(GB / Game Boy)

Operation C (GB / Game Boy)

Game Review

Operation C Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Does the diminutive adventure bring the big guns?

Let's just get this out of the way now: if you like the NES games, you'll probably dig this entry. Operation C isn't an adaptation or a port (arguably); it is an old-school Contra game. It may lack in a few notable areas, but you'll largely enjoy it.

Operation C does a pretty good job of sticking to the series’ formula; a half-naked guy with big guns kills stupid bad alien things over stages that alternate between side-scrollers and top-downs (with three of the former and two of the latter). The stages are about as long as those found in the NES games, but they’re still tricky and you will lose some pixelated men. Some of the stages even feel yanked out of Super C, a trend so common for all the game’s assets you’ll sometimes think you were playing a monochrome, less detailed version of it that fits in your pants.

It also plays more like Super C than the original Contra. Levels are a bit easier to conquer (but that’s not to say they’re a walk in the park), the overhead stages are in and the arsenal is almost the same. Even the ending is virtually identical. A lack of originality brings the game down a bit, but this is subdued some by the feeling of “I can’t believe they made a full Contra for Game Boy.”

Classic Contra arms include the infamous spreader, which can be powered up from three to five bullets, and the fire gun from Super C. It's a slimmed arsenal, but each weapon is a winner. Besides, the laser from Super C was arguably a lame duck and it’s absence is not grieved. Operation C is not without series innovation; it's the first one to include a machine gun as your standard blaster and the homing weapon also got its start in this adventure. It makes this outing feel like an evolutionary step for the series, despite cannibalizing the second game.

While the Game Boy didn’t really have the raw power or a competent enough screen to handle the more complicated environments of the NES games, Operation C still manages to deliver visuals that are detailed enough to truly feel like its brethren. The bullets are big and distinguishable, character designs are lifted right out of the first two games and levels are large and in charge, if a bit barren. It may not have the same complex geometry that Super C gets into, but it certainly tries; things like elevators and slopes are abundant, the latter something the first game didn’t have. Of course, the occasional seemingly invisible bullet will still getcha, but that’s par for both the series and the Game Boy.

And yes, the infamous Konami code is in, but it won’t give you 30 lives in the non-Japanese versions. Instead, you’re given access to a stage select screen, something standard in the Japanese version. There’s a 10-life code for pansies, but the real challenge is replaying the game to the point of muscle memory; to me, running through multiple stages without dying feels like a true achievement.

A sound select screen is also unlockable via code, which allows you to listen to the exciting stage music and pump yourself up for shooting digital unarmed foes. Some of the tunes are remixed from earlier games in the series, but they’re still just as fun to go all Rambo to. The sound effects are the same as in the NES titles, so if you’ve played either of those you know what to expect: loud guns and meaty explosions.

Unfortunately, no multiplayer was incorporated, and that does detract from the game’s long-term appeal. If you’re more inclined to play single-player only you won’t miss it or even notice it, but another thing Contra is great for is playing with a friend. Score junkies can will want to replay to beat their best, but the rest of us are pretty much done after a few go’s.


All in all, this is without a doubt a Contra game more worthy of its title than, say, certain PlayStation entries. It hits on most of the aspects that make a good entry: challenging gameplay, tight controls, varied enemies, killer arsenal, macho tunes, big bosses. For a title two years into the mighty portable’s lifespan, it accomplishes an impressive amount in shrinking the essentials of the beloved console/arcade series. Sadly, players are forced to go gung-ho solo, which is disheartening for multiplayer fans and kills some of its longevity. It also borrows a bit too heavily from Super C for comfort, but doesn't really live up to it. Fans of the NES games are foolish to pass this up.

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User Comments (19)



Kittsy said:

If this game is as hard as the others, than by god I will love it.



Corbs said:

I still enjoy taking this one for a spin from time to time. A very solid Contra offering for the Game Boy indeed.



Bahamut_ZERO said:

the infamous spreader

I'm sorry about this, but I'm a grammar hound for some things. The word infamous means, in a less complicated definition, "to be widely known for a negative aspect." The spreader is loved by most, making it "famous" not infamous. Harry Potter is famous, Hitler was infamous. You should edit the review to change that word.

Sorry about that, it's so many people use that word incorrectly because they think it is a more complex-sounding version of the word famous when it isn't. Sorry about that



Darknyht said:

@Bahamut Zero: Perhaps he was taking the perspective of the aliens that get mowed down by it. To them it is quite infamous.

I remember this game being very unforgiving especially on the last stage. I don't think I even managed to beat this one, but it was always good for mindless killing of aliens.



SwerdMurd said:

as good of a game as it is....Contra 4 just improves on every single other entry in the series on all fronts in my opinion. It's hard to go back and play the old ones now...they just feel easy. Hard Corps is still brutal, but a bit too forgiving with its weapon system (plus I've had it memorized for 8 years)



Adamant said:

Yep, great stuff.
It's worth noting that this game can be found on "Konami GB Collection vol 1" (along with Castlevania Adventure, Nemesis and F1 Spirit), which is probably easier to get ahold of nowadays.



ToneDeath said:

Surely Contra is too risky to play on a system that is easily thrown, say against a wall or into a river. Anyway, something I wanted to ask again:

Nintendo Life, will you review Balloon Kid (if you haven't already)? I only got to play the first couple of levels, but it struck me as a great expansion of the Balloon Trip* concept (* a bonus mode that was more fun than the main part of Balloon Fight).



Corbs said:

I own Balloon Kid, so I'll try to review it a little later after we finish this special off.



timp29 said:

I did own this and played it a bit. I think the lack of multiplayer let it down for me. I don't remember ever finishing this game either.



World_1-1 said:

If I counted correctly there's been 15 classic Gameboy reviews so far, with 5 left. I'm hoping that Link's Awakening, Pokemon Red/Blue, and Kirby's Dream Land 2 all get reviewed in this time period.

/fingers crossed



Corbs said:

Pokemon Red/Blue has already been reviewed before the special. And Kirby's Dream Land 2 won't come until after the special is over. We already have the remaining 5 GB titles chosen. But good news on Link's Awakening. I'm writing it now.



Adamant said:

@Ricardo91: "Is that an import? I've never heard of it."

It's an "import" in the sense that it was released in Japan and Europe only. So, uh, it's an import just as much as Dragon Warrior and Mega Man 6 were imports.



Rally said:

Beaten without dying, I had 6 lives by the time I finished the game. My hi-score was 265,020. (I would always write it down on the cartridge)

But I would agree with the review.

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