Contra III: The Alien Wars
When it comes to shooters, Iím not a huge fan of them. However, there are some exceptions; one such exception is the Contra franchise. It is a simple sidescrolling shooter where you run to the right while gunning down any alien that dare step in your path. The aliens have guns too though, and you have to really have keen senses and cat like reflexes to dodge the enemy fire while taking them out. You have two guns, and along the way, you can obtain power-ups for both of the guns.
It began on the NES, simply named Contra. Here, the game was infamous for being extremely difficult (even on the easiest of settings). Hell, I still canít really get past the first level without losing a life or two. After Contra came the sequel named Super C.
This game was even more difficult than its predecessor, and words cannot describe my frustration at the difficulty. However, difficult is not synonymous with bad though, so while the game kicks my butt, I still love it.
Now we have the Super NES, home of many masterpieces. In my eye, The Alien Wars is one such masterpiece. Beautiful level design, fast paced action, and a memorable soundtrack.
The game kicks off by showing a city in the future being turned into an inferno by the invading alien legion. The legion is led by none other than, you guessed it, Red Falcon. As usual, the U.S. military sends in their two best men to combat Red Falconís army: Bill Rizer and Lance Bean. Thatís right, the military decides that for an entire legion of bloodthirsty extra terrestrials, two men should be more than enough to defeat them all.
One thing that veteran players will notice right off the bat is that your default weapon is the machine gun! In the first two games, your default gun was similar to the machine gun, but you had to continually tap the shoot button over and over to shoot consecutive rounds, and it really wore out your thumb after a while (unless you had a turbo pad, of course). Konami was kind enough to fix this problem in Contra III however; your default weapon is the Machine Gun, and all you have to do is hold down the button to shoot as though itís a turbo pad. This also makes a difference in beating the game, as having to repetitively tap the button was distracting. When you die (which, as per Contra tradition is caused by getting hit merely once, resulting in the loss of one life), you will lose whatever power-up you had for your gun, and be reverted back to the default Machine Gun.
Fortunately, you have two guns, so getting hit while holding one gun, you will still hold on to whatever power-up you had on the other gun that you werenít holding when you died.
Aside from that improvement, everything else should feel pretty familiar. Everything you loved about Contra and Super C is back, including two player cooperative play! Itís always easier when you have a friendÖ.seriously. There are two types of games for two player: Game A and Game B. Game A is where youíre both in the same screen together, and Game B is where the screen is split and youíre both playing your own games.
Also returning are the top-view levels. In these levels, you get a birdís eye view of your commando, and your job is to destroy the enemy bases on the map. Though I donít find these as fun as the regular levels (especially the second top view level for reasons that those who played the game should know), itís a nice break from the norm.
While speaking of levels, I must mention just how beautiful they are. Of course, there was only so much graphical capability on the NES, but now that weíre in 16 bit, the backgrounds are amazingly detailed. The game utilizes rich colors, without looking childish. Some of the alien designs look pretty neat, and others are ripped right from the Alien movies.
The soundtrack is one of the best, if not the best on the SNES. It brings to mind desperation, as well as determination and willpower to fight. Considering the setting and conditions surrounding the game, it clearly fits.
Whenever gamers discuss hard games, Contra immediately comes to mind. This game is no exception. However, it is considerably easier than the first two games. It will still prove an extreme challenge even on the easiest setting, but itís not nearly impossible to master like the first two games. And when I say the first two games are nearly impossible to master, I mean without the infamous ďKonami CodeĒ to give you 30 lives. That code is gone in this game by the way. No easy way out for you.
All in all, you cannot go wrong with Contra III: The Alien Wars. This gem is available on the Super NES and on Virtual Console for 800 points. It takes everything you loved about Contra before and fixes those few minor quirks that got in your way, making for a genuine, fair challenge. If you want to have some Contra action on the go, make sure to look into Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS (which I also reviewed here).