The year is 2636 and some aliens have popped over to earth for a visit. At first it seems they are putting on a fancy light show but then buildings start exploding and the alien wars begin! Contra III: The Alien Wars is a run and gun classic full of action as you "attack aggressively" in an attempt to defeat those pesky invaders. It's not the first time the game has gone portable, having previously been released for the original Game Boy and later the Game Boy Advance, but this is the original version of the game with all levels intact, looking, sounding and playing exactly as it did back in the day. Unless back in the day you got Super Probotector, in which case bye-bye robots, hello muscular action heroes.
The game is - frankly - brilliant, with each main stage playing like an action movie with events steadily getting more intense as you progress. Alien troops and creatures rush to attack (or stand and shoot) as you run, jump and shoot your way towards the end. Plenty of things explode and the game throws a number of exciting set pieces at you as you hop onto a motorbike or shimmy along railings avoiding fire or perilous drops. Other stages have you climbing walls whilst fending off attackers and one section of the game has you high in the sky swinging between missiles as you take on the end-of-level boss.
Providing a change of pace and being a little more relaxed are the two top-down stages. These can still require quick reflexes to get through, but there's quite a bit of open space to use as you weave around enemy fire and sometimes foes will walk into walls, allowing you to wait patiently as they shuffle into your firing line.
Should you be running late for your wedding the standard Virtual Console suspension and restore point functions are available, allowing you to halt the action and then return to it at a later time. As always this is useful, but stages work best when tackled in one sitting, causing a huge thrill when you are successful and allowing a moment to breath before the next stage commences.
Visually there's been a big step up from the proceeding instalments of the series. The extra power of the SNES hardware is used to create stages with a lot of detail and a wide range of alien attackers. There's a variety of stages in the game from streets with ruined buildings to more organic alien locations. Potentially this could cause trouble on the smaller screen of the New Nintendo 3DS, but good use of colour prevents the on-screen elements blending together and any projectiles heading your way are brightly coloured. Switching to the original resolution mode in the Virtual Console options menu makes details sharper, but even left at the default setting the action remains clearly visible; hits occur from slow reflexes rather than an unseen attack.
On the audio side of things this is another SNES game with a fantastic soundtrack and one New 3DS owners should dig out some headphones for if travelling. A series of adventurous, mysterious and intense tracks fit the onscreen carnage wonderfully and the various explosions, weapon noises and other sound effects work well too.
If there's one disappointment with this eShop release it's that a friend cannot join you on your quest. As is standard for these SNES re-releases on New 3DS, simultaneous multiplayer is not possible so you'll just have to go it alone.
There's plenty of excitement to be had in solo play, however, as you try to figure out how best to deal with the alien forces. Even on the easiest difficulty setting the game can be challenging, with attacks coming from multiple directions, and you'll find yourself switching weapons to best deal with a certain attacker – that flamethrower's great for the winged things but it won't reach that trooper on the other side of the screen. Even once cleared the excitement from a playthrough is such that this is a game that's fun to return to.
On New 3DS it's single player only, but there's still lots to like about Contra III: The Alien Wars. With intense action from start to finish, there's a range of things to shoot and jump between and it provides a good challenge whilst never seeming unfair. The action and excitement is backed by a wonderful soundtrack and the game remains fun to replay. Contra III: The Alien Wars is another SNES classic that New 3DS owners will not want to miss out on.