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Contra
The Contra logo as it appears on the title screen of the 1987 Contra arcade game.
Genre(s)Run and gun
Developer(s)Konami
Publisher(s)Konami
Platform(s)Arcade, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, Nintendo Entertainment System, MSX2, Amiga, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Network, Game Boy Advance, Mobile, Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo DS, WiiWare, Virtual Console, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
First releaseContra
February 20, 1987
Latest releaseContra: Rogue Corps
September 24, 2019
Spin-offsHard Corps, Contra Force

Contra[a] is a video game series produced by Konami composed primarily of run and gun-style shooting games. The series debuted in 1987 as a coin-operated arcade game titled Contra, which was followed by the release of Super Contra in 1988 and several sequels produced for various home platforms.

The arcade version of Contra was released in February 1987, a few months after the Iran–Contra affair was made public. While it is unclear whether the game was deliberately named after the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the ending theme of the original game was titled "Sandinista" (サンディニスタ, Sandinisuta), after the adversaries of the real-life Contras.[1]

Gameplay

The majority of the Contra games are side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups where the player takes control of an armed commando who must fight all sorts of extraterrestrial monsters and other kinds of futuristic menaces. In addition to the side-scrolling stages, the original Contra (among others) also features "pseudo-3D perspective" levels where the player must move towards the background in order to progress, while subsequent titles, such as Super Contra and Contra III: The Alien Wars, feature overhead stages as well.[2]: 40–41  Only the Appaloosa-developed installments in the series, Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure, as well as Neo Contra, deviated from the series' mainly side-scrolling perspective (although C: The Contra Adventure does feature two side-scrolling stages). Contra: Shattered Soldier, while maintaining the side-view perspective of the 2D games, features fully polygonal 3D graphics. Almost every game in the series, with only a few exceptions (such as the MSX2 version of Contra, C: The Contra Adventure or Operation C for the Game Boy, which were single-player only), allows two players to play the game simultaneously.

The main power-ups in the series are falcon-shaped letter icons which will replace the player's default weapon with a new one, such as a Laser Gun or a Spread Gun. There are also power-ups that are actually auxiliary items like the Barrier (which provides temporary invincibility) or the Rapid Bullets (which increases the firing speed of the player's current weapon) in the original Contra, as well as weapons such as the Mega Shell in the arcade version of Super Contra and the Bombs in Contra III and Contra: Hard Corps, that are used to destroy all on-screen enemies. The original arcade version of Contra used the falcon icons for all of its weapons except the Laser Gun and the Fire Ball weapon, while in the arcade version of Super Contra, no Falcon icons were used. Contra: Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra both deviate from this tradition by having set weapon configurations instead.

Most of the Contra games have the player begin the game with only a set number of lives (three in most console games). If the player gets hit once, they will lose a life along with any weapon they currently possess in some games. Because of this, the Contra series is notorious for being extremely difficult. Even in the original arcade versions, most of the games only give limited chances to continue before forcing the player to start all over. Extra lives are usually obtained in most games when the player reaches certain scores. The NES version of the original Contra used the Konami Code (previously featured in the NES version of Gradius) to start the game with thirty lives instead of the usual three. Most of the subsequent console games in the series only featured these extra lives codes in their Japanese releases, such as Contra Spirits (the Japanese version of Contra III) and Contra: Hard Corps.

Games

Release timeline
1987Contra
Super Contra
1988
1989
1990
1991Operation C
1992Contra III: The Alien Wars
Contra Force
1993
1994Contra: Hard Corps
1995
1996Contra: Legacy of War
1997
1998C: The Contra Adventure
1999
2000
2001
2002Contra: Shattered Soldier
2003
2004Neo Contra
2005
2006
2007Contra 4
2008
2009Contra ReBirth
2010
2011Hard Corps: Uprising
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017Contra Returns
2018
2019Contra Anniversary Collection
Contra: Rogue Corps

Original games

Re-releases

The original arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra were ported to several computer platforms in North America and Europe during the late 1980s and 1990s. In North America, the original Contra and Super Contra (as Super C) were ported to DOS. A version of Super C was also released for the Amiga. Contra was released for DOS,[9] the Amstrad CPC,[10] the Commodore 64[11] and the ZX Spectrum[12] in Europe under the Gryzor title.

As software emulation became more widespread, the classic Contra games, both arcade and console installments, are being made available in numerous formats such as downloadable game services like the Wii's Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade, video game compilations, stand-alone re-releases and even as unlockable games in newer installments. Mobile Phone versions have been produced as well. For more information, see each individual game page.

Cancelled games

In other media

Plot

Protagonists

The original Contra, and its initial sequels (Super Contra and Contra III: The Alien Wars) are set in the 27th century, and center around two commandos named Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, who are members of a special guerrilla task force codenamed "Contra" repeatedly sent to thwart an army of alien invaders seeking to destroy the Earth. Bill Rizer was named Nintendo Power's 17th favourite video game hero, due to his aptitude with saving the world.[18]

Some of the Contra games released after Contra III have deviated from this premise, such as Contra Force (which was set in the present day) and Contra: Hard Corps (which featured new heroes following the events of Contra III, as well as a human antagonist). However, the original Contra protagonist of Bill Rizer would not return in another game until Contra: Shattered Soldier, which brought back Bill Rizer (now a convicted war criminal) to fight against his former partner Lance, who has become a terrorist leader. Neo Contra also brought back Bill Rizer, however the character in this installment is revealed to be a clone of the original Bill, as the game is set in 4444, almost 1,800 years after Bill's last appearance in Shattered Soldier. Contra 4 brought back the original team of Bill and Lance by setting itself as a direct sequel to Contra III set before the events of Hard Corps and Shattered Soldier. ReBirth may be set in 2633, despite the fact that it takes place in an alternate timeline separate from the main series' original continuity. Hard Corps: Uprising is another prequel set twenty years before the events of the original Contra, which follows Bahamut, who was the villain in Hard Corps, as the protagonist. However, the developers said he could be a different person who only shares the same name.

Continuity differences

While the original Japanese version of the early Contra games (specifically the original Contra, Super Contra and Operation C) were set in the 27th century (in the years 2633, 2634, and 2635 in that order), the American versions of these games omitted this detail and the instruction manuals for these versions implied that the series was set during the present day. Contra III: The Alien Wars retains its futuristic setting of 2636 for its American release, but the identities of the two player characters, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean (the heroes from the previous installments), were changed to their descendants "Jimbo" and "Sully" in order to retain the continuity of the previous localizations. The American (and European) version of Contra: Shattered Soldier was the first Contra game overseas to follow the same continuity as its Japanese counterpart. "Mad Dog" and "Scorpion", originally the nicknames given to Bill and Lance in the NES versions of Contra and Super C, were made into separate characters in Contra 4.

The enemy characters of the earlier games were also named differently in the American versions. In particular, "Red Falcon", originally the name of the terrorist army that was fought by the main characters in the first game (the Red Falcon Organization), became the name of the actual alien entity leader; thus, "Red Falcon" became the name of the final boss fought at the end of Contra, where the player fights both his alien body form and his heart.[19] In Japan, these are intended to be two different entities: Emperor Demon Dragon God Java and Emperor Demon Evil Heart Gomera Mosking, respectively.[20][21] The final boss of Super Contra (or the third to last boss in the NES Super C) and Contra III; is named Emperor Demon Gyaba in the original Japanese versions. Often mistaken as Red Falcon, his American name is referred to as Jagger Froid in the Super C instruction manual.[22] The American Super C instruction manual also illustrates a common "running" alien enemy from its final stage as Red Falcon.[22] The alien entity leader known as Red Falcon does not appear as an enemy in the Super Contra or Super C games. The antagonist of the Game Boy game Operation C, originally a nameless hostile nation seeking to develop alien-based weapons in the Japanese version, was changed to "Black Viper", another alien invader (the alien cell the player must destroy after thwarting the final security system is presumably Black Viper itself). In Contra 4, the final boss is actually Black Viper itself, who takes a form similar to Gyaba in the other games.

Regional differences

Probotector

When Konami released the NES version of the original Contra in the PAL region (Europe and Australia) they modified the game by replacing the original main characters and most of the human enemies with robotic counterparts, retitling the game Probotector (a portmanteau of "Robot" and "Protector"), the latter move done probably to avoid any association with the Iran–Contra affair (the reason for which Super Contra's American title was shortened to Super C). The title referred to the two robotic soldiers, RD-008 and RC-011, who replaced Bill and Lance in this version. This was presumably done due to the German Federal Agency BPjM, which prohibited the sale and advertisement of media deemed too violent to children, including "content which glorifies war".

While the original arcade games, as well as a few computer conversions under the Gryzor title, were released unchanged in Europe, subsequent console installments of the Contra series were released under the Probotector title in Europe. The original Probotector was followed by Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces for the NES (originally Super C) and Super Probotector: Alien Rebels for the SNES (Contra III: The Alien Wars). The Contra games for the Game Boy (Operation C and the Game Boy version of Alien Wars) and Mega Drive (Contra: Hard Corps) were also released as Probotector titles in Europe. The series would revert to the Contra title in Europe beginning with Contra: Legacy of War for the PlayStation, retaining the human characters. However, Probotector II and Super Probotector were still released for the Wii Virtual Console in Europe and Australia like their original releases, with no "uncensored" versions available. Although Contra 4 was not released in Europe, the "Probotector" character appears in the game as a hidden character.

Reception

By the end of 1996, the Contra series had accumulated combined sales of over 4 million units worldwide.[23]

Notes

  1. ^ In Japanese: 魂斗羅 (Kontora)

References

  1. ^ A-JAX~コナミ・ゲーム・ミュージック VOL.4 A-Jax: Konami Game Music Vol. 4 (Booklet). G.M.O. Records / Alfa Records. 28XA-201.
  2. ^ a b Tatsuya Saijyou; Yasufumi Sakuma (June 11, 2019). Noboru Honda; Takeshi Matsumoto; Daisuke Yoshihara; Daisuke Kihara (eds.). The History of Contra (E-book). Konami.
  3. ^ James Charlton (May 9, 2009). "Konami Announces Contra Rebirth for WiiWare". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
  4. ^ Hatfield, Daemon (May 12, 2009). "Contra ReBirth Impressions". IGN. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  5. ^ "China's getting a Contra remake - Contra Database". www.klustr.net. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  6. ^ "Contra: Evolution Revolution arcade video game by Konami Digital Ent. Co., Ltd.(2011)". www.arcade-history.com. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  7. ^ "Contra: Evolution Revolution blasts onto the Chinese App Store". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  8. ^ "2018 Awards". Game Audio Network Guild. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  9. ^ "CONTRA > CONVERSIONS > DOS". Contra Encyclopedia. June 30, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  10. ^ "CONTRA > CONVERSIONS > CPC". Contra Encyclopedia. June 30, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  11. ^ "Contra (1988) Commodore 64 box cover art - MobyGames". MobyGames. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  12. ^ "CONTRA > CONVERSIONS > SPECTRUM". Contra Encyclopedia. June 30, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "In Development". Next Generation. No. 29. Imagine Media. May 1997. p. 54.
  14. ^ IGN staff (January 29, 1999). "Contra Canned". IGN.com. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  15. ^ "Contra announced for GameCube".
  16. ^ "Contra is now available for the Nintendo Gamecube".
  17. ^ "videogamecountdown.com is for sale". HugeDomains. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  18. ^ Nintendo Power 250th issue!. South San Francisco, California: Future US. 2010. pp. 40–41.
  19. ^ "How To Play Contra (NES Manual)" (PDF). Games Database. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  20. ^ "The recurring bosses of Contra - Part 6". Contra Database. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  21. ^ "The recurring bosses of Contra - Part 7". Contra Database. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  22. ^ a b "Super C Manual" (PDF). florre.se. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  23. ^ "Contra Legacy of War: The Classics Come to 32-Bits". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 87. Ziff Davis. October 1996. p. 142.