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The first time most Americans saw Contra was in the arcades circa 1988, then a little bit later on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Contra is often well revered by the NES community, as many still call it one of their favorite games of all time. And who couldn't like it? Combine Rambo with Aliens, give tons of action to video game players that were accustomed to the like of Super Mario Bros. and you had an awesome game.

And guess what? It still stands up today. Apparently some evil aliens from another planet have crash landed on an island in South America and are about to launch an attack to take over the world. Their leader is a hideous extraterrestial named Red Falcon. The world government decided to send in two commandos, nicknamed Scorpian and Mad Dog, to infiltrate the island and stop Red Falcon's evil plot. The actual time in which the game takes place depends on whether you hear the American or Japanese storyline. According to the American manual, the game takes place around 1988 (apparently these aliens were leftovers from that Roswell crash that pretty much every movie and TV show relating to UFOs base their plot off of.) However, the Japanese intro states that the meteor actually hit the earth is 2631 (the European Probotector states roughly the same date.) The latter is more consisent with the later games in the series.

You start with three lives, when you die you come back right from where you kicked off. There are three continues, which send you back to the beginning of the level when you run out of men. Weapons can be found by shooting certain turrets mounted in the wall or by hitting flying cannisters in the air. Your options include a machine gun (rapid fire, although this is useless if you have a turbo controller), spread gun (shoots out five bullets, awesome), laser (strong but slow to fire), fireball (moves in circle like patterns, kinda weak and dumb), and an invincibility barrier. You lose your weapon when you die though. The game is, of course, two player, meaning tons of shooting fun with your pal.

There are two views in the game...six of the stages are in the normal side-scrolling view so many NES fans are familiar with, while the other two take place in over-the-shoulder 3D scenes. Here you must shoot out certain locks to order to blow out the door and deactivate the laser blocking your path. I personally don't like these levels very much. The perspective is a bit awkward when aiming and determining where enemy bullets are in relation to your character.

The graphics are fairly decent, nothing to drop your jaw at but still more than adequate. The music is actually pretty unique; most of it doesn't seem like something you'd listen to in your spare time, but it seems to grow on you when you play the game for awhile. If you've played this game and can tell me that you haven't hummed the first level theme at least once during your life, I'd have to call you a liar.

The game is pretty tough, but by the fifth level (the arctic zone) the game goes a bit overboard with frustration. One vehicle, a spiked car, appears twice and is especially hard to kill before it bowls you over. The next few levels, filled with spikes and flamethrowers, are especially annoying. The thirty man code is almost a must, although the game loses a bit of flavor once you've beaten everything wihout exerting much effort.Mo< Overall, Contra is one of the true NES classics and the beginning to a long line of classic games.

Japanese book and ad scans from Game Kommander - Contra Legend. Japanese manual scans from D&P Haber


American Cover Japanese Advertisement 1
American Back Japanese Advertisement 2
Japanese Cover Japanese Guide Book 1
Japanese Back Japanese Guide Book 2
Characters (from Japanese manual) Enemies 1 (from Japanese manual)
Enemies 2 (from Japanese manual) Enemies 3 (from Japanese manual)
European Cover Playchoice 10 Marquee

Additional Screenshots