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First Impressions: Contra ReBirth

Posted by Sean Aaron


Remember Contra? After Green Beret (Rush 'N' Attack to Americans) it was the definitive run-and-gun game from Konami which saw two games in the arcade and ports and sequels on home consoles. I cannot say I ever played the latter, but the former I remember well. Despite being punishingly difficult (to me, anyway) there was something compelling about it that caused me to drop numerous tokens into the arcade cabinets withstanding the frustration over easy and repeated deaths. Contra ReBirth is true to that arcade heritage, though thankfully no further tokens are required after the initial 1000 Nintendo point investment, and it's a good thing too because even on the easy setting this game is repeatedly kicking my ass!

Starting it up you're treated to a lengthy intro movie from the point of view of Bill, our hero, who apparently wakes up with some robot on a space ship. Skipping past that you see an opening screen that looks like that on an SNES or Mega Drive game with three choices in English: 1 Player Start, 2 Player Start and Options. Start the game and you're looking at what could be Contra III in the arcades or Contra IV on the SNES/MD. Nice looking 2D sprites -- though as in Gradius ReBirth many of these are textures on 3D rendered characters made to look like 2D sprites. The effect is pleasing and anyone who has played any Contra game immediately knows what to do: run and shoot everything!

The controls in the game are the same in terms of being able to hold the fire button and use your d-pad to change firing angle or pressing down to lie prone for shooting enemies in the kneecaps or hitting those low-to-the-ground enemies. Jumping results in the familiar backflip manoeuvre and pressing down and jump on a platform causes you to descend to the one below. A new addition is the ability to change weapons with one in reserve.

Including the default "Normal" gun there are three others providing variation in your arsenal. Controls are completely customisable from the option menu. The default is Wii Remote on its side with a swing to do the weapon swap and 1 and 2 buttons firing and jumping, respectively. Oddly enough I kind of liked using the motion control, though in time I may remap the function to the A button. There also appears to be a "Fix" button, but I have no clue what that does and it's not part of the default Wii Remote layout at all. Classic Controller and Gamecube controller are also supported for those who like that sort of thing.

I should also mention that the game is in 480p, but like Gradius ReBirth it's a 4:3 aspect ratio title. Unlike Gradius Rebirth the game is presented in a "pillarbox" format, so widescreen owners won't need to change aspects manually (yay), though the bars on the sides are black rather than grey (boo).

Enemies consist of the usual assortment of alien critters and turrets as well as people in weird jumpsuits, giant robots, giant rockets, weird spacesuited samurai fireball throwing aliens hanging from rockets, giant space centipedes -- you know, typical Contra baddies. Enemies are nicely animated; sometimes coming from the background to the foreground (or vice-versa) in scaling sprite stylee and all very colourful and lethal to the touch.

Like its arcade forebears, despite repeated bottom paddling (or due to my deviant nature perhaps because of this), I still find myself wanting to virtually "insert coin" to continue. It just has that same great feel of a nice Contra game: the feeling that "oooh, if I'd only timed that jump better he wouldn't have got me!" which eases frustration (slightly). To make life a little easier you can increase the default lives from 3 to a maximum of 7 and there is the Easy difficulty setting, though frankly that only really seems to have the effect of making bosses and sub-bosses require less damage to destroy so I found it not much easier than the Normal level. I haven't felt I required further challenge, so I've not tried Hard yet!

There are unlimited continues, but your score (which interestingly is only displayed on a status screen between game areas) resets with each one, so that should be sufficient incentive to avoid wanting to go on for those requiring bragging rights. The braggart will have to rely upon ye olde photographic evidence however as there are no online leaderboards or additional game modes to be seen and only the highest score is tracked without the ability to enter one's initials. There is also no save system or checkpointing, but it doesn't seem like a very lengthy game; just one that requires a bit of skill to master.

It's a nice update to a classic franchise with lovely nods to the 16-bit console era. Everything outside of the text in the intro bits is in English, so I expect a worldwide release will be simple, but then I thought that about Gradius ReBirth, so who knows when this will see release overseas. For people able to buy this game I think it's 1000 points well-spent; for others, well...just think how excited you'll be when you can finally download it on your system!

From the web

Game Screenshots

User Comments (38)



Omega said:

Sounds frustrangingly hard. But with the possibility to continue indefinitely, the easy difficult setting and the small overall length it is certainly possible, even for the average player, to reach the end. Anyway, looks like an update which is worth to be released on WiiWare.

I wonder, though, if you get access to all levels in the easy mode. In the GBA game "Contra Advance: The Alien Wars Ex" it is relatively easy to play through on easy. But in normal mode there are three(!) levels more. So if you played through on easy (like me), you haven't seen a whole lot of the game.



WolfRamHeart said:

Could this game possibly be harder than Contra IV on the DS? Probably not but still I can't wait to find out! Bring it on!



Twilight_Crow said:

Thank you for the impressions, this one I'd buy for sure (unless I had no money ), but I'm guessing that is gonna take awhile for it to appear over here .



calculon said:

Meh. Sounds like another half-arsed remake - think I'll stick to Alien Rebels for my retro Contra fix.

I was looking forward to this but when a developer can't even be bothered to put in a proper leaderboard or support for widescreen display I just say no. Then again I think the idea of sticking retro remakes on the service sucks anyway, despite Bubble Bobble PLus and Rainbow Islands being reasonable games.




Interested yet further. Ultimately, however, I suspect this game won't be for me as much as Gradius Rebirth wasn't. I'll keep an open mind though until its release and review.



xesbeth said:

Contra is not scoring but survival, a leaderboard for this is just useless.

Great preview, personally this game is one of the best wiiware games on the service.



calculon said:

@Sean - if you actually bothered to read most of my comments you'd realise I do. I'm guessing you can't cope with difference of opinion though. I just don't like it when people don't put the effort in and just base games on ancient content of which there's an ample amount of on the VC.

Is it really that wrong to want a service that's not full of Flash remakes, half-arsed puzzle games and crap that only people on XBLA want because they don't have a dedicated retro console service? I'm tired of the Wii being the breeding ground for niche concepts that rob decent indie titles like Swords and Soldiers, World of Goo and Toki Tori of sales. Every time someone says "Wouldn't it be great to see a Sonic remake in 2D?", two things spring to mind: if done well and looks like it, yes - otherwise it's just another nail in the coffin for a game from someone who's made a real effort because the money goes to the slacker.

I look at remakes on XBLA and in some cases a lot their panache could be recreated on WiiWare, so why let companies simply put out stuff that looks like it's been produced in three to six months by a kid who can copy pixel art?

In all honesty I've been quite kind about games like Rainbow Islands, Bubble Bobble Plus and Adventure Island and I've been critical of original content like Plattchen, StrongBad and even some good games that I thought could have been better with a little extra effort. In fact I read everyone's opinion and some have even changed my perceptions, so why attack me directly for my opinion? I don't attack your opinions directly. If you don't like what I have to say then don't write any more articles and bugger off - that way you won't have to put up with me. I ain't shifting unless NIntendo Life ban me which is fine but just because you can write something and put it up for the world to read doesn't mean your opinion is final or authoritative.



thewiirocks said:

Yay for 480p support! I would have preferred if they would extend the edges (it's a side-scroller), but I'll take what I can get. Merely paying attention to the system setting is a good start.

Looking forward to this one!



Adam said:

"Everything outside of the text in the intro bits is in English, so I expect a worldwide release will be simple."
Ah, but that is where you are unfortunately mistaken. Derrida came to the house the other day to play some Contra, and he told me there is nothing outside of the text.

@ Calculator Man
Man, he was just joking. He even winkied after the harmless comment.



calculon said:

In that case - I apologise Sean. Here's a smile to go with it

Sorry, I've been working on a website and I merely glanced at you comment whilst I had a five minute break. I've also recently just become a dad so I've had quite a few rough nights which is making me grumpier than usual (if that's possible)

If I could I'd take it all back fella - except my opinion of WiiWare



kaes said:

Great preview, the game looks promising! BTW, I imagine the "fix" control option is what you hold to keep your character in place while you fire in different directions (particularly diagonals).



chris3116 said:

Day one for me. I hope NOA won't screw up and bring it like in 3 months or later.



Bahamut_ZERO said:

Wait, Contra Rebirth? Didn't we have Contra 4 for that.....

@Sean: You promised it to us by the end of the week last week. You're late. You herby have to give all members of NintendoLife staff free copies



Sean_Aaron said:

I think I said by the end of next week last week, but I guess I could have made something up !

And Calculon, no hard feelings; without the follow-up I still would have suggested you just need some ice cream. I suggest Ben and Jerry's Fossil Fuel or Pralines and Cream Haagen Dazs. Oh, and congrats!

Whilst I agree the game is a "re-tread" it's a great quality one that captures the feeling of the arcade and 16-bit land nicely, so I forgive it!



RadioShadow said:

calculon, back in 80s & 90s, there was no such thing as "widescreen". Contra Rebirth is suppose to be like a game you would play in the arcade or on a console. Widescreen support would have been nice, but it doesn't destroy the gameplay. At least it has proper Hi-Def support unlike Mega Man 9!

As for the Leaderboards, who gives a damn? This isn't the crappy Xbox 360 were are talking about (don't flame fanboys/fangirls, I have one ). The Leaderboards on previous WiiWarw games don't update automatically and you have to connect each time to view the rankings. I play this game for fun and aim not to die (and get a better score but not to boast about it).

Sean Aaron forget to mention that on "Easy" mode, you don't lose your upgraded weapon that you hold when you die. In "Normal" you do.

Also you can unlock two secret characters (unlike Contra: Hard Core, their abilities are the same) and a Nightmare difficulty.

It has occurred to me that will the EU get this? We still haven't got Contra 4 (thank god for flash cards).

"@Sean: Ah, fair enough. But seriously, Contra 4 was our rebirth. Am I the only one bothered by this?"

Contra 4 was more like the portable version of Contra which used two screens. Contra Rebirth feels more like an Arcade Remix.



MadMartigan said:

Unlimited continues? That blows. Half the appeal of Contra is eventually kicking the game's ass despite how brutal it is at first.

I can understand the lack of an online leaderboard though. In every Contra game I've ever played there's a never-ending supply of enemies coming at you. Even if you stop moving to the right the enemies keep coming. And when you consider the fact that there's no game timer it should be easy to see why they didn't include this pointless feature. Anyway...

For me, the release of a new Contra game is always an event. I can't wait to play this one.



Darel18 said:

Can't wait to buy this game!!! Hard will definitely be my first test

I own Contra 4 and it's simple awesome!



Sean_Aaron said:

@ morphballer: Basically there's things in the games (like the bosses and maybe some other things) which are pretty clearly 3D renders, but they have low-res pixellated textures which make them look similar to the other bits of the game. Some of the enemy ships in Gradius ReBirth are also like this.

And whilst I'm aware of Contra 4 on the DS, I don't own a DS so I've never played it. I think as well as the special weapons not being lost in Easy they also have a limited supply in normal mode, but appear to be unlimited in Easy mode. I'll definitely have to play it some more.

Finally whilst I can understand the complaint about unlimited continues, if it really bothers you, you can always just play on a single credit like I do for that added challenge!



moosa said:

There are only 4 weapons? Lets see, the original Contra had one, two... five weapons. Plus three special powerups. Contra 3 on SNES has 6 plus bombs and the barrier powerup. I'm slightly disappointed to hear that this game is apparently just scraping by with the bare minimum. I'm assuming that the four weapons are just the same old original ones from Contra 1 minus the single shot. I can certainly appreciate the retro-style approach, but just because it's "retro" doesn't mean you need to skimp on features. If anything, you should have more, as more of a collection of features from different titles. I suppose we'll just be spread-shotting everything to death once again and call it good.



Sean_Aaron said:

I've only been through the first three stages; the weapons I've seen are:

Normal (little stream of "pew pew" round bullets)
Spread (big red balls flying out five at a time in a 45-degree arc -- the wall of death, I tells ya!)
Laser (blue bolts; slower rate of fire than anything else; seems to do more damage)
Homing (green missiles that can be pumped out quickly and zoom to their targets -- seems to do less damage)

If there are others I certainly haven't seen them...



CanisWolfred said:

Nice! Never a big fn of Contra(the Arcade versions at least), but I'll probably check this out.




Remind me not to get on the bad side of Calculon (not that Sean did intentionally as it was a smiley wink at the end).

Forum chat is no substitute for face to face conversation.



JamieO said:

Even more so than Modern Warfare 2, Metroid: Other M, God of War III and Sin and Punishment 2- I'm looking forward to Contra ReBirth! Side-scrolling Run and Guns are my favourite genre.

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