If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It
HIGH Getting a re-release of Hard Corps after 25 years is awesome.
LOW Saying the collection features ten games is a tad disingenuous.
WTF Probotector is a real thing? That’s astoundingly dumb and I love it so much.
It takes a lot for gaming lore to get traction in mainstream media, but The Code did just that. All I have to say is ‘The Code’ and the vast majority of people reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s been referenced in Wreck-It Ralph, Archer, Big Bang Theory, and tons of other pop culture. It’s known in every corner of the world. Hell, one can even Google it. It speaks to a simpler time in gaming where Konami made actual videogames and not erotic pachinko machines. Thankfully, the legacy of The Code has now been preserved in the form of the Contra Anniversary Collection.
I’m not a huge fan of repeating myself, but that’s going to be quite hard to do when reviewing this compilation. Anyone looking for a more detailed breakdown of what to expect from this release should read my review of Konami’s Castlevania Anniversary Collection as, outside of the games themselves, the two collections are practically identical in presentation, menu design, emulation quality, and bonus content. The only difference between them is that the Contra Anniversary Collection included the Japanese versions of the games and the ability to remap the controls nearly at launch, rather then being patched in a month later, as was the case with Castlevania.
This compilation features ten titles in the main menu, including the arcade, NES, and Famicom versions of the original Contra, the arcade version of Super Contra as well as the NES Port entitled Super C, Contra III: The Alien Wars from the SNES, Operation C from the Gameboy, and Contra: Hard Corps from the Sega Genesis. Also included in the collection is Probotector from the Mega Drive and Super Probotector: Alien Rebels from the SNES.
For my fellow yanks who have no idea what the heck Probotector is, it’s the name Contra was given in both Europe and Australia, and has both the enemies and heroes re-skinned as robots in order to seem less violent. It’ll be a great addition for nostalgic European and Australian players, and an absolutely hilarious one for everybody else. As a bonus, the collection also includes the original Japanese versions of Contra and Super Contra from the arcades, as well as Super C, Operation C, Contra III, and Hard Corps.
This list comes to a total of sixteen titles, which sounds like a lot until one realizes that it’s only five distinct games and a litany of ports. I’ll give Konami and the team at M2 credit for being incredibly thorough, but when compared to the eight releases in the Castlevania collection and also factoring in that each title here can be beaten in 30-ish minutes for those who know what they’re doing, it doesn’t feel as content-rich. None of the bonus Japanese releases feature anything as substantial as the music quality boost found in the Japanese version of Castlevania III, not to mention the Famicom version of Contra was thrown in with the main releases instead of with the other Japanese versions in a sub-menu simply so Konami could say the compilation features ten games. I suppose ten sounds better than nine.
With that said, the five games featured are high-quality, and the compilation doesn’t feature any stinkers like the Castlevania collection’s Gameboy inclusions. Operation C is a much more successful Gameboy conversion of the formula than the Castlevania Adventures were, for example. Granted, I still don’t want to play a Gameboy entry on my 55-inch flatscreen, but it’s certainly an improvement.
While it doesn’t fit well with the retro vibe (even though it’s seventeen years old at this point) it would have been great to see Contra: Shattered Soldier from the PS2 included to flesh out this package, as that’s actually the one I have the most nostalgic memories of given my age.
The other similarity this compilation shares with the Castlevania collection is that the coolest inclusion is a re-issue of a 1994 Sega Genesis game that hasn’t been available since its debut. Contra: Hard Corps is a delightfully weird entry with an insane art style, multiple branching paths for added replayability, four characters (including a dog and a robot named Brownie!) and yet another Genesis soundtrack that absolutely slaps. Anyone who hasn’t played it should pick this collection up for Hard Corps alone, but be forewarned, as it certainly lives up to it’s name. It isn’t just hard, it is a bastard of a game, even by Contra standards.
While the Contra Anniversary Collection doesn’t have the same breadth of content featured in its gothic counterpart, fans of the franchise or anyone interested in some old-school videogamin’ with a capital V will find a lot to like here for $20. The people at M2 know what they’re doing when it comes to retro emulation, and they have delivered another worthwhile compilation. With these two collections and the recent announcements of both the TurboGrafx 16 Mini and Contra: Rogue Corps, perhaps there is hope for Konami yet…
…Nah, probably not.
Disclosures: This game is developed by M2 and published by Konami. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 PRO with an HDR certified 4KTV. An estimated (the game features no in-game timer) 3 hours of play were devoted to playing through the various titles.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and features Mild Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Use Of Tobacco. I’ll be honest, I’m somewhat surprised this game received an E10 rating considering the subject matter. The characters proudly smoke cigars on title cards, it’s a franchise entirely about killing things, and, while there isn’t a ton of blood, some of the alien designs are rather fleshy could be seen as unsettling. I suppose most ten year olds could handle it, but I would probably exercise caution for those younger.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are nearly fully remappable. In the menu for each release, there’s a screen where players can see the controls for each title and change them accordingly. The exception to this is Contra: Hard Corps and its various versions, which do not have remappable controls, and don’t even include a controls screen in its menus. This is a very strange omission.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The Contra games aren’t exactly story-intensive experiences, and what story is told comes in the form of big, blocky, old-school text. The games feature no necessary audio cues. It’s fully accessible.
In search of a dramatic change of pace, he sold everything he had (including 950 videogames) and shipped off to Asia where he's taught English and lived in Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, and now China.
He still loves his games, priding himself in his varied taste and playing everything from Disgaea to Madden. After getting a taste of the glitz of Beijing last year working at a Chinese mobile game developer, Jarrod went back to teaching and currently works in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang provide where the weather is cold and the noodles are poppin'.
Jarrod used to write for sites like GamesRadar where he had the esteemed pleasure of reviewing Wii ports and PS Move launch games for peanuts. After a multi-year hiatus, he is happy to get back into reviews with GameCritics.
...He read the site as a kid, which should make Brad, Mike, and Daniel feel old as hell, considering he's almost 30.