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The last days of the NES were a sad period indeed. After the days of Super Mario 3, Castlevania 3 and other such blockbusters, video game companies just didn't care about NES anymore, instead focusing on the burgeoning 16-bit era. Whilst Nintendo sat around slowly scribbling out plans for their SNES, several million gamers still had their old NES. Seeing a market, Konami created this title, a mediocre side scroller, and slapped the name "Contra" on it, hoping it would attract the many that had fond memories of the earlier games. It didn't.

Contra Force has little to do storyline-wise with the rest of the Contra games - it has nothing to do with aliens or bare-chested commandos. Instead, it deals with a group of mercenaries named the Contra Force (duh) whose boss has been kidnapped by some evil crime lord or something. Most employees would use their (former) boss' pension to drink the night away, but not these guys. So, it's off to venture through five fun levels (three side-scrolling, two overhead) to save your boss.

There's a lot of good ideas in Contra Force - having multiple characters means that each one has their own unique set of weaponry, which adds something to the mix. Weapons are equipped exactly like Konami's Gradius series: you pick up suitcases that advance the "power-up" meter and you can choose to equip whichever armamant you want. Usually, the more powerful weapons are at the end of meter, meaning lots of suitcase grabbing. Unfortunately, just like the old Contra games, if you die, you lose your weapon. And suitcases aren't exactly pletiful - so you're left using your stupid short range pistol an awful lot.

There are other stupid oversights as well. You can switch between any of the four characters at any time - and each has their own set of three lives (in theory, giving you twelve lives total.) However, if one runs out of their lives, you don't switch to the next available character - it's just Game Over and time to start the overlong levels at the beginning.

In another cool idea that totally fails, Contra Force lets you blow up parts of the scenery, sometimes yielding those elusive suitcaes. As good as this idea sounds, the poor grey mare known as the NES totally chokes on it - a good 50% of the game is literally played in slow motion. This makes dodging bullets easier, as any old school shmup fan can tell you, but it doesn't make for a pleasant gaming experience.

The graphics are generally very good, but the music is pretty subpar for Konami. On that note, the whole game is off course for Konami. Had any other publisher put this out under a different name, it would simply be yet another ambitious-yet-average NES title. But this is a Contra game, and truly fails to live up to its namesake in any manner.


American Cover
American Back
Instruction Book
Characters (from manual)
Weapons (from manual)
Hero (from manual)

Additional Screenshots