Contra

aka: Probotector
Moby ID: 98429
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The Famicom/NES versions of Contra are an expanded port of the arcade version, developed in-house. The biggest difference is that the levels are restructured and significantly longer, with stages 5 through 8 being derived from and expanded from areas in the arcade version's final stage. The plot is altered as well, being set in the year 1987 in the Amazon, rather than 2633 in the Galuga archipelago. Weapons are slightly different in function and frequency, and the Konami Code makes a famous appearance. The Famicom version has additional graphical effects and between-mission cut-scenes not seen in the NES version.

Spellings

  • コントラ - Japanese spelling (alternate)
  • 魂斗羅 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (NES version)

17 People (14 developers, 3 thanks)

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 89% (based on 27 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 145 ratings with 5 reviews)

Contra, No Iran

The Good
While Iran-Contra scandal was unfolding in Washington D.C., kids across the nation were involving themselves in quite a different sort of Contra, 8-bit style. Despite the subsequent advances in gaming technology, Contra remains the definitive fast paced, side-scrolling, shoot 'em up, sci-fi platformer. The difficulty level is sufficient to provide hours of exciting game play, without seeming cheap or unfair. The game's graphics, music and sound effects all demonstrate what can be done on the 8-bit Nintendo, when software developers care enough, and the game is still as fun to play alone, or with a friend, as it ever was.

The Bad
Contra (1988) on the Nintendo Entertainment System may not dazzle younger, contemporary gamers. The game's difficulty level is often heighten, sometimes to a fault, due to the instant death policy and the ability to lose your important weapon's upgrades. As was often the case, the game's storyline was revised for release outside of Japan, with the original Japanese storyline being superior.

The Bottom Line
Contra (1988) for the Nintendo Entertainment System is a required stop on anyone's tour of retro gaming. It offers some of the best, early 8-bit graphics, music and sound effects coupled with a fast paced, sci-fi storyline. Most importantly, the game is truely fun to play, especially with a friend. So, grab you laser gun, a friend, and be prepared to save humanity from armed terrorists and vile space aliens!

NES · by ETJB (428) · 2010

20 years later, Contra still shines like a brand new shell casing.

The Good
When Contra hit the arcades, it was a hit. With all of the jungle wars around the world and on the silver screen, dropping you into the jungle with buff action star-type heroes was bound to rake in the quarters. Then came the NES version. While arguably lower on the graphical scale, it makes the arcade version look like a beta that was slapped together in a week.

The awkward jump flip that made you a flying target in the arcade was replaced with a tucking flip that was much easier to control, partly in thanks to the excellent control that was put in place. If one game defines "responsive controls", Contra is it. You've got the basic jump/attack setup common to the era, but you also get so much more. When walking, you can fire in four directions, left, right, and diagonally upwards in those directions. You can crouch and fire left or right and fire straight up when standing. Not only can you alter your jump in the air, but you can also fire in all eight directions. You can play it as safe or as dangerous as you like.

Another major and welcome change is the level length. Whereas some levels seemed to be spliced together at the last minute to meet their arcade release, these sections were split up and fully-realized as complete levels for the NES. The added length and challenge made for a more satisfying experience overall. Had they left the levels alone, the NES version probably wouldn't be as warmly and widely regarded as it is even still.

All of the weapon powerups of the arcade version remain in place, each with their own strength and weakness. Most people will scramble to the Spread, while skilled players with good timing and aim will find the Laser to be superior. You don't need special weapons to enjoy or beat Contra, as any seasoned vet of the Red Falcon wars can tell you. Though obviously weaker than the other weapons, the standard rifle (with or without the Rapid upgrade) is as deadly as the Machine Gun when in the hands of a professional button masher. Fire has it's uses, primarily for up-close attacks on turrets, but is typically not that great outside of The Jungle and Waterfall levels.

The Bad
There's really nothing to dislike about the game. It's by far one of the best NES titles and is so common that prices should be very low. Shop around before buying for more than $2-$5.

The only real complaints came during the age of emulation, when I was able to try out the Japanese version, which featured specialized memory mappers that Nintendo's publishing controls wouldn't allow for in the U.S. Make no mistake, the U.S. version is still a top contender, but the details in the Famicom release were great for an 8-bit game:

-Animated trees in the Jungle level.
-Animated trees in the Snow Fields level.
-Map sequence (ala Ghosts 'n Goblins) between levels.
-Intro cinema.
-Improved ending.
-Character illustrations/communication dialogue sequences (ala Commando) between levels.

I was disappointed when I found out about the changes, but the missing details in no way detract from the non-Japanese releases. I'm just thankful that we didn't get Europe's version, Probotector, where everything became non-humanoid machines and the heroes became androids. Sorry, Europe.

The Bottom Line
Some series get sequel after sequel because they are great or sell well. Contra is one of those ongoing series that has few sequels because it's hard to top. Well, that and the fact that the two Playstation sequels nearly buried the series. Even after all of these years, the original Contra still stands as a great gaming experience.

NES · by DarkBubble (342) · 2007

A freaking good old action shooter

The Good
This game is the typical '80 game when there were only gameplay and nothing else. Fortunately, the gameplay is Contra is amazing, making it an amazing game. You have to advance and shoot at everything. When an enemy get one (or more than one) hit, it'll explode. If you take a hit, you lose a life (there is no life bar). May look a bit primitive, but it's really cool and you got it rapidly. The control are almost perfect. You can shoot in all 8 directions, you can dodge attacks easily with the down button, you can jump on the lower platform if you press down and the jump button, etc... There is no delay between the time where you press the button and when the man jumps or shots. The only small thing I've to bother about the control is, that, at boss battles when the screen stops to scroll, and if you want to shoot up-left or up-right, your player will walk while shooting instead to stop walking, and this is frustrating for bosses that aren't on the floor (so, almost all bosses).

The game looks challenging at first, but after mastering each stage and knowing each single detail of them by hear, the game is a lot less hard. Even if I'm not a dedicated shooter player, I still beat the game without cheating. The difficulty level is just fine. If you'll play with a friend, it'll be a lot easier, and a lot more fun, like usual. And if the game is too hard for you there is a well known code around that you shouldn't have much trouble to find, and if you still cannot beat it with that code, then you must really suck.

There is a very great "power-up" system. There is "capsules" around that will appear and you have to shot them to get a new weapon, and you can accept it or dodge it if you don't want to change your weapon type. Sometimes they just put capsules of unadapted weapons as a trap. The best weapon is the 'S' by far, and the game becomes so ridiculously easier as long as you touch the 'S' power-up. The challenge is to keep that weapon as long as possible.

The graphics are pretty nice and detailed, and shooting effects are well done (there is many different kinds of fireballs/explosion/shots in the game), sprites are not the most detailed for the console, but they never get old. The Japanese version has cutscenes added between levels, which can be nice to see, but useless since there is no real story, so you don't miss much things by not seeing the cutscenes.

The music is amazingly cool, you just never want to stop listen is so it is great. The sound SFX does their jobs, all your different weapons sounds differently, but all enemies does the same noise when exploding.

The Bad
Even if this game is great, a couple of small details are disappointing. The stage 2 and 4 (called "base" stages) are special. They're done in a pseudo-3D environment based on rooms, and you have to shot at people, strange machines and cannons on the other side of the room, then the wall will explode and you will be able to advance to the next room to eventually reach a boss. Those stages are difficult and absolutely not interesting. They'd better to input only standard 2D stages, because those are a lot better and funnier. Another thing I've to complain is the lack of variety of enemies. All enemies of all the game are the same commando soldiers, which gain various abilities as the game progress. Except at the very last stage, where you fights aliens.

The story, which consist of saving the world by destroying things, is just an excuse, and I don't even known why I'm mentioning that, because video games had no stories back then. The European version of the game (called Probotector instead) had stupid robots instead of humans, don't ask me why. Really stupid. Also, those robots are absolutely ugly.

Last thing I don't like the face of the heroes at the title screen. On the box, they look okay, but on the title screen they just look plain idiot brutes (that's mostly what they are actually) and you're gonna hate both heroes before playing. What a shame.

Also, like in all Konami games (at least on the NES), you still start a new game automatically if you you do not rush to turn off the power button as soon as the final "Konami" logo pops up on the screen, which completely destroy the sense of acomplishement to have beaten the game.

The Bottom Line
Contra is a typical shooter from Konami, and if you like Konami you'll like this game. If you hate shooters... Why not play this one, this is the best shooter on the NES, so you may change your mind. I personally don't like too much shooters, because they're usually plain, boring, stupid and very hard. This one is hard but when you beat a stage for the first time you'll remember it by heart and you'll be able to pass it again easily. The game has so cool music and good graphics that it will be absolutely not boring. Every stage is different from the others (except for 2 and 4 which are very similar). In one word : Great game, enjoyable, lot fun, you can even play with a friend for even more fun, but not a perfect game either.

NES · by Bregalad (937) · 2007

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

Cheat code

Contra's infamous code for 30 lives (see Tips & Tricks), has become a minor part of video game geek culture, appearing on T-shirts and referred to in movies and television shows, and being mentioned as one of the greatest gaming moments of all time by the magazine Game Informer.

European version

The game's European NES release was censored, changing the main character and other human-looking enemies to robots. Characters remained human in other European releases.

Removed content

There are a large amount of content that was cut between the original Japanese Famicom release and subsequent international NES releases. There is an opening sequence that explains the story, as well as a map screen between stages much like in Ghosts 'N Goblins. These sequences were both cut, along with the music that plays during them. Many stages featured additional visual effects, such as blowing trees on the first stage, falling snow on the fifth stage, and literally the entire level pulsating on the eighth stage. The original version also features a slightly longer ending sequence with an added scene. There is also even a hidden stage select menu.

Despite this, the game itself plays identically, as no changes were made that affect gameplay. The large amount of content removed reduced the game's data from 2 megabits to 1, suggesting this was done to save on manufacturing costs due to using a smaller ROM size.

Story

The original Contra and its sequel, Super Contra, were set in the distant future, during the 27th century (in 2633 and 2634 respectively). The Famicom (Japanese NES) port even had an introduction sequence detailing the plot. However, when the NES version was localized, the cut-scenes were removed due to the fact that Konami was forced use a standard Nintendo-made mapper instead of the proprietary VRC4 mapper they used for the Japanese version (Nintendo had made no such restriction in Japan regarding the use of custom chips and cartridges, thus third-party companies were allowed to take such liberties if they wanted).

Since the US NES version had no in-game storyline, the author of the US manual took the liberty of placing the game's plot in the present. Moreover, the setting was changed from the fictional Galuga archipelago to the Amazons and the nicknames "Mad Dog" and "Scorpian" were given to the main characters, Bill and Lance (who also lost their surnames in the process).

When the series made it's appearance on the SNES in the form of Contra III: The Alien Wars, the intro made it clear that the game was set in the future (2636). Since there was no way cover their previous mistakes, the author of the manual this time declared that the main characters in Contra III were not Bill and Lance, but their apparent descendants, Jimbo and Sully.

Ironically enough, the censored Probotector games released for the European NES had manuals that were more faithful to their Japanese counterparts than the American versions.

Awards

  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • 1989 Buyer's Guide - Best Action Game (NES version)
    • November 1997 (Issue 100) - ranked #45 (Best 100 Games of All Time) (NES version)

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  • MobyGames ID: 98429
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by The cranky hermit.

Arcade added by Alaka.

Additional contributors: Foxhack, Alaka, lights out party.

Game added December 10, 2017. Last modified February 26, 2024.