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Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)

91
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jay the Avenger (10)
Written on  :  Mar 27, 2004
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Summary

A magnificent pinnacle in videogame-history!

The Good

I liked everything about this game. Contra III is a 2D-shoot-em-up, in which the player controls a walking and jumping character, and has to shoot alien bad guys. The intro tells us that the adventure is set in a dystopian future, where aliens have attacked the earth, and all there is left is rubble.

The backgrounds look stunning. They consist of multiple layers, which brings great depth to the backgrounds. This is particularly noticeable in level 2, where you are walking on top of some sort of steel construction, with plenty of heavy-pollution factories in the background. The sense of depth was so realistic, that it gave me that characteristic nauseous feeling in my stomach when you're riding a rollercoaster. I have to admit that this was partly because of the fact that this was one of the first SNES-games I've ever played, and I hadn't gotten used to the new level of realism yet. There's also this neat WO-II airplane in the first level, which comes flying in from behind and fires two bombs that cause a river of lava to form beneath the player. So next to looking extremely cool, the airplane also has a function.

The player characters and the alien bad guys in the game also look good. Animation could have been better than three frames, but this is not very disturbing. Besides... I suppose there's a price to pay for having loads of different enemies (so consider it a healthy trade-off). The game is truly unique in the fact that it continuously shows you new enemies throughout the entire game. Most games use up all enemy characters in the first few levels, and then start recycling palette-swapped versions of them in later levels. But not Contra III. On top of constantly introducing new enemies, there are way more bosses in this game than you've ever seen in any other. This is because there's not only bosses at the end of each level, but every level also has a (few) mini-boss(es) in the middle of the level. It is a true videogameplayer's dream come true. The bosses are big, well-drawn, and simply overall impressive.

The music is very well composed. It suits the dystopian environment very well, and is also very catchy. It sounds professional, to say the least. The musical score hits an absolute climax in level 4, where the player gets to ride an extremely fast motorcycle of some sort. In this level, the music gives the player's feel for the speed that extra boost that makes the experience so complete. It will make you want to play this level over and over again again (well... I do, anyways).

There's not much AI to the game. Enemy characters and bosses mostly follow a certain pattern. Once you've recognized the pattern, you can quite easily beat the enemy you are fighting. This also goes for bosses. This takes quite a while to learn, however, so it's not like this is a major negative point of the game. And besides... once you've accomplished this on the easy and normal modes of gameplay, then there's always the hard mode. In hard mode, the enemies' bullets move a lot faster, and this requires you to react a lot faster. You can also make it even harder on yourself by lowering the amount of lives you have in the options menu. This gives the game a great replay-value.

The weapons system is also top-notch, and very well balanced. Throughout the game, there are several weapons available, of which you can carry two at one time. All weapons have their own advantages and disadvantages. You can only use one at a time. It is up to the player to decide which weapon he will use in a particular situation. The advantage of the flamethrower, for example, is that it goes right through obstacles and allows the player to shoot enemies behind these obstacles. The disadvantage, then, is that the flamethrower is quite a weak weapon. The advantage of crush bombs is that they are immensely powerful. Their disadvantage is that you can't fire more than three at one time, and that they are stopped by obstacles. There are also bombs available, that do damage to the all enemies within the current screen.

The Bad

I have to admit that once I had finished the game a couple of times, I did replay it, but only up to level 4.

I feel that level 5 and 6 simply didn't have the same catchy tunes that level 1-4 did.

Also, I think that later on in games (in general, so this does not apply specifically to Contra III), levels tend to look like the leveldesigners have run out of ideas and originality. The same thing happened in Half-Life (for example): once you got towards the end of the game you found yourself on an alien planet that had all sorts of unbelievable vegetation such as glowing plants etcetera. This requires a greater suspension of disbelief from the player. This means you have to switch from a moderate suspension of disbelief to a higher suspension of disbelief when you get from the first few (real world) levels to the last few (alien world) levels.

This is not necessarily criticism on the game Contra III, but more of a personal quirkiness. I just didn't always feel like having to make the suspension of disbelief-switch.

The Bottom Line

Needless to say... the feel of the game is simply amazing. The moment you take up that controller and press start, you feel like a tough guy. The overall atmosphere (the combination of excellent musical scores, great graphics, and plenty of variation) of the game is like nothing you've ever seen before. The fact that you also get to ride a bike (level 4), as opposed to walking throughout all levels, enhances the overall experience. It's a true adventure, that no videogame-fanatic can afford to miss.