Contra (NES) Review

By Athanasios 20.02.2017

Review for Contra on NES

Konami's Contra may not be as popular as it used to, and it surely was not a pioneer, but it's surely one of the most influential, as well as the most, for a lack of a better word, self-aware amongst action video games. Sure, better, complex, and more innovative run-and-gun titles have seen the light of day after 1988, but Contra, like Doom, cared only about one thing: being fun, while keeping things simple. No EXP and levelling-up, no story, not a speck of self-importance, just grab a big gun, and start blasting Xenomorph and Cobra Command rejects.

Shoot, shoot, SHOOOOOT! Oh, those were the times. Everyone was an enemy, and the main character was nothing more than an armed-to-the-teeth dude (or dudette) whose only task was to blast everything to smithereens - a simple, fun, and cathartic concept. The question is, why, amongst the hundreds of similar video games, Contra once stood as the cream of the crop? Was it its deep mechanics? Not really. In fact, this might be one of the simplest run 'n' gunners around - just run towards the right, jump all over the place, and shoot down everything that isn't you.

Screenshot for Contra on NES

Was it its variety? Again, and while there were certainly a couple of mechanics that kept things interesting, Contra's variety was pretty much like its concept - simple. There are quite a few enemy types to shoot, and, even better, a nice assortment of weaponry to shoot them with, but no enemy really stands out from the rest, and the available arsenal, while nice and all, was far from balanced, with some proving to be way better than others in the long run.

Was it its style? Well, it didn't really have any to begin with. The visuals still look fine, but the time they were created is pretty obvious, and they don't exactly stand out. The main characters look like Stallone and Schwarzenegger wannabes in the title screen, but in the game, they are just two stick figures that only look different from the other ones because they are shirtless.

Screenshot for Contra on NES

Was it its speed? Hmm, now we're going somewhere… Amongst the much slower 8-bit library of action games, Contra stood out as one of the most adrenaline pumping of the bunch. It's a perfect expression of the phrase "never a dull moment," and the music added to that feeling, with the help of some of the best hard rock chiptune tunes ever made - the jungle theme in particular still being able to rock your dirty socks off.

The truth is that, just like any great video game, there's no single ingredient that one can point to. Instead, everything mentioned so far contributes to making this classic piece of software so freaking enjoyable, with the only "flaw" (with quotes as big as Texas) being its lack of depth. Does that lower the replay value? Not really… and there's a second reason besides the fact that this is very enjoyable despite its simplicity.

Screenshot for Contra on NES

The 8-bit era is notorious for offering some of the hardest titles in existence; titles like Castlevania, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Ninja Gaiden (oh, dear God!), and Contra is supposed to be a part of this sadistic family. The truth? It isn't! Is it hard? Oh, there's no doubt about it! A never-ending stream of enemies, bullets that fly around, traps that require great timing, and relentless bosses, and, most importantly, one hit and the character dies.

The thing is, though, that, unlike those other hard nuts, this is all about your skills. There are no unfair enemy placements, no stiff controls, no impossible to avoid attacks, no bosses-that-need-this-one-weapon-to-kill. You'll die, but you can be rest assured that this is one of this games where you will actually get better each time you play, and never get that "How many times must I play this damn level?!" kind of feeling.

Screenshot for Contra on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

30 whole years after its fruition, and Contra still manages to kick the behinds of several "modern" shooters by being one of the most fine-tuned, challenging, and fun to play in the genre, and all this despite its extreme simplicity and lack of intricate mechanics. A classic? In the words of the Angry Video Game Nerd, you bet yo' ass!






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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