Review: Neo Contra (PS2)

Neo Contra
Developer: KCET
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Scrolling 3D shooter
Release Date: 10/19/04

Contra! Quite possibly one of the most famous “brand names” in video gaming. The original Contra for the NES was one of the most popular games of all time. But each game after it has slowly fallen down the ladder of popularity to the point where this version of Contra has received little to no fanfare. I’ll even admit I haven’t played a contra game since Contra: Legacy of War. None of the Contra games after the first one had any appeal to me. They failed to capture the magic of the original> Even the first Sequel, Super C, just wasn’t as good a game to me.

But Neo Contra caught my eye. It looked a lot like Cannon Spike, one of the best (and shortest) games Capcom ever put out. That game was released on the Dreamcast and gained a cult following, yet Capcom has never made another one, even though I loved it so. And the more I heard about Neo Contra and the more screenshots I saw of it, the more convinced I was that Neo Contra was going to be a Cannon Spike clone.

So of course I jumped at the chance to review it.

I got it, watched one of the coolest into movies I have ever seen to a game and greedily started in.

An hour later I was done. Not done as in I could take anymore, done as in I had beaten the game. Done as in I had unlocked everything I could seem to unlock and was stumped for what to do next. I stared at my PS2. I had Lucia, Katana Jaguar, some hidden videos, some new weapon options, and I actually said out loud “Is that really the time?”

But it is in fact so. One of the shortest games I have played in a long long time in terms of completion speed. But just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s a bad game does it?



Let’s Review

1. Story

It’s the year 4,444 AD. Roughly 2000 years since the first Contra game. Once the word Contra was held akin to the bravest, toughest, most heroic soldiers in the Earth armed forces. Now however, the word Contra refers to an evil sect of oppressive rules that hold the Earth colonies under their fearsome grip of tyranny.

To counter the threat of the Neo Contra the Earth Government releases from a cryogenic slumber the surviving Contra from the original game: Bill Rizer. Teamed with a Cyber Samurai named Jaguar, Bill must destroy the four Contra elite: Guerilla Contra, Plant Contra, Phermone Contra, and Animal Contra before finally encountered the Master Contra himself.

However along the way Bill Rizer will discover a massive conspiracy, face betrayal from friends long thought perished, and perhaps even encounter…Bill Rizer?, on his was towards saving humanity once again.

For a shooter, Neo Contra has quite possibly the most detailed plot I’ve ever encountered. There are cut scenes, and exposition, and a lot of depth to the plot.

The only problem is the story is cheesy as hell and the voice acting is terrible. But then, the more I played this game, the more I realized Neo Contra wasn’t taking itself seriously and was supposed to make you groan or laugh. Animal Contra is a perfect example of that, but I won’t ruin it for you.

It may surprise long time shooter fans to see so much plot in a game from this genre, but it does really make things interesting. I have to say even though it’s been a while since I have played a Contra game, I picked up on who was who and what was going out very quickly without feeling lost. I have my suspicions to who Mystery G is though, as he looks an awful lot like an older version of a certain main character…

I could have sworn the original two Contras were Mad Dog and Scorpion though…

Overall, I was very pleased with what they gave us and that it could be told in under an hour’s time. Good job Konami.

Story Rating: 7/10

Graphics

The movies and cut scenes feature some of the best (and silliest) graphics I’ve seen on the PS2 in a long time. Very detailed and well designed character (and monster) models.


The end and midboss monsters/mechs/whatever are amazing and very original in design.

There are some problems, such as the grunts/infantry. They have no real detail to them and look rather blobby except when they try to attack. The vehicles and assorted other things trying to kill you still look great.

A good example of this strange polar opposites in terms of graphics comes when there is a soldier riding a bolder at you. The boulder looks great. The soldier looks terrible. It’s a strange combination on one’s screen.

Overall, the game is pretty nice to look at, and I really enjoy the cut scenes (especially a certain one you can unlock). It’s not as great as a lot of other games out there, but it still shows how far the Contra series has come of the last few gaming generations.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

Amazing music. Terrible voice acting. That sums it up right there.

I really enjoyed the music in this game. From the opening theme, to the tunes going on while I was blowing everything possible on the screen up, to even the end credit music, it was all great. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the original Contra themes as well.

The problem is how terrible the voice acting was. I really hope it was meant to be that bad, because I laughed at it a lot. “LUCIA!!!!” Wow, just terrible. It was a combination of hokey dialogue and cheesy voices.

However, the cornball speaking bits were not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the more prevalent music and sounds that came when things went kablooie. I’ll take the sound of a rapid fire machine gun over a corny Starscream wanna-be voiced Plant Contra any day.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Played Cannon Spike? Good. Then image a game playing at a quarter of that speed but with pretty much the same controls and you have Neo Contra.

Neo Contra takes a 2D side Scrolling shooter and puts it into a 3D environment. And like Cannon Spike, it manages not only to keep itself from sucking, but it actually plays pretty damn good.

You have three choices of options for weapons, although that will eventually increase to six. Once you choose a set, you have to use it for the entire game. My personal favorite is type C with the Spread Shot (My favorite weapon from the original Contra), the straight Fireball, and the Laser Homing Device. I never used the fireball really though.

Let’s talk about these weapons for a second. You have your normal shot, then your special weapon, and then your homing weapon. This last one you need to hold down the triangle button to lock onto your target and then you release it to fire. There are some enemies you can ONLY defeat with this weapon, and most can’t even be hurt by it. It’s fun to switch up the weapons, but you can always tell which enemies need the homing weapon thanks to the green glow around them. Again, the fire weapon really doesn’t have much of a use except to watch the enemy burn. The main weapon is always better in every situation.

X allows you to evade a hit and X plus a direction allows you to dash. X prevents almost any attack from hurting you (I did find some where I still died though) and Dash is amazingly helpful as well.

You’ll find Neo Contra really easy to learn the controls of. As you start playing you’ll rarely use the defensive controls or the Movement/Aim lock commands, but towards the end of the game, they will be indispensable.

Like I said earlier, the game is really slow, but it feels a lot like Cannon Spike. The lack of speed may annoy most shooter fans, but if the game actually played as fast as a normal shooter? MY god, it’d be over even quicker.

Good controls, some things may take getting used to, like riding the strange bird creature and fighting the midboss on that level, but nothing one can’t get used to.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Not much. You can pretty much unlock everything in an hour like I did if you’re really good at these style games. Sure Neo Contra gives you six weapon options, and three characters to play as, but it’s so quick, it’s hardly worth playing once you have all the movies and gallery.

It’s just too quick a game. I can’t imagine anyone playing it more than 2-3 at the most after buying it. Sure there is some funny stuff, but there are faster, better, and longer games out there. Neo Contra may be a good game, but it’s destined to be a rental only or a bargain bin purchase at best. There’s only so much you can do with it.

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

This game is so easy on easy mode it’s scary. You get 30 lives and 8 credits. On easy mode, there are only the first 4 of the 7 stages and you can get through without using a single continue. It’s that easy of a game.

Normal mode? Not as much. But still a lot easier than most other shooters out there. The four Elite Contras are the bosses for the first four stages. Even on Normal Mode, I only died against one of the bosses. And that was once. And that was against Guerilla Contra. All the bosses are just too easy. Pheromone Contra was over so quickly, I couldn’t believe it was a boss battle. Even Red Falcon (yes he’s back!) is laughable. Midbosses tend to be harder than the real thing. And even then it’s not by much.


The only difficult thing is achieving a 100% hit rate so you can get an S rating on a level and thus unlock stuff. And this isn’t hard as in “OMG! How can I get past these tough evildoers?” It’s tough to make sure you killed everything there is to kill.

Thankfully normal mode gives you a lot less lives, but with a new generation version of the classic Konami Code, you can punch that up to 19 lives.

I have to say, Neo Contra provided me with no real difficulties or challenges. I was hoping for a strong challenging shooter, but I guess games like Ikaruga, R-Type Final, and Gradius V are a touch act to compare to. It’s just too easy for me and there was no thrill in beating it. Just an “It’s over?”

And yes, I realize those are plane based 2D shooters. But they are still shooters dammit.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality

Another Contra game! But it’s actually one I enjoy. I really enjoy it, lack of difficulty aside. There’s a lot of neat touches, from having a well thought out plot that strings all the contra games together (I looked up Contra fan sites to make sure) and everything feels well thought our from the transition from 2D to 3D (I know there’s other 3D Contra game, yes).

Still, the fact it’s “yet another Contra/yet another 3-D Contra” knocks things down a bit.

Aside from the plot and some highly innovative looking bosses, there’s nothing here that screams anything but “Another game using a classic franchise name to make a few extra bucks

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

As soon as you start playing, you will have a lot of fun. You’ll be blowing things up left and right, marveling at the graphics, laughing at the cheesy voice acting, and then blowing more stuff up. And then you’re done and you’ll be going, “Holy crap, it’s over?” Yes, the game will last about two hours at the very MOST, but during all that time you will be hooked and salivating. Neo Contra is a very fun game that really puts a stranglehold on you. It’s just a brief intoxication and then a major crash.

Neo Contra was so fun, I couldn’t believe such little time had passed. I assumed I had gotten so into the game it was closer to the witching hour, and not only 10 at night. If you’re in for a quick weeknight rental, you can’t do much better than Neo Contra. If you’re looking for a long term game…well, not so much then.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Not many people will end up getting this. It’s a shooter, part of a dying breed, and most people don’t pay attention to Contra anymore except in regards to the original classic that all should bow down to and hail as wonderful.

It’s too bad though, as I think a lot of people would enjoy this game. If they had put the original Contra as an unlockable bonus besides the gallery and extra weapons, I think every gamer over 18 would rush out and buy this. But instead, it’s an hour long game few will buy, and even fewer will rental, as I doubt many video stores will pick this up either.

For those that do though, you’re in for a short, but enjoyable experience.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

It’s a good game. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a fun throwback to old school game with a modern look and feel. I still far prefer Cannon Spike. Cannon Spike was just as short, but the gameplay, graphics, feel, and everything was far superior to Neo Contra in every way. It was faster and more fun to boot.


The original Contra was just as short. It didn’t take more than an hour to beat. But again, it was a different age, and it was more fun. The original Contra has that “IT” factor. If it showed up on the GBA for $20, people would buy it in droves.

There’s a lot of amazing but short games for every console. Games I would recommend everyone own. Ikaruga, Pac Man VS, A horde of Nintendo and GB games. But Neo Contra is missing that little bit that puts it up there with those games. As a result it’s merely a game with a lot of potential that was just too short to achieve it.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

Short Attention Span Summary
I like Neo Contra. I just can’t recommend paying thirty dollars for it. I’m glad Konami wasn’t crazy enough to do a full-blown $49.99 with this. I still have to say it’s not worth the cash. Wait for it to drop to 19.99 or even ten bucks, and then pick it up. Otherwise, this is a rental ONLY.