Contra on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – Great Old Video Games
The Best 2D Shooter
Nothing says great gaming like Contra on the Nintendo Entertainment System, because that really was a great old video game. For an early 1988 release, that game was basically like selling crack to kids. Shooting crap? Nice. Tight, fluid controls? Awesome. Tons of enemies? Sweet. More than decent graphics for a home console? Heck yeah. Oh, and the music was even pretty kick ass. Yep, every kid I knew loved Contra. People would still talk about this game when I was in High School – and that was like nine years after its initial release.
Contra hit the arcades first in 1987, and was ported to the NES the year afterwards. The arcade graphics are a notch up, but the game is essentially almost as good on the Nintendo in many ways. Contra really had the best controls out of any shooter game, bar none. You had full 360 degree control of your gun, and the jumping and moving was also very well designed. The levels were so detailed and colorful that they probably caused a few kids to crap their pants in excitement, too.
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Guns, Guns, Guns
One of the most awesome things about Contra is that the guns can constantly change. Unlike a lot of other shooters where you have to put up with the same boring gun for hours at a time, Contra keeps throwing new weapons at you. Some of them suck complete ass, like the laser gun. That thing is pretty useless, save for a couple very specific situations. It’s sort of a minor down point to the game, but you basically just wanted to get the spread gun and hold on to it for the entire game. Once the initial awesomeness of so many gun selections wore off, you pretty much realized that it was spread or dead. Hey, that rhymes. Cool.
Another totally badass thing about the original Contra game was that the perspective switched up a lot. Starting in level two, you got to experience a front, side to side, semi-3d perspective. It was really innovative for the time. Level three mixed things up even more, because you had to climb this hillside upwards. So, the designers really did a great job keeping the levels fresh.
Better and Better as the Game Went On
Then, at the end of level three came the best part. You thought you were some contra fighter in a jungle killing bad dudes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this giant ass alien pops out and tries to ice you at the end of level three. Holy crap! It was like the makers of Contra rolled all the most awesome 80s movies into one. You had Aliens, Commando, Predator, and lots of other influences. So cool.
Another great thing about Contra was that lots of enemies would attack you at once. Sometimes you had like 4 or 5 enemies on the screen – and I think this was because they didn’t involve any processing. These enemies didn’t make on the fly decisions like in a game such as Double Dragon. In other words, the computer didn’t react to you – so they could put more on the screen. Super C (the sequel) exploited this a lot, I believe. That game pummeled you with armies. In a contemporary game like Double Dragon, there were only 2 enemies at a time. Of those two, one would often stop because the computer could not always handle fighting on 2 different characters at the same time. Sometimes the computer was able to multi-whoop your ass with two oponnents, though. It was a design flaw at the time, but that concept did carry over into future games for some stupid reason. People thought it was a good idea. Boo.
Nobody stops to watch their friend get his ass beat, then joins in the fight afterward.
Contra Speed Run Video
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Lions and Tigers and... Aliens?
One of the final enemies in the last level even looks exactly like one of the aliens from the movie Aliens. It’s neat.
Anyway – was there anything about this game that didn’t blow your nuts off when you played it? I mean – was there any reason not to like this game?
Yeah, there were reasons not to like Contra. The game was hard as all crap, so most kids played for like 1 minute before dying and having to start over. That was your experience when you first played. Start up, die. Rinse, repeat. The game was so busy blowing your nuts off that you didn’t care, though. You were happy to just make it three feet further – and then you finally beat level one after trying a lot. It was rewarding. They only gave you three lives in the regular game.
I still like these kinds of games. Who the hell wants to play a realistic looking fighter game that someone's 5 year old kid brother can almost beat? Yeah, that's realistic. A five year old kid with a gun owning like Rambo. I prefer the more realistic side of getting your ass handed to you in Contra, thanks. It may not look as pretty, but thy nuts will be blown sky high. I think this is why I got turned off of the Grand Theft Auto Series. It just feels so watered down and easy since San Andreas.
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Ho Ho - The Cheat Code You Say?
Now, there was the absolutely famous 30 lives cheat code. Believe it or not, I never knew that code as a kid. I didn’t own the game, though, so I didn’t play it all that often. That code has often been called the most famous code in the world – but for those of you youngsters laughing at me, remember one thing: We didn’t have any damn internet back then! The internet was some crap that existed at a university, and some dude played with a giant computer that operated on tape reels in order to use it! You were just some geek sending email if you used the internet during the 80s.
Another thing to look at with disdain is the final boss – if you can even call it that. The final boss is just some giant beating heart at the end of a bloody cave full of aliens. It’ stupid, and makes no sense. The whole game owns, why couldn’t they come up with a decent ending concept for Contra? Here – I’ll spitball one. How about a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex with robot legs and some of those Alien heads coming out of its body? See, now we’re trying.
I Shoot Blanks Thanks to Contra
Eh, you really can’t fault the game too much, though. Most of us who played this as kids can’t have children because this game just completely blew our nuts off when we played it the first time. We suffered from radiation burns the first week because the glow of the awesomeness was so bright. The only real detriments are the insane difficulty (for the average kid who didn’t know the 30 lives cheat), and the botched job with the weapons. All you need is spread. I think laser works best to kill one of the bosses, but that’s literally the only time when you might want to change things up.
Great game, and anyone who can beat it on the 3 pathetic lives they give you is a miracle worker.
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