Contra is a series of run and gun games, mostly set in the distant future, featuring the fight between humans and aliens.
The name “Contra” is explained as a super soldier with incredible, almost superhuman combat and tactical abilities; this actually represents the basis of the game, as the story is mostly inconsistent between installments, or the changes in the setting are so major that it really doesn’t matter if it’s one character or another. After all, the series is famous for its gameplay, not its storyline.
The first game features Bill and Lance as main characters, but, due to errors in translation from the Japanese version, the action takes place on Earth, in contemporary times, while the sequel takes place in the far future, resulting in the characters being renamed and presented as being descendants of the original heroes. Later they make an inexplicable comeback, although other times their reappearance is explained. The plot drastically changes in the European release, as depictions of war and conflicts between humans were not allowed, so enemies were redesigned as either aliens or robots.
The gameplay of the Contra series is a simple but chaotic run and gun style. Enemies swarm in from different directions and your only goal is to kill them all before they kill you. Enemies come in different shapes and sizes and you must use various power ups to defeat them as quickly as possible. Power ups include spread shot guns and flamethrowers with continuous jets. Between versions, these have been tweaked, receiving an increase or decrease in power, but all done for the sake of balance. In Contra Force, for example, you have control over the power up you want to receive by means of a bar with a cursor. You collect items which can move the cursor and, when it is positioned on the upgrade that you want, you can select it.
Depending on the game, the levels can be either shown from a side perspective or an overhead perspective, but the ultimate goal is the same: reach the end of the level and defeat the boss that awaits your arrival. In Contra: Hard Corps, there are different bosses based on decisions made throughout the game, with a total of six possible endings, if you count siding with the villain an ending; when making that choice, the screen displays “game over”.
Even with its inconsistent and sometimes confusing storyline, the Contra series is held in high regards by gamers because of its appealing and challenging gameplay, although chaotic at times. To this day, sequels are still being made, ironically keeping the tradition of not following the original storyline.