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Wednesday 29/03/2017: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

September 27, 2013

Super Contra

Good times.
And now, the first review of a game available on the Virtual Console! If there's one thing I love about the Virtual Console, it's that you can buy many games that we remember from our youth. I remember when I played on my Nintendo Entertainment System... Those were good times... Half the time! I had all the regular games: The first three Super Mario Bros. games, I had Duck Hunt, I had... well, I had a lot of games that were well-known NES titles. I also had a few major stinkers, such as one of the very first football games, which SUCKED. And there were also games that were surprisingly good. Others were so challenging that today's games feel easy in comparison.

The NES era is looked at with nostalgia. Those were the good times. Controllers had only the directional pad, Start, Select, A and B, for a total of only eight buttons. Most games were simple, back then, and especially platformers. The game today is among the most famous non-Nintendo NES games. Unlike, say, Metal Gear Solid, this franchise didn't develop itself through the years until it reached the HD perfection of the most recent consoles. As a result, this game series has become iconic to the 8-bit and 16-bit era, but it ended there.

Have you heard of Contra? If you know Konami's history, you do. If you don't, here's what it is: Contra is a game series in which you control little soldier who becomes trigger happy and shoots everything around. Oh, but don't be fooled: There's a good reason. Everything around him, from his soldier companions to the army's machines, is trying to kill him. Luckily, he can fight against those brainwashed opponents thanks to many different firearms.

If only he had more than one Hit Point per life...
Everything trying to kill you, only
one hit point... Wow. Just WOW.
Yeah, the protagonist in the Contra series kinda sucks on the stamina department. Mario could power himself up to have up to three unofficial “Hit Points”: if he was Small Mario, he'd die instantly; If he had grabbed a Super Mushroom he had two, and in SMB3, with any other power-up he had technically three Hit Points. Same for many other characters who had life meters (such as Mega Man) or multiple Hearts (such as Link). Contra's Bill? Can't take a single hit. No, scratch that, he can't even get touched by a single opponent without getting killed. Yep, even by unarmed running soldiers.

This makes for one of the most challenging playthroughs of all time. And one of the best, too.

Get ready, you won't see that helicopter again.
So, what happens in Super C exactly? Bill is dropped at a military complex for some reason. He finds himself with the weakest weapon. Guards keep shooting at him, or coming after him... At some point, large shooting machines even come out of the ground to attack him! However, he has to make his way through this place. Luckily, sometimes a little flying thingy will pass by. If shot, that thing will release an object.

In this game, there aren't much different objects, but there is quite a selection of weapons. If the item that came out looks like a trophy or an eagle, all the enemies on the screen will be defeated instantly. If the object that came out has a letter, then it has another effect.

Machine gun! Awesome!
B: Bill becomes invincible for a short moment.
R: Your firing rate is increased, no matter which weapon you're holding.
F: You are now equipped with a flamethrower. Burn, enemy, burn!
L: Oh hey, a laser gun! A whole laser s shot at the enemies and, if you manage to shoot well, it will deal a lot of damage, but it's kinda hard to use.
M: Great, a machine gun! You can shot an endless stream of bullets and you'll be able to run while doing that! You will go through all the enemies heading towards you with that!
S: ...The legends were true. There is ONE gun that breaks entirely through enemy defenses, annihilating everything in its path. The Spread gun shoots five bullets at once and does a lot of damage with EACH bullet! The most powerful weapon in the game. And if you fail at picking it up, you'll be in trouble.

So, Bill reaches the end of the first level, and a large helicopter with four cannon is approaching. Luckily, he can shoot at the cannons to damage them, so that just what he does (That's a common tactic against bosses, and it works). However, once all four are eliminated, a ball of energy appears on the helicopter. Shooting it as well leads to the helicopter's fall. With the boss defeated, Bill enters a building for the next level.

Oh, now Bill is in the building, and we now see him from bird's view. And he's moving in all eight directions as well. As he moves, he meets more walking guards, all with weapons this time. However, they all have only one HP like him, so they're taken care of easily. Further away, there are TANKS in this place, and they're shooting (badly) at Bill. Those must be shot at a lot, because they have a lot of HP. As Bill moves on, he eventually meets larger cannons shaped like half-spheres. And he continues on his way... at the end of the level, a huge tank is waiting for him, with three soldiers shooting at him with it! But they can all be taken down one at a time, so that's not too bad.

Bill exits the place and finds himself in the jungle. More enemies to defeat! Some of the soldiers come out from behind the background, others comes from the top of the trees. There's even a section that happens in a water area. After a while, Bill reaches more cement-y ground and... a big robotic spider with six cannons! But its weak point is below itself, so Bill can defeat it quickly. More walking in a rugger area... during an earthquake! And then Bill reaches another cement section, from which a large wall comes out. With four spinning turrets and an energy source n the middle. But it can be defeated by destroying the turrets and then shooting at the energy ball.

Scale the tower! Destroy the Birdmen!
I'm sure one of them is called Harvey.
Once that's done, Bill finds himself in a narrow passageway in which he shoots at bubbles. After a moment, the level goes upwards, as if Bill is going up to reach the top of a skyscraper. Winged men often come at him. Even later on, there are bubbles once again, except they are CHASING HIM. Once all these problems are eliminated and Bill reaches the top, he is greeted by a large machine on the ceiling that shoots a shower of lasers! But as Bill destroys cannons, the machine shoots less and less lasers and becomes easier to defeat. With this done, Bill moves on.

And now, he also has to climb up a mountain! ...Oh God, not that level... You keep going up and up, while cannons come out from the ground to attack you, and winged men fly up to shoot at you as well... And that's not counting the sniper soldiers also trying to get you. And of course, if you fall down the screen, it's a life lost instantly, no matter how high you were. It's really among the most frustrating levels in this game. It's the one that causes me to die every time.

Ack! God, no! Not that god damned boss!
However, at some point you stop climbing and you walk on metallic ground again, except... running soldiers often come at you from behind, and more cannons come out from the ground to attack you as well! ...See why I hate that level? Oh, but that's not the worst part. No, the worst part is the BOSS. Now we've fallen into complete science-fiction, as you're fighting some sort of organic UFO that will release spiked balls as well as tiny critters with skull-like faces. Wait, aliens? Well, that explains why all the enemy soldiers were trying to kill you. They probably got parasites or they were brainwashed or something...

It gets very hard to avoid the enemies, Bill almost gets swarmed... DAMN, I LOST! Great, now I have to restart the freaking level... And I have one less Continue.

Time to use the Konami Code. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left Right, A, B, Start. Okay, I'm back at the first level... This time, however, with 30 lives I should be able to beat the game. Or, at least the fifth boss.

Alright, I did it! Except I no more have any good weapons with me. Well, let's try Level 6 anyway. Oh hey, it's just like Level 2, a bird's view of the level. This time, we can say that Bill is in the alien base. Just... Just look at this place! Is that... spikes on the side? Are those... Those are aliens, that's clear! As Bill progresses through the level, things gain new layers of weird. Are those... MOUTHS appearing on the floor? And trying to gnaw at him? And now, those big-brained monster spinning around him? And those tiny critters passing through the path like this is an alien highway? What the Hell? Though, after a moment, Bill reaches a door and blasts it open with his weapon. Behind that door... A GIANT ALIEN HEAD! With two tubes that often release some kind of alien caterpillar that will circle around you until you defeat it. Wow, that's... That's an impressive boss fight! A hard one, you betcha! But nothing is impossible, so let's keep shooting and soon enough, the giant head is history.

Level 7: Welcome to interplanetary Hell. This time, Bill is going down. As in, he must constantly descend. On his way, he meets coral-like monsters shooting bizarre bullets. And as he keeps going down, he reaches a zone where bubbles block his way, so he must destroy them. You heard right: Freaking Bubbles. But that's not all. As he keeps going, large frog-like creatures show up and release scorpion-like monsters at him. And there's a LOT of those! However, once that part is done, Bill meets the level's boss... An enormous construction that has a skull head, shoots bullets, spiky monsters and large power bubbles. My God. However, shooting at the head and shooting at the bubble's container when it opens guarantee victory. ...You know, this whole place's design reminds me of an esophagus...

And now, this feels like we're inside a huge monster. What, you thought it was over? Nope! One more level to go! Now, there are MOUTHS on the floor and the ceiling, shooting at you, and there's constantly little alien soldiers coming your way. Not to mention the loads and loads of fetus-like alien bubbles coming at you. FREAKING BUBBLES! Eventually, the path goes up and Bill faces grounded monsters shooting bullets, and this until he reached the top. The path keep going for a while until... Hey, is the ceiling descending? It did! You can't jump over the pits as long as this hasn't gone back up! It eventually goes back up, but it also releases a few more fetus bubbles. That's gonna be difficult... After a moment, the place stabilizes and you go down a little, then down a small path, to meet up with... A huge monster that is made of an alien head with horns and a human head! ...Creepiest boss in this game. However, in a strange twist of events, the boss itself is quite weak, and has lame attacks, so it's defeated easily. Congratulations: Super C has been BEATEN! Awesome, huh?

When the last boss is too easy to defeat after eight levels of Hell you've been through, it's kind of a downer. It's as if Dante met Satan at the end of the Divine Comedy and found out that the devil was a wuss.

What can I say about this game? My complaints are very few. This game is a classic on the NES, a great example of the Nintendo Hard trope, and a lot of fun as long as you have enough talent with a controller. Plus, the plot (or what little of it is known in the game) will surprise you. From the beginning with ally soldiers attacking you, the world goes from military camps and training grounds to alien architecture and levels that get creepier as you pass through them.

However, for the huge challenge in this game, there's still a few minor problems. Most of the names and details of the story are told in the game's manual, so if you didn't have it, you won't understand all that is going on. The difficulty is inconsistent, not in the levels but in the bosses. The last one is ridiculously easy compared to the others from Levels 5, 6 and 7. Also, at some points you can just waste all your lives in a zone where you can't avoid getting hit. Plus, it takes truly a master of gaming to beat the game without the Konami Code. I'd say it's too hard for today's generation, but that doesn't mean they can't play it. It's really fun. And if you think you're talented enough, try it. It's only 500 Wii Points, five bucks, you should have fun with it. Trust me, this is one alien annihilation game you'll want to complete.

P.S. With this article, the blog will reach 2,000 views! Thanks everyone for this!