Review by PickHut
After the dreadful Appaloosa game that had the word Contra slapped on it (C: The Contra Adventure), Shattered Soldier was a welcomed return to the series' roots. Bill Rizer reappeared as the main character, who was accompanied this time by a female cyborg, and both were thrown into side-scrolling badassery, filled with weird creatures, aliens, and high-tech Weapons of Epic Destruction (WED). When a game plops you into crazy situations, like being chased down a snowy mountain by a huge worm, fighting a giant robot that jogs after your train like it was nothing, crashing into a building with the missile you rode in on, and shooting at Seaman's evil, mutated brother, it's hard not to love it. Shattered Soldier was a game that wasn't afraid to be out there in terms of concepts and executions. It also wasn't a game that held back on being tough-as-nails; everybody who played through SS for the first time died more times than they would admit. It may just have been a run 'n gun title, but was a run 'n gun title that kicked your ass.
Shattered Soldier's successor, Neo Contra, however, doesn't have the same type of toughness. That's not to say it's a very easy game, but it just feels like the developers really went out of their way to tone down the difficulty in comparison to its predecessor. When you play through this title for the first time, the obviousness just hits you, one after another. Immediately after starting Neo Contra, you'll be presented with the opportunity to choose from a selection of weapon sets, with more that can be unlocked as you complete stages. This pretty much guarantees that you'll find a setup that best fits your comfort.
Once that's out of the way and you pick a mission, you'll notice the next, most biggest change: you're playing in an overhead perspective. True, past Contra titles incorporated this viewpoint during certain instances, but this is the game's only viewpoint while playing. Thankfully, Neo Contra's quality doesn't suffer because of this, but it does give Bill Rizer (or, if you so choose, the samurai, Jaguar) much more movement on the battlefield, unlike SS, where, in most cases, you could just move left and right. Throw in the ability to dash and temporarily have bullets pass through you at the press of a button, and you can understand why it's not as hard as the game it's following up on. Neo Contra even goes as far as taking pity on you when it comes to continuing; when you die during a boss fight in SS, the game kicks your butt back to the middle of the stage as punishment. This game, on the other hand, brings you back to the start of a boss fight.
Going into Neo Contra for the first time, knowing full well that this wasn't going to be as challenging as Shattered Soldier, I still ended up having doubts as to whether this was a good game minutes into the first mission. Fortunately, those doubts quickly went away when the game started to become a very... surreal experience. Except for the hilariously unnecessary, destructive entrance into the first stage, where your character arrives in a city by crashing into it with the missile he was inside of, the majority of the mission went along normally. Snipers, axe warriors, and shielded soldiers were hell bent on ending me, and mini-aircrafts usually appeared at opportune moments to fire bullets. But sanity's reign ended the moment I ran into the stage's first boss: a giant squid-like creature with a mutated baby's head chilling inside its mouth. Its attacks? Bees and vomit.
That's just only one of many absurd moments in Neo Contra, as you'll eventually find out when progressing through the game's many locations. Hell, one mission begins in a very goofy manner, allowing you to believe that your character appears to be running extremely fast on the ground. Then the camera pans out, and it's revealed that he's actually running on a helicopter's blades. While attacking insects. Next thing you know, you're on a flying aircraft carrier, taking out everything in sight, eventually making it to the other end, where you meet the captain... a talking dog. Another segment in the game will have you penetrate a base (after being shot out of a volcano, no less), and the type of defense you have to deal with involves human-sized RC cars, soldiers running on boulders, and a giant, walking... lower woman's area that spits purple acid.
Neo Contra dares to be stupid.
Thankfully, it's the type of stupid that's entertaining. So what if it doesn't come off as strict as Shattered Soldier? It's still a very fun experience. Shoot, if I was forced to choose between the two, I'd easily pick Neo Contra over its predecessor. Now don't get me wrong, SS is a good title, but sometimes, I just don't feel like going to battle with the game's "no mercy" attitude. Sometimes, all I want is a fun and stupid game to play, and Neo Contra fits that part quite well.
Product Release: Neo Contra (US, 10/19/04)
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