ReviewBefore I even began my Contra web site, I had heard horrible things about Contra: Legacy of War. Instead of being designed by Konami, it was given to the European developer Appaloosa. The original co-maintainer for this site, Mike, told me it wasn't even worth the price of a rental, that it was THAT bad. But since it IS part of the Contra series, I actually rented it to see what it was like. Surprisingly, it wasn't quite as bad as I had thought.
The designers seemed too lazy to think up a plotline, so they essentially stole Contra: Hard Corps' and changed it around a little. The evil dictator Colonel Bassad (who, for some reason, is green and has a very, VERY bad accent) has smuggled an alien cell and is breeding baddies for his evil purposes. He wants no less than...WORLD DOMINATION! The Hard Corps is back for battle to destroy the aliens and the evil Colonel!
Only one character was carried over from Hard Corps and that was Ray. The new characters include Tasha, a cyborg female slightly resembling a futuristic Madonna; CD-288, the token robot; and Bubba, an alien fighting for your side. The only difference between the characters are weapons. Everyone starts with a machine gun. Different colored eagle icons can be picked up to gain more weapons. All characters have a flame thrower in their inventory, but there the two other weapons slots are specific to your player (usually a homing weapon and something else.) You can also find bombs to blow up stuff.
The game starts off in a city, but works its way into the jungle, down a river, and eventually into the heart of the alien complex, on another planet. And it's tough. Just like all other Contra games, there are tons of enemies coming from every place, many turrets waiting to fry your guys, and mid-boss destined to toast everything in its path.
The actual game is quite a bit different from those used to the 2D side-scrolling ones. It takes place at sort of a slanted overhead angle. The buttons can only be configured to a certain extent (this is annoying) but you have the firing button, jump, change weapon, duck, strafe toggle and bombs. A button that allowed strafing simply by holding it down rather than toggling would've been nice, but oh well. Also, instead of lives, you have a hit meter. When it reaches zero, you're gone (it starts a 9 when you begin a new game, but for whatever fudged up reason, you only get 8 when you continue.)
Sounds fine so far? Well, the end product isn't quite as good as it should be. First off, the camera angles. For this game to really work, it should've been zoomed out quite a bit more. You can't see very far in front of you, and boss battles feel very claustrophobic. The controls themselves aren't exactly the smoothest either. Strafing is turned on and off with a button press, rather than having to hold down a button, again making things mor annoying than they should be.
Another serious problem has to do with airborne enemies. Simply due to the perspective, it's hard to see where your shooting on a vertical axis. If would've been much easier if the designers had taken the approach of Doom and made it so you only have to be on the same horizontal line, and the computer will auto-aim up or down - or at least some sort option to lock your weapons on an enemy and fire. You do get homing weapons at certain points, and many bosses are impossible to beat without them, but that doesn't even entirely make up for it.
All of these, combined with the lack of life power-ups, AND limited continues (even though you can save your progress on a memory card) make the journey to the end much more frustrating than it needs to be. And for some unfathomable reason, your guys don't roll into a ball when they jump. ARGHHH!!!
The graphics are less than impressive...everything except the minor aliens and your characters are made of polygons that move choppily along as your sprite moves awkwardly on the ground. The intensely drab color scheme makes the whole game look very dull, and some scenes tend to get very pixelated. At least it moves along at a fast pace...there's only a bit of slowdown at parts (this gets worse in two-player) There's also a 3D mode that you can supposedly use glasses bundled with the game to play (hence the double case.) I didn't have them, so I can't honestly say what it's like...but I heard the effect is pretty lousy. The music is, quite frankly, one of the best qualities of the game. Most of it's very cool, especially the first level tune (it's a remix of the Contra III first stage theme!)
I honestly think Appaloosa was almost in the right direction when they made this title. While many shun it because it strays so far from the established Contra gameplay, it still features the same blast-em-all gameplay and bad-ass bad guys. But the lack of decent controls or camera sucks away most of the fun that should've been had. As a result, Legacy of War ends up being a rather subpar Playstation (and Saturn) title.
Almost as an apology, the designers were nice enough to include two mini-games... one where you get to move around a tank around a maze, collecting dots and shooting things, while the other is a Gyruss clone. These are kinda fun, although Gyruss isn't as good as the NES version without the hyped-up Bach tunes in the background (plus enemies take way too many hits.)