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Neo Contra

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action

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PS2 Review - 'Neo Contra'

by Hank on Nov. 9, 2004 @ 3:30 a.m. PST

Genre: Action
Developer : Konami
Publisher : Konami
Release Date: October 19, 2004

Buy 'NEO CONTRA': PlayStation 2

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left Right, B, A, Start. If you don't know this sequence, you were either godly in Contra or have never played this revered game. If it's the latter, I need to sit you down in front of my old NES and force you to play this classic. Like most great games, companies constantly bring out sequels, and Konami once again brought out another version, only this time following the same ideology as Legacy of War by utilizing the isometric perspective. Most will remember the game wasn't exactly the best and should not have been given the legendary Contra name. So does Neo Contra go down the same path, or has Konami finally rediscovered the true essence of original?

Because of the fact that Neo Contra is played from a top-down view rather than a side scroller, the game is either hated or loved. I personally enjoy the game and believe this brings life back to the series. It may not be as respected as the original, but I feel that this title should be in any 3rd person shooter fan's collection.

Now I'm no graphics expert, but I do know what I like, and I love the extravagantly awesome backgrounds that make me wonder if I'm really playing Contra. The icing on the cake lies within the death scenes. Regular enemies killed by certain weaponry will explode into several pieces while bosses die in some of the lamest possible ways (I'll let you find out what that means).

Though enemies die in some horrible ways, it does not make up for the far-fetched action sequences or corny script. Imagine fighting on top of rotating helicopter blades. If that doesn't scare you away, the dialogue might; when you face the dog boss, Bill Rizer actually says, "You Dog."

Yes, it may have a horrible story and some unbelievable scenes but what makes a video game is its game play. The control set is slightly different from the usual Contra controls, with the addition of a few new moves like dash and evade. This completely changes the Contra series, but with the addition of these buttons, I find it a lot more enjoyable. Well Contra has always been insanely hard, and with this new set of controls, it makes it slightly easier while still retaining its difficulty. Even with the evasion move, you still need to retain basic Contra skills and avoid objects the regular way, in case you accidentally dash into an enemy attack. Most of attacks are easy to avoid and deal with, but I personally have a hard time against bosses. Like all other Contras, you just need to figure their attack patterns, and once you get that down, the battles are easy.

There are a total of seven stages, five of which are unlocked at the outset, while the last two are only unlockable by achieving a good enough score. The score needed to unlock the sixth stage would be an overall "A" ranking on the first five missions. This means you must achieve a close to perfect completion rate on each level and be really good at dodging projectiles.

Projectiles and attacks differ on each level. The first level is just basic foot soldiers and a few flying planes, while in the second level, you are on a dinosaur fighting against machines and a whole slew of flying objects. The third level is about the same as the second, but this time there is a human boss instead of a plant boss. The fourth level is where you must throw away all logic, since this is where you fight on top of helicopters against several flying objects, like planes and the super fortress. The fifth stage is where you are on the space station fighting against spiders and alien creatures, while on the unlockable sixth stage, you face the fake Bill Rizer who gives you a brief explanation of the "Bill Rizer name," a symbol of power more so than a simple name. Lastly, if you can unlock the seventh stage, you face the final boss, which looks like … a brain.

With only seven stages, the game is beatable in quite a short amount of time. I know for a fact that the first five stages were beatable under 18 minutes because when you do that, you unlock Lucia as a playable character. She is probably the main reason I would want to beat the game in under 18 minutes because some of the other unlockables just aren't that desirable (like unlocking Bill and Jaguar in a thong when completing all seven levels with an S ranking).

Since I've gotten into the unlockables, you may wonder how easy they are to achieve. Well I, for one, have not been able to successfully unlock Lucia, but I'm certain a bunch of gamers can do this with ease. In order to do this, you must understand Contra's new battle system. Because of the top-down perspective, Konami was required to add a few buttons to control the shooting direction: the top L2 and R2 buttons. L2 locks your character's direction, allowing him to strafe left and right while R2 locks your character in place, allowing you to rotate your character and fire in the correct direction. Because of these controls, the game is not as easily controllable as previous Contras because of the massive directions from which enemies can come. Once you understand the battle system, however, the game will be easier than the last Contra by a mile.

Though the attacking style has slightly changed, there are now two buttons to attack; the square button to shoot your primary, and the triangle weapon to shoot your projectiles that can only lock onto certain objects in the game. Each weapon also has its own power and method of shooting.

There are a total of six weapons modes from which you can choose, and these are just about the only configurations you can make for your character. The basic layout involves the primary weapon being the weak, rapidly-firing gun, the secondary weapon being a more powerful, non-locking weapon, and lastly, a homing projectile. There aren't that many different configurations, but most will use a specific one throughout the game. Personally, I love the C configuration with Jaguar Katana because he is just so deadly with a katana and machine gun.

There are several reasons for my rampant enjoyment of Neo Contra, but the main factor is the ease of just picking up the game and being able to play. The game setup is also much easier than any others in the Contra series that I've played, but at the same time, it still more difficult than a wide variety of games. I also like the game's audio, which has a very upbeat futuristic feel to it, giving you the sense of urgency and matching the cut scene sequences nicely. Even the voice actors seem to match the characters' profiles.

Overall, I think this game is pretty well done and a lot of fun. Gamers looking for a decent challenge should definitely give this title a shot; it may be a short game, but it's quite enjoyable in both single player and multiplayer modes. There were still some bugs that Konami should have fixed, like insanely long load times and the fact that there is no way to quit once you started. I also experienced some lag in multiplayer, but that can still be addressed via code optimization. Even with these bugs, Neo Contra can be a start for Konami to bring new life to the series, but for those who loved the original and can't accept change, I suggest staying away from this one. For those who embrace change and just want to enjoy a good game, I'd suggest trying this one out.

Score: 8.6/10


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