20th Anniversary Edition
Contra‘s back and old-school video game lovers can now rejoice for having a decent update to a much loved series. Contra had fallen on hard times for a while, suffering through a slew of misguided attempts to update the series which failed to improve on the tried and true game play of the original. This game is a continuation of the story and game play from Contra 3 and it’s safe to say that this version will appeal to fans of the original game. Of course that means one other thing that may turn off more casual gamers — this game is tough.
Game play is back to the old standby of side scrolling 2D run and gun action. The player runs through each level shooting at enemies with a variety of weapons, the classic multi and spread shot, along with missiles, fire balls, and lasers as they come on to the screen. A nice carry over from Contra 3 is the ability to switch between two different gun selections, with the advantage being that if you die, you only lose the current gun you are using. It can be a bit tough at the start to remember to switch when you see a new weapon come up on the screen, but once you get the hang of it, the ability is a lifesaver.
Learning the pattern of where each enemy comes from is the only way to beat this game. Once you get some practice in on it, you’ll figure out when to run, when to stop and when to shoot the crap out of everything. There are 3 difficulty settings; the only difference between them seems to be the number of lives you receive, so I find them kind of suspect. Rest assured though, that even on easy, the game is pretty tough. The old one shot and you’re dead still applies to this game, and on easy, you still only get ten lives, which can go pretty quick if you don’t practice.
The game uses the dual screens of the DS in a pretty interesting way; all the levels take up both screens. Players are given a grappling hook to move to the top screen, and this is mostly used for the boss fights, since the bosses take up both screens. Switching between the screens becomes natural once you play the game for a while. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really use any of the other DS options, no touch screen control (outside of the opening menu navigation), no online play (which would have been killer for this king of co-op games), not even one cartridge multiplayer (see above). The graphics are pretty much in line with the 16 bit versions of the game. They look pretty decent, but won’t blow your mind. The good news is that there’s no slow down no matter how many characters are on screen.
The game comes packed with a wide range of extras, not the least of which are ports of the original Contra and Super Contra. There’s also a challenge mode which you must play in order to open up the old classics, along with gaining extra characters and unlockable comics. Along with these, you also get a pretty nifty art gallery showing the box art of every game in the series, with both the U.S. and Japanese art. It’s a nice little walk down memory lane.
So I’ll say if you’ve been looking for some of that old-school magic, this is a game worth checking out. Not for the faint of heart though, or the easily frustrated. It’s a nice package, and you basically get three games for the price of one, which is always nice. Well worth the money.