Review by gutsdozer

Reviewed: 11/12/04

A fun game for deep action gamers

I can remember first reading about Neo Contra a year before its release date. I was skeptical about the entire game abandoning the classic side-view action in favor of an overhead view. I've been a big fan of the Contra games ever since I was an eighties kid. I can even remember the "contra"versy (!) the first game caused about violence in video games when it was released on the NES.

Aside from the 8-bit debacle of Contra Force, and a couple of P.O.S. installments for the first Playstation, the series has been pretty much flawless. Since the team responsible for the wickedly radical Shattered Soldier was behind Neo Contra, there was some hope for it. That is, until the reviews started. Everyone and their mother pretty much hated it or deemed it mediocre. I usually somewhat agree with critics, but this is one case where I believe they are completely wrong.

Presentation:
Once again, the director of Contra:Hard Corps (arguably the best Contra title) is treating us to a non-stop, action-packed blast-fest of epic proportions. It seems that each game now tries to top its predecessor as far as extreme, in-your-face situations are concerned. Neo Contra has it all:
- An alien with a huge baby head that has little tiny shaking heads growing out of its forehead
- An alien that chases you up a wall
- A huge tongue
- Running on the blades of a helicopter while blasting a spaceship
- Bill Rizer shot out of a volcano
- Classic baddies from other Contras comin' back for more!
If that’s not enough to get you pumped up, I don’t know what is. The list goes on, too. The developers put a lot of creativity into this game, and it shows. Every level is entertaining. The game also has great re-playability value due to unlockable weapon sets, characters, levels, and endings. My favorite is the Gradius-like weapon set, with which you may plow through jerks with a giant laser beam that stretches across the entire screen.Also, if you thought the story in Shattered Soldier was intense, you will certainly be unprepared for the twists and turns and drama of Neo Contra! They've really outdone themselves this time as far as story is concerned. The graphics, as usual, are top-notch. The game is brighter and more colorful than Shattered Soldier.

Sound:
The game is loud. Luckily, there is an option for turning the music or sound effects down a notch. The music is very good. One of the composers from Shattered Soldier returns with similar-sounding techno / metal music. I think that some sections of the game could have benefited from less ambient, and more fast-paced music. Most of it fits well, though. The sound effects are also good, as in other Contra games. Big explosions, sharp lasers, and freaking-out aliens are all present. My personal favorite is the Hard Corps-like scream of the enemy soldiers when you blast ‘em with certain weapons. Surprisingly, the voice acting is great. I wasn't expecting the American actors to be so good. Bill Rizer's voice is awesome. Delivery of lines such as, "You’re nothing but a heap of metal with an inflated ego," and "What?" approaches perfection. The bosses also have great, overdone voices.

Gameplay / Control:
Like in Shattered Soldier, you start off with 4 levels to select from. Upon completion of each
level, you will receive a grade based on your Hit Rate (amount of things you kill) and how many times you die. You can only unlock the final levels if your grades are high. The selectable weapon system returns, as well. You can initially pick from three weapon sets, each divided into three selectable weapons: 2 regular and 1 lock-on. The lock-on weapons are used to hit things on other planes, since there's no jumping. The control seems to be an issue for many reviewers. It is the same scheme as in Shattered Soldier, except roll replaces jump. The L2 button is an absolute necessity for locking your aim while moving. It's true that a layout like Smash TV, in which the second analog stick is used as the gun, would make the game initially easier to control, but I don't feel that the current layout hinders gameplay in any way. It takes, like, two minutes to get used to.

Challenge:
Whereas Shattered Soldier chewed you up and spit you out, Neo Contra just shakes you violently. The developers obviously listened to the complaints of those who didn't find enough classic run-n-gun action in the previous Contra. Neo Contra is the perfect balance of mindless shooting and more strategic boss-fights. Though the game can be completed in under twenty minutes (if you know what you’re doing), it will take longer to master the levels for the best endings. Using the default weapon set to get the best ending shouldn't be too hard for anyone, but some of the more unbalanced weapon sets will definitely make it easier.

Although Neo Contra has zanier situations and bosses than past Contras, it always manages to keep its composure and bad-ass appeal. Neo Contra is an incredibly fun game, whether you are playing to get perfect rankings, or just blasting and running through the levels. While I slightly prefer the good old side-view action and challenge of the original games, I think Neo Contra is faithful and accurate in reproducing the same fun gameplay. It's a shame that Neo Contra has gotten such poor reviews considering that the most common strikes against the game are, in my opinion, not that big. If you like Contra games, there is no reason for you not to appreciate Neo Contra.

8/10

Rating: 8

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