Ask anyone about their favorite NES game, and no doubt Contra will be mentioned. It was one of the most influential games of the late 80s and still has a presence in pop culture thanks to references to the Konami code appearing on TV, T-shirts and even coffee mugs. However, in recent years, the original NES classics have not been available through a digital distribution network. Rumor has it that it was a simple paper error that prevented him from accessing various Virtual Console stores, but that doesn’t matter anymore, as it’s part of the Contra anniversary collection for the Switch. As if Konami were trying to make up for lost time, there are far more versions of Contra than you might think!
When I was a kid in the 80s, I first tried Contra on Nintendo. At the time, I had no idea that the game even existed in slot machines, although I regularly visited several machines in my neighborhood. The 30 person code (top, top, bottom, left, right, left, right, b, a, start) is ingrained in my memory and is one of the few secret codes I remember today. The game has been a great success with my friends, and we’ve been working on it regularly – and we’ve had a fantastic time. It was one of the few collaborations between two NES players that really showed what the system was capable of. His inclusion in this collection was an absolute necessity, and I’m glad to see he’s still playing well. The code still works, and the levels are the same as I remember, except now I can play on the go! It’s always my favorite part of the show, and now that I can press the Joy-Con button and everyone can join in no matter where I am, it’s a wonderful thing.
So you can imagine my curiosity when it comes to the arcade version of Contra. Of course, this would be even better than the NES port, as is often the case in situations like this. The nostalgia may be too strong, but I was quite surprised that the arcade version was the worse of the two. Sure, the sprites and some of the graphics are a little nicer (and they should be), but the NES version is nicer. The levels are similar, but the original arcade is slowed down by the cut-slow, which is a good show. The NES version suffers from flickering, but rarely freezes as much as the arcade version, which moves in slow motion in more than one area. Although you can give as many credits as you like in the virtual version, once you’ve wasted enough time you’re instructed to go back to the beginning – meaning the challenge in the arcade version is quite demanding. Fortunately, there are multiple difficulty options, but the NES version seems more accessible.
From there I moved on to a repeat of the sequel, Super Contra in the arcade. Both arcade games use vertical screens, so you have to get used to the perspective. This one works much better than the first game and looks better to begin with. I’ve spent more time here and found it quite amusing – not to say it’s still very complex. Having never played one of these slots before, it’s clearly the best of both and the one I can imagine going back and trying to complete.
Interestingly, Konami has decided to also include the Japanese version of Famicom Contra in this collection. I’m not sure if they didn’t have enough games to complete the collection, or if they just wanted to give players all the options with the games. This version is identical to the NES version, but has some additional graphical features. They include several cutscenes and even a map that shows each level and your progress in the game. In some stages, like Snowfield, snow even falls from the sky, which is not the case in the NES iterations. This is partly due to differences in policy between Japan and North America: Konami could use its own chips in Famicom games to improve them, while the NES versions would use chips from Nintendo. Apparently this meant that some games lacked graphics and audio. The Contra version of Famicom is therefore probably the best version to play.
Super C is also part of the collection and is another fantastic new addition to the range. The graphics have been greatly improved and the levels can now scroll diagonally and include high shot sections. No code for 30 people, but there is a way to get 10. This may make it slightly more difficult than the original for some players, but it remains unbeatable for most. The game is a bit more science fiction oriented on some levels and the music is still a masterclass. I know some people appreciate this sequel more than the original, but for some reason I consider the original a must-have game in this collection.
Perhaps the most amazing entry is Operation C, the first Game Boy Contra game. I’m not surprised it was introduced, especially since Castlevania’s anniversary collection included work on the Game Boy, but I was pleasantly surprised that it worked so well. This game is super slick for the Game Boy and even includes some of the graphical tricks implemented in Super C, such as diagonal scrolling. In addition, the soundtrack is quite good and includes stereo sound. I thought it would be kind of a step backwards, but I found myself strangely caught up in the longer levels and perfect gameplay. Sure, it only has four colors and can’t compete with the graphics department, but it works better than many Game Boy games, and it’s still fun to play!
I know the favorite entries of many players in this series – Contra III:. Alien War. This Super Nintendo game features improved graphics, a great soundtrack, and fantastic gameplay improvements. You can now carry up to two power-ups and even hang them from platforms. There are bigger gnomes and fun bosses to fight in this one. I think this one holds up exceptionally well and plays with a friend. It’s neither incredibly difficult nor accessible to beginners – it’s the perfect game to start a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Series outsider can be Contra: Hard Case. not because it’s necessarily a bad game, but because it jumped from Nintendo to Sega. This Genesis game looks and sounds good, fast and furious. It’s a little weird that the character choices are the usual sea buffs (and a female for a change!), but this time you can call a robot or what I like ALF with sunglasses (Fang). The game runs faster than most games in the series, and literally everything you shoot explodes into a giant fireball. That’s really excessive – in the good sense of the word! Anyway, this is a tough one. After all, it’s in the title!
If you are from Europe, you might be familiar with the SNES and Genesis games as Super Probotector and Probotector respectively. They are almost identical to the other versions, except that the humans have been replaced by robots. It’s a nice addition, but I’m not sure it’s worth playing with these minor changes again. Still, I respect the fact that Konami included it in this collection.
Players are used to a certain level of extras when it comes to this kind of retro collection. Im Großen und Ganzen haben Konami und M2 einen großartigen Job gemacht und die Grundlagen geschaffen. If you are looking for a special display stand, or if you are looking for a different type of display, you should use the Classic Edition Mini-Consoles for your special display stand. Fortunately, there are user accounts on the Switch. So, if other players play the game under their own names, each of them gets a different set of saves. Currently, Konami has just released a free game update that provides full button mapping in most games. This is very important for NES effects, otherwise the keys will be reversed. Players can now B to jump and Y to shoot, which seems much more natural. You can even switch to turbo if you want!
Other quality improvements include additional borders around the screen and the ability to display the game with or without scanned lines. You can choose the original format, perfect pixels or 16:9 (why would you choose this option?). Arcade titles even allow you to rotate the screen to better match the vertical nature of the arcade machine. It’s perfect for those who bought the Flip Grip! This new update also includes the Japanese versions of the arcade games: Super C, Contra III, Operation Cand Hard Corps.
The content of the bonus is also included in the Contra history. You can read some interviews with some of the people who helped create the games, as well as some fun historical anecdotes about each of the titles included in this collection. Design documents were scanned to see how certain scenes, enemies, characters and power-ups were created. This sort of thing always fascinates me, so the effort put into it is much appreciated.
Overall, the Contra anniversary collection offers good reasons to buy, especially for fans of the series. Arcade games are the weakest of all, but there are enough solid games here for most people to run and shoot at them for a while. I wouldn’t mind seeing a second Game Boy game, or even Contra Force, the third NES game that is often forgotten. I’ve heard that the game in particular isn’t that great, but it would be nice to have a bonus title in a collection like this, especially since I don’t think such a game was ever released in Japan. But despite these omissions, this package contains many games for you to enjoy!
Revision of the anniversary collection of Contra
- Charts – 8/10
- Sound – 9/10
- Gameplay – 8/10
- Late Call – 7/10
Final thoughts : GRAND
The creator of the run-and-gun genre for 2 players is still in its infancy. With more Contra than you bargained for, there are enough strangers to keep you busy for days. Don’t forget to pass the Joy-Con to a friend for maximum fun!
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.
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