Contra: Shattered Soldier
System: Playstation 2
Release Date: October 2002
2D gameplay died a fast death at the hands of Sony’s Playstation. Sega’s Saturn was built as a 2D machine with 3D capabilities tacked on late in its development, and the inferior 3D games on the Saturn doomed that machine. Since Sony’s rise to prominence, 3D games have taken over the industry.
Now that 3D is the norm, a 2D game is rare to find, and usually consists of a 2D fighters or a simplistic kids game. After the abominations Contra: Legacy of War and the Contra Adventure on PS1 and Saturn, Konami has brought the fabled series back to its roots ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” 2D gameplay. The graphics might be 3D, but the gameplay is pure 2D bliss.
Speaking of gameplay, Shattered Soldier will feel exactly like the 8-bit NES Contras from the start. The player is either the male soldier from the first game, or a female counterpart, although both play exactly the same.
From there, it’s non stop run and gun. Well, it’s a good amount of gun, but not as much run. Unlike the first three Contra games, Shattered Soldier has an increased emphasis on boss battles. Rather than extended periods of running and dodging foot soliders, a bulk of the action in the PS2 version is in long, exciting boss battles, sometimes one after another for a long period. It’s sometimes tough to figure out which is the final boss of a level, because after a huge boss is defeated there is another bigger boss right behind it.
Unlike in previous Contra games, there are no other weapons to collect via floating weapon pods. Sorry spread gun and laser fans, those guns are MIA in this PS2 Contra. This is a huge blow to the series, as the cool weapons were a highlight of the old games. There is a reason behind the weapons omission madness. There are three weapons in Shattered Soldier, the machine gun, flamethrower and grenade launcher, each with a charged-up higher powered version. There is a optimal weapon to use in each situation, adding a bit of strategy to the game.
Contra, and its sequels, have always been incredibly hard games. The first one was made easier by the now famous code for 30 lives (up up down down left right left right B A start). No such code exists (yet?) for this version, and there will be many a life lost in the completion of Shattered Soldier. Easily frustrated or non-hardcore shooter fans be warned: Contra: Shattered Soldier is hard!
The term 2.5D always is irksome, but in this case it does a good job in describing what the graphics in Contra: Shattered Soldier are all about. The game has a fully 3D engine, and everything is rendered in 3D, but the actual gameplay is in 2D.
In fact, the game’s graphics are actually a highlight. The environments are slick and futuristic, with a lot of detail and a bunch going on at any one time. The game rarely slows down, even with a ton of moving characters and bullets and fragments. Explosions are colorful and have a unique glow. Overall, Contra’s visuals are fitting and indicative of the power of the PS2 to reinvent the look of a classic game.
In terms of sound effect, Contra: Shattered Soldier does not disappoint. It has tons of great firepower effects, in addition to explosions and other appropriate sounds.
A hard rockin’ soundtrack has always been a allmark of the Contra series, and this version brings to the table
On the other hand, the sound track, which combines heavy metal guitars and some fast-paced techno, is just the ticket for a high-intensity game like this, even if it isn’t very memorable.
Contra: Shattered Dreams might have a limited appeal with gamers of today. While players of the original series on 8 and 16 bit systems might totally enjoy this throwback gameplay style, it remains to be seen whether the latest generation of gamers will take to very difficult 2D shooters.
In addition, there are only five levels in Shattered Soldier, which after the patterns are memorized and the game is completed, don’t offer a ton of replay value.
It is fun to go back and play the game again if you really enjoyed it, and there are actually some good incentives if the game is completed with a low number of lives. And fans of the original game will feel right at home with the the old school flavor of gameplay with shiny new graphics.
Fun Factor: 8