Sunday 3 May 2015

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1992

Contra III: The Alien Wars is a run 'n' gun game and the first 16-bit title for Konami's popular franchise.

You can now carry two different weapons and switch between them as well as collect bombs that do massive damage to anyone on the screen. The game features the same side scrolling action you'd expect but as usual Konami added some variety; this time it involves overhead Mode 7 levels where your objective is to destroy pods before facing a boss battle. These have cool scaling and rotation effects and the shoulder buttons work great for moving the camera around 360°. The game has lots of variety; for example, Stage 4 sees you riding on a motorcycle while blasting away enemies. You eventually grab onto a helicopter and fight in the air while hanging on! The final stage pays homage to the original Contra (1987, NES) as it begins with a faithful recreation of the Alien's Lair before branching out into an original level with various sub-bosses. My main gripe with the game is that the difficulty is far too high and it's way harder than the NES originals. It only has six levels and in my opinion Konami increased the difficulty as a way to artificially lengthen the experience. To make things worse, if you do manage to beat the Normal setting you don't even get to see the credits; instead you see a text screen and are basically told to try the Hard mode if you want to see the ending! The graphics are full of detail though and the animation is excellent. The explosions are extremely satisfying and I love the way the screen shakes when things are blowing up! Each music track is tense and works well but they're not very memorable.

Contra III: The Alien Wars is a superb addition to the franchise and Konami really took things up a notch for the series' 16-bit debut. However, it's just a shame that the difficulty is so high as it will likely put off some gamers and they'll miss out on some great run 'n' gun action.

Random trivia: While in development, Konami codenamed the game Super Contra IV in North America. This is because they originally counted the unrelated Contra Force (1992, NES) as the third instalment in the series.

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