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Contra (NES, JP and NA February 1988)

Probotectors (NES, December 1990)

Contra, the run and gun classic for the NES. Famous for the rampant use of the “Konami Code”, or the “30 man code” as it was sometimes called. This is where “up up down down left right left right B A” comes in. The code is so famous that it works on several different Konami games, and was even more recently used on random websites across the internet. It was first used in the game Gradius. The game was so difficult that the programmers couldn’t finish the game, so they made a code that gave you all weapons, thus making it much more possible to beat the game. Back to Contra though. It originally came out in arcades in 1987. Even though it’s a little more technically advanced, with larger, more detailed sprites, the game has a lot of grey tones to it and leaves it looking less appealing than its NES counterpart. On top of that, some of the bosses simply don’t look as good and some of the animation, specifically the jump animation, looks pretty silly. The levels also seem to be considerably shorter. The action is bigger and more frantic, and maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I prefer the NES version.

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Contra had some slight regional differences that don’t really affect the game but are noteworthy none the less. The Famicom version has a larger ROM, which meant more could be packed in. Every stage starts with a map of the level. There is a storyline laid out at the beginning of the game and updates between levels. Stages are missing background animations, such as the trees in the first stage blowing in the wind. One of the biggest differences is during the snow level, there’s an actual snowstorm. This makes it more difficult to see bullets and other projectiles. The last stage, the Alien Lair, pulsates, giving it a gross, organic look. Beating the game shows your character run to a chopper before the quick ending cinema.

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This game is hard. Like, really hard. I personally don’t feel that it’s as difficult as Ninja Gaiden, but you also don’t get unlimited continues. Levels are set up in ways so that you will occasionally be surprised by an enemy ambush. They prepare you for this in the very first level, where the bridges explode as you approach them. You should really expect the game to throw lots of challenges you. The levels and enemy patterns can mostly be memorized, so the game won’t stay impossible forever. The 30 man code allows you to get a lot of practice in as well.

On one final note you may have noticed something interesting on the cover of the game, and that is the uncanny resemblance to Arnold Schwarzennegar, Sylvester Stallone, and the Xenomorph. Thta last one is the main bad guy from the movie Alien. It’s even in Mortal Kombat X as DLC at this point. The cover shows Bill and Lance, who are definitely modeled after Arnold and Sylvester, however, the pose that they strike are both of Arnold.

Contra-Compare

(Click on the image to see the transition! I found this image from zen3 on

photobucket, then made a gif to illustrate how close the resemblance is.)

And onto the feels. Nostalgia is one of the things that really drives some retro gamers to collect and play all these old games. Some people just have an interest in it, despite not having grown up playing them, and see it as the history that led to games becoming such an incredible medium. I however, am a 100% memory driven, nostalgic nerd. This is one of the games that I didn’t just play as a kid, but have really fond memories surrounding the game itself. I was the youngest of three, and as such, my siblings and I fought all the time (especially me and my older brother). There were a few games, however, that transcended whatever petty brothely fued we had. This was one of them. I played this with my friends, but I really remember playing it with my older brother. He was so good at it, I think he could even beat the game without resorting to the Konami code. At the time, it was practically unheard of. You couldn’t consult youtube or google to see how other people did it, and you couldn’t use save states to inch along safely. This game was one of the few ways to sure fire bond with him, and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. What about you? Do you have any extraordinary memories surrounding this series? Let us know in the comments!