Contra Re-Lite –
Back in 2009, Konami launched a couple of Rebirth games on Nintendo’s WiiWare service: Contra and Castlevania Adventure. Unfortunately, WiiWare did not receive the success or recognition as compared to PSN or XBLA so there is a good chance these revival titles were overlooked. Contra Rebirth is the same classic run-and-gun action that its name suggestion only in a more “lite” format.
Contra 4 on DS took the best parts of the Contra series and created an entirely new game. Contra Rebirth, on the other hand, basically takes assets from previous Contra titles and rearranges them in new ways to create a new but retro flavor. For example, familiar bosses like the gun turret base and alien heart return, it is possible to carry two weapons at the same time, explosions are huge, and some stages are ridiculously over-the-top like gripping a flying missile or platforming on falling chunks of dirt as you plummet from the planet’s atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the special Contra flourishes have been removed from this $10 downloadable title. Besides the starting machine gun, there are only three other special guns to find throughout each stage: the legendary spread gun, homing missile, and potent laser. The approximately half dozen stages can be finished in less than 30 minutes for first time players on the Easy setting. It is possible to hold two weapons at the same time but there is no cool chest puffing double gun attack like in the SNES version. And the Konami code, which was made famous by the original NES Contra, does not work.
Contra has always been about high paced action but for some odd reason Contra Rebirth puts a bigger emphasis on story than ever before. In summary, the plot in Contra Rebirth is awkward and isn’t clear if the developers were being serious or trying to go with a “it’s so bad its good” mentality. The still image cutscenes between stages do not make any sense whatsoever. Why was Bill, the hero of the game, in cryo sleep? Why is the word “Contra” always in quotes? Why did one cutscene have Bill dress up like a woman? It is hard to tell if Contra Rebirth was a victim of bad translation or just bad writing in general. Either way, the plotline is broken, awkward, and actually kind of disturbing (but not in a good way).
What would a Contra title be without co-op? Two players can take on the alien threat together but are limited to local multiplayer only; there is no online support which is typical for a Wii game. As for replay value, new playable characters are unlocked once the game is completed on the different difficulty settings. It is also worth noting that there are unlimited continues but players can adjust the numbers of lives they start with via the options screen. Having unlimited continues makes the game more user friendly and forgiving but also detracts from its high difficulty origins. The support of the standard Wii remote and classic controller allows players play control options too.
Graphically, the game most closely resembles the SNES version although the colors and animations are more muted. This is one game where the standard definition of the Wii detracts from the overall experience but the retro sprite based characters and environments will instantly ignite nostalgia. Even the music, which is composed of classic Contra jingles, is good but not as punchy as previous titles.
Although not as entertaining as the original NES or SNES versions of Contra, Rebirth does have some memorable moments. Super C featured an armadillo/beetle boss creature thing that protected itself with a hard shell. It is pretty cool to see the return of this forgotten boss but not in the way gamers would expect. Instead of fighting this armored creature, the player has to jump through a stampeding herd of these vile buggers. And instead of the jumping from missile to missile stage in the SNES version, players have to jump and grab onto a charging rush of mechanical alpacas. Yes, it doesn’t make sense but these crazy stages make for an entertaining and memorable experience.
For a $10 downloadable Contra title, Rebirth hits all the marks that it should but does not contain that extra level of flare longtime fans would hope for. Rebirth is probably the best Contra you never played, but take it for what it is – nothing will ever surpass the nostalgia of the original or the first time you witnessed Contra in its 16-bit glory upon the SNES launch.
Better Than: you would think
Also Try: Hard Corps: Uprising (XBLA)
Wait For It: a Contra compilation disc
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