Day 3 - A Question of Contra
19.2.03 by Big D
There has been a lingering question as to whether or not Contra - one of the action classics of the early Konami library - can be classified as a true SHMUP. Some maintain that it is a platformer due to its mixed action elements while others contend that it's quite SHMUPable. To help settle (or perhaps muddle) the debate, I asked our wrestling editor and local gadabout Big D to provide a review of this classic title.
Big D's Review
I thought that this might be kind of a tough piece to
write for, if for no other reason than that I didn't
really play a lot of this kind of game back when I had
the NES, and haven't really played any outside of
Smash TV since the SNES, but then it dawned on me - one
of my all-time favorite games might actually fall into
But after I pitched the idea to the home office, it
was met with a mixed signel. The contention was, that
Contra may be more of a "platform" game than anything
else. While they have come out with a number of
sequels since the original, there is one problem: I
haven't actually PLAYED any of them. So, for me at
least, all Contra means to me is a fun game that
pretty much throws an endless stream of enemies, much
like Ikari Warriors or even any of the "plane"
shooters out there.
So, on to the review!
This is one of the classic video-game storylines. You
have to defeat some "alien". Or, in this case, his
"heart". But you get there through fighting waves of
wimpy enemies and mini-bosses.
However, this game was different than a lot of the
games that were out around this time. Not only did it
have the typical vertical-scrolling or
horizontal-scrolling action, it actually had a couple
of 3-D stages where you fight through a series of
As I just noted, the main idea here is to fight
through a ton of wimpy soldiers, along with some
mechanical guns...typical fare. All it takes to kill
one one of the soldier is (if I recall correctly) a
single bullet. Sounds pretty easy. But there is a big
If you get shot by a bullet, or touch an enemy, you
DIE. There's no health meter to save you. You also
only have 3 lives at your disposal. Additionally, you
only have 3 continues, for a grand total of 3x3=9
lives! Not good odds at all for a game that has EIGHT
However, there is a rather famous secret code for this
THE KONAMI CODE! HUZZAH!
Now, if you're younger than the NES days, you might
not be aware of this code, which was not just for
Contra, but some other Konami-designed games from that
era as well.
You know what one of the best Konami games of recent
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION!!
If you've been to an arcade over the last few years,
you may have seen this game. It's got two footpads
with the up-down-right-left triggers, and the game
sends up arrows corresponding to a particular piece of
techno music, and you step on the corresponding pad at
the right time. Fun stuff, although the songs at
higher difficulty levels are REALLY HARD. Make sure
you watch one of those whackos that spend half their
life playing it, and you'll see some footspeed. I wish
I had that kind of free-time.
But alas, the Konami code doesn't work for this game,
if not for the reason that there's no "A" or "B"
Anyways (heh), here's the code!
Make sure you write that down!
If you manage to work the buttons furiously enough at
before the title screen comes up, you'll get 30 (!)
lives to start with, instead of 3. So it's definitely
worth trying to enter it. And, as an added bonus, you
get 30 lives for each continue, so that's 90 lives. I
certainly hope that's enough, unless you're just
playing to die or something.
However, even if you can't press buttons fast enough
to make it go, there is some other help out there.
Although you start with a weak, slow-firing machine
gun, there is help on the way in the form of powerups.
You can get a laser, a flame-thrower, a rapid-fire
gun, and quite possibly the best gun in the game, the
SPREAD. In fact, this might be one of the best guns in
the history of video games. It's pretty
self-explanatory. It fires 4 or 5 larger bullets in an
expanding arc. Sure makes it pretty easy to mow down a
bunch of enemies, or hit muptiple parts of a single
enemy, or even make up for bad aim, as the case may
Although the game is somewhat difficult without the
code, it is still a lot of fun. And it was one
of the first games to offer a quasi-3D perspective
during portions of the game. Although these were kind
of awkward, they didn't detract from the experience.
The challenge was great, and it's a fast-paced game,
which is almost never a bad thing. This game wasn't
really all that "groundbreaking", but it was a hell of
a lot of fun. This game has kind of a "cult" status,
and rightly so. If you can't find it for NES, get it
on NESticle or something. It's definitely worth a
play. Or several hundred.