Friday, May 17, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Contra for the NES!

Why hello there! Welcome to the first installment of The Retro Video Game Addict's reviews and insight blog, a place that both celebrates the great retro games of good and humiliates the crappy retro games of bad.
     The first game I am going to review for the new blog is a game that is very well known to fans of classic video games thanks to it's extreme popularity and the fact that this game helped to popularize a code that many video game fans still know to this day. The code is known as the “Konami Code” but many refer to it as the “Contra Code” since Contra is the game that made the configuration famous. That's right boys and girls, today The Retro Video Game Addict is going to review Contra for the Nintendo Entertainment System!
     Ah yes, many of you may remember countless late nights on the couch or early mornings in your bedrooms navigating the fierce jungles or other intense locations within Contra, but I know that all of you surely remember just how fucking hard this game actually was. This game wasn't just hard, it was a god damn ball buster, but it was also fun as hell once you've entered in the “Konami Code” and settled down with a second player to proceed into what sometimes felt like a long, slow, ass raping. It's difficulty aside, I would say that this game was truly one of the most prolific 2-player games on the NES and certainly one of the most popular. I didn't know anyone who didn't own this game back in the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or at least I didn't know anyone who hadn't at least played it. Contra was seemingly everywhere and the game was so popular it spawned some sequels on the NES and eventually quite a few other platforms like the Gameboy, Super Nintendo, Genesis, and even the Playstation, but none of them quite captured the awe-inspiring greatness of the original classic. 
      The story of the game as well as the gameplay itself was pretty basic. It revolved around two armed soldiers, Lance and Billy, as they scour an unnamed South American island aiming to destroy a terrorist organization that was trying to take over the Earth in a “run n' gun” gameplay simulation . Bam! No 6 hour story here. No dramatic cut scenes that look like they were ripped out of a horrible blockbuster movie. Nope, just about 2 ½ hours worth of intense side-scrolling action and a couple of bloody thumbs. This is exactly the kind of game that both kids and adults were addicted to some 20-25 years ago and if you were playing alongside another player than it didn't get much better than this. You got to love it!
     See, if this game came out today you'd have a 7 or 8 hour video game with extremely well done cut scenes that would take up about ¾ of the actual content leaving you with about 2 hours worth of solid gameplay. The developers would do their best to discreetly hide this with a multiplayer option that would be cluttered full of 12 year old boys calling everyone “noobs” as they blast their way to a high score. Yeah, that sounds like it would be well worth my $60! Please. Some games were truly meant to be what they were and Contra is certainly one of them, there is absolutely no need to release this franchise on current generation hardware since the developers would most likely just ruin it with pile after pile of modern bullshit. No thanks, kiddies.  
     Some of my personal memories with this game include a buddy of mine, Kenny M, coming over some mornings and playing this game with me before we had to go to school. I've also played this game quite extensively with my friends Chris B and Kenny K, it seemed like I've put hours of time into the game in the single player mode but the 2-player option is what has made me fall in love with Contra. I remember sitting on my bed with my friend Chris one Sunday afternoon and we slammed this game into my NES and we didn't stop until we hit the end, it was a grueling test of skill and effort but we made it and I'll always remember that day as long as I live. Contra is one of those games that you just remember putting quite a bit of time into though you've probably not many people who have actually completed the game without using the code or an apparatus like a Game Genie, it's just too damn difficult. But I guess that was somewhat the norm back in the ol' NES days, the library of games that were just too insanely difficult is too long to list but yet it didn't stop people from trying. I think if this was the case with today's games people would pack it up and run quicker than a Jewish man depositing his check in the bank. Seriously, today's "gamer" has grown too fickle and they don't seem to want to put too much time or effort into their games anymore. But not us children from the 80's, oh no, we would keep pounding away until we broke some ground and got the job done. 
 And now we will discuss the actual game and where it's strengths and weaknesses are found. First of all, we've got to talk about the sound effect and music within Contra and how they strike a sense of nostalgia with those who grew up playing the game. Everything from the theme that plays while the start screen comes up after pressing the power button to the sounds of the guns going off is quite frankly the stuff of legend among gamers. The 8-bit music that can be heard while running through each level has become "humming" tunes for many of us and I would say that Contra had some pretty fun tunes throughout the game. Honestly though I've got to say that it's been a while since I've made it past the first few levels so I don't remember all of the music, but I do remember a good portion of it which speaks volumes since I haven't heard much of it in close to 20 years.
     The game controls just fine, everything is responsive and I wouldn't say it struggles with sluggish performance or anything, it can just be very annoying when bullets are flying everywhere and it becomes insanely hard to dodge them while you're making your way through the level. The graphics are pretty nice and represented the NES quite well back in the day. The visuals are nothing too outstanding mind you, but you can clearly see where you need to jump and there is no major weakness in this category as everything looks fine. It's funny how developers were able to get so much more out of the NES toward the end of it's life-cycle with games that have visuals that put Contra to shame, but I guess that could be said for any video game console. But most importantly the game is fun, and that's why we play games....correct? For the fun? Yeah, that's exactly why people played video games back in the day but I'm not entirely sure that's why people are playing video games today for whatever reason, but that's another blog for another time. And now onto the totals......

Graphics/Visuals - 7.5
Sound/Music - 8.0
Controls/Handling - 8.5
Fun/Enjoyment - 8.0

     Well, I hope you enjoyed the first entry into The Retro Video Game Addict! Thanks for reading and I hope to see you come back for more as I keep adding new reviews and insight on retro video gaming, take care!

© 2013 Bill Mulligan


  1. Fun and enjoyment should be higher than an 8.0 I mean come on its contra one of the most fun games on the best console ever!

  2. I do find it very enjoyable, don't get me wrong. An 8.0 is highly enjoyable for me, to many other reviewers an 8.0 would be a 9.0 or a 9.5, but I like to reserve those scores for games that have truly blown my mind. Contra is a classic, yes, and a true gem, so an 8.0 from my POV is truly justified.

  3. Contra was a classic! Great review RVGA! I got it for Christmas of 1989 and me and my brother played it non stop for about a year, those memories remain and so does this game: eternal. Thanks RVGA!

  4. I love playing this game with my arcade stick pad, lol RVGA made me play this game once again talking about the deep dark jungles and shit! lol is like the games lives in him

  5. What a way to start a blog! I'd never played a Contra game (Probotector over here!) till Super Probotector Alien Rebels came out. Recently I tried to play that ( and couldnt actually get very far without cheating and using Save states on an emulator! I though the NES games would be easier considering they could show less sprites on screen - boy was I wrong!