On June 11, the Contra Anniversary Collection, another collection of Konami classics, was released on Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Unlike the Castle Vania Anniversary Collection, the new collection includes the correct games. If in the previous collection there were no two best “Castle” (Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood), which deprived it of any sense to buy it, then in the new one any of the top three “Counter” in itself justifies the money spent.
Below I list and rank the top 4 games in the entire series – as much as you love the pseudo-3D Hard Corps Uprising or Shattered Soldier, they don’t even compare to Super C, let alone the original or The Alien Wars. Technically, the compilation is done as standard for Konami. There is no online, the controls outside the games cannot be rearranged, but the “jump-shot” and “shot-jump” are correctly spaced across the external and internal buttons of the gamepad, there are no complaints about emulation, there are even off-brand 60 Hz versions of Hard Corps and Contra III with more fast scan of the picture.
After the main top, I will briefly list the rest of the games from the collection, which I, for one reason or another, did not rank.
1. Contra (1987), NES. Best “Contra”
Released 32 years ago, the game is still the best in the series, not outdated not only in mechanics, but also in graphics, sound, overall duration, difficulty and concept. Only Doom 1-2 and Mega Man 2 can be placed next to her for longevity and a reserve for the future – and that’s it, the more you will not find games that such visionary developers would make, without relying on anyone, without being guided by anything but own inspiration.
The authors chose a very successful aesthetic. These are scenes from American action films and science fiction films transformed with high-quality pixel art: the spectacle of the quite recognizable Sly and Arnie standing back to back on the screensaver is impressive in 2019, albeit not like visiting a friend after school / video salon.
The design of the levels is “Predator”, “Aliens”, “Rambo 1-2” and “Terminator”, rethought in 8 small, dynamic, verified to the last pixel stages, which are equally interesting to distribute that one, that together, that in casual mode with S-weapon and entered “Contra” -code, which is the most hardcore speedup with one machine gun.
The authors have made a huge qualitative leap in comparison with the original version, which is not playable in our time, Contra from slot machines. Japanese developers have made its 8-bit adaptation at least competitive before any sequels, remakes and spin-offs from 16 or more bit platforms. There is nothing to add to this game, there is nothing to change, this is the best “Contra” in terms of the essence of arcade gameplay, purity and simplicity of the mechanics of the movements of two men armed to the teeth against the background of the complexity and honesty of the level design.
2. Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992), SNES. The most hardcore “Contra”
The least known Contra in our country – due to the low prevalence of Super Nintendo in Russia – is distinguished not only by the general insanely high level of design, but also by the speed of events unprecedented for the series. There are not many levels and bosses in The Alien Wars, but they fly by with such a stunning speed that at first it seems that this is more some kind of bullet hell than the classic “Contra”. There is no time for chivalry, not for playing with default weapons – you just throw as many shots at your opponents as possible before they have time to shoot or tear you apart …
Therefore, I seriously thought that the slower and more traditional Hard Corps deserves the second place in the top, and the most popular and adored in the West part – the third maximum. But as I started to replay Alien Wars on the Switch, I quickly realized that this impression was deceiving and could only be explained by relatively little familiarity with the game. Despite the much faster pace, Contra III is as honest with the player as the first part.
Even at the Hard level (by the way, this is the only classic “Contra” in which there are difficulty levels), everything can be done with one machine gun and fairly modest arcade skills. This will take more time than the first Contra or Hard Corps, because the new speed and intensity of the action requires either a good reaction, or more careful memorization and memorization of the smallest aspects of the gameplay. But in the end you will succeed – and the emotional effect of conquering all this impassable, seemingly, seething chaos around will be much stronger than from the more leisurely and rational runʼnʼgun.
Visually, “Contra 3” is still dazzling (especially at level 3), the game does not need to make any discounts for retro – this is a masterpiece of pixel art of the level of Cuphead or Metal Slug 3, plus SNES hardware special effects allowed the developers to arrange a number of experimental, unthinkable for any another platform of the time of levels and events. There are no more abstract locations in the spirit of “forest-snow-factory”, everything takes place in the steel jungle of a futuristic metropolis under the attack of aliens, aesthetically, we are also facing a completely modern game. It’s amazing that Alien Wars was developed by only 3 people, although it looks like a complete blockbuster with an unlimited budget, team and timeline.
3. Contra: Hard Corps (1994), Sega Mega Drive. The most democratic “Contra”
There are no problems with fame – with this Sega, 16-bit “Contra” most of our readers probably began their acquaintance with the series. Despite the choice of 4 heroes and a rich arsenal / progression of weapons, more like Alien Soldier than Alien Wars, this is a much more traditional, unhurried “Contra” than the third part. There are a LOT of levels and bosses, but they are all passed / learned from the second or third attempt, maximum from the fourth. Hard Corps does not require such a hard-core grind as the first 200 attempts to complete Contra III.
The main thing that distinguishes the unofficial fourth part from the rest of the series is the ability to choose the path of passage. The game was well ahead of Metal Slug 3 – the most famous example of a branching runʼnʼgun – and still amazes with the amount and quality of creativity put into the design by the developers (of which there were 6 people this time) in the design of each of the countless stages and opponents.