handle. Take for example the 3rd level where you travel to reach the top of a waterfall. If one of the players goes up the screen too fast his partner at the bottom will be left behind and die (the wonders of video game logic). This will either make you build up a better trust for eachother or cause someone to get seriously enraged while the other one's laughing sadistically. In conclution, try out this classic arcade title if you haven't already and witness a piece of gaming history!

Released Japan  February 20, 1987
North America  1978
Europe  1978
Other titles Gryzor (Europe)
Platform Arcade
Ports Famicom / NES
Commodore 64
Tandy 1000
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Amstrad CPC
PlayStation 2 (Oretachi Game Center)
Mobile phone
Xbox 360 (Live Arcade)
Nintendo DS (Konami Classics)
Wii (Virtual Console, MSX version)
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Staff Koji Hiroshita (director)
Players 1-2 players

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