Video games have really changed over the years. For starters, you no longer need to pay coins to retry levels. Also the difficulty levels have consistently decreased, allowing more and more people to enjoy the medium. In this vein if you would give the original Contra to a new generation gamer, the kid would probably become frustrated after ten minutes and request a Flappy Bird session for cooling down.
Yes, they don’t make them like they used to. And that’s especially valid for Contra. It comes from an era where the better you were at it, the cheaper the experience would become. Before Nintendo Entertainment System, arcade games were made to slowly drip money out of hyped kids. Today you pay the full price in advance (if you don’t count the DLC of course) and therefore designers no longer stress out to make your experience as difficult as possible (but instead give as much eye candy as you can eye-chew).
In this case, Contra became so popular that it escaped the arcades and landed on the NES, being followed up with sequels on PC and later consoles, reaching Xbox360, PlayStation 3 and even the iPad.
However for those that want to sample the original feel of Contra, this version might fill the bill.
Pick your battles
The designer, Jhunour has given us pretty good clone of the NES version of Contra. Upon starting to play you get a chance to configure the controls, difficulty level video quality and sound. You then get to select which of the first two levels you want out for this session. The game stretches through one jungle, one Snowfield and one Alien Lair level. You may then click “GO!” and prepare to run, gun and die. These are the three constants of Contra. Although you obviously want to avoid the death part, the designer made it a bit harder than in the NES version. Mainly because enemies appear a tad more often. Other than that you have the same task of hitting enemies with coloured balls while avoiding being hit by theirs. As in the original, a single hit takes away one life. Which means your character gets reset, and loses his special weapon if he had any.
Unlike the NES version however, losing all of your lives means nothing, as continuing will re-set the character as normal but with a full complement of lives (four to be exact). On the flip side your final score will be divided by 10. This allows you to be more careless if you don’t care about scoring but if you really want to feel the true tension of Contra, never continue once you have lost your last life. This is the iron man equivalent and the way you should play it.
All in all, the game is not overly long (only 3 levels) and can be finished in ten minutes or less. So don’t except a sprawling campaign. Still, try Contra 20th Anniversary Edition to get a taste of history. Because that’s all it is. A taste.