Contra: Legacy of War

Overview

The classic arcade and 16-bit Contra series has now made the jump to 32-bit. For those of you not familiar with the Contra series, the game places you, with the option of a second player, in the middle of a war zone against aliens and other commandos. You are armed with a number of weapons and can pick up secret weapons, invincibilities and grenades to help in your quest to make it out alive.

The story of Legacy of War begins in 1957. A large object lands near a lost Mayan city. This object is dismissed by scientists as a trivial cosmic occurrence. Then, in 1987, rumors of frightened villagers in the Amazon River area talking of a strange being with an army of alien warriors, reach the Pentagon. Two of the most elite Special Forces agents are sent out to survey the situation. They deal with a threat known as the Red Falcon. Our two heroes put a stop to the Red Falcon and its attempt at taking over the earth. In 1990, the Red Falcon shows its face again, this time with other alien allies. This time, Red Falcon attempts to use biological contaminates to turn U.S. forces into his soldiers. Once again our heroes are dispatched and control the situation. Some time in the not-too-distant future, the Black Viper is sent to do what the Red Falcon was unable to accomplish -- take over the earth. This time, only one of the heroes is sent in and manages to defeat the Black Viper unaided. Numerous other adventures lead us to where we are today.

This is where we step into the picture. The evil, power hungry, Colonel Bassad has become the dictator of a small country. Through his secret intelligence forces, Bassad learns that during the alien wars in the past, a security guard at a military base smuggled out an alien embryo. Upon learning this, Bassad contacted the security guard and purchased the embryo and used it to breed an army of alien mutants. With his newly created army, Bassad will stop at nothing less than world domination, and it is believed that he is working with alien allies and has a whole army waiting in the wings. This time, four special forces members have been dispatched to resolve the situation. Only two can go in at a time, so you will need to select the best agents for the job. The job is plain and simple. Put an end to the Legacy of War.

Gameplay

Contra: Legacy of War is an action, adventure and shooter title wrapped in one package. You trek along a predetermined path and kill everything you come across. This game fits the mold of the popular 2D side-scroller with some added flair. You have four characters to choose from and can play with two players simultaneously. The object of the game is very simple: Go in, kick butt, get out. Somewhere in between, you have to stay alive. There are massive amounts of enemies stacked up to stop you. Believe me, this is not an easy game.

Let's take a look at the characters available for stopping the enemy. The first character is Ray. Ray is one of the best characters to play. He has a good selection of weapons and has seen extensive amounts of combat. The next available character is Tasha. She is one of the few special agents that is female. She also has decent weapons but always seems to die faster than the others. Thirdly, you can select CD-288. It is the second best character available. This Cyborg is durable and deadly. The last character available is Bubba. Bubba is an alien that has been fighting wars for many years. He is the third best character available.

Now that you have selected your character, it is time to take the mission head on. Contra has a total of six levels that must be completed to finish the game. Now, I know you are thinking that six levels sounds easy. Let me just say that all six levels are very difficult, even on the easy setting. It is almost like Konami decided that people got the feel of the game playing the 16 bit versions so let's just stick the players straight into the fire. You barely have time to figure out which way to start walking before you are attacked by aliens from every direction. If you manage to survive the first wave, the second is even more difficult. This is the cause of my biggest complaint about Contra. The designers have tried to pack too much activity on the screen at once. We all know what that means -- slowdown. It is particularly bad in the two-player mode and makes the game quite difficult to play at times.

Throughout the levels, weapon power-ups can be found behind walls and obtained from Falcon power-ups that fly across the screen. Each of the characters has four classes of weapons. The first two are the machine gun and flame thrower. These are the same for all characters. When you get into the third and fourth level characters, the advantages of particular characters becomes evident. For example, Ray's fourth level weapon is a homing laser. This is the coolest and most destructive weapon available. Also found along the way are Super Bombs and temporary shields. Collect everything you can, because you'll definitely need it.

As an added little bonus, Contra comes with a pair of 3D glasses and can be played in a true 3D mode. The colors are very limited, but this is a cool idea. The game seems more difficult in this mode because the backgrounds tend to blend together but for an extra little goodie, this is all right. You will probably only play in the 3D mode a few times just to check it out and show your friends when they come over, but when you want to start kicking serious butt, you will go back to the good old regular mode.

Graphics

The graphics on Contra are sharp and detailed. They are nothing overly spectacular, but they get the job done. There is a definite problem with slowdown when too much action is happening, but this only happens occasionally. The enemies and bosses are very creative, and I found myself enjoying the ingenuity behind each one. Contra has some cool explosions and serious destruction, but has not jumped on the blood-and-guts bandwagon. The 3D mode is a great little bonus, but just take it for what it is and don't expect too much. Like I said before, the glasses are neat, but it's too difficult to really play through the game wearing them.

Bottom Line

Contra: Legacy of War is another good title in one of the longest running game lines in all of the gaming world. For fans of the previous Contra titles, you will not be disappointed. The two-player mode makes this game. Without it, it would not be nearly as good. The game is very difficult and you will find yourself frustrated more than once. The seemingly endless number of bosses on each level is a bit ridiculous, but if you do somehow manage to survive, you can definitely say you earned it. The slowdown and sometimes-quirky controls keep this from being a great title, but it is definitely a good one worth checking out.

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