Neo Contra has the dubious distinction of being the shortest game that’s ever graced my PS2. Granted, I tend to prefer those 100+ hour monster games, the sort that tend to warp time and somehow cause the morning sun to rise seconds after “just popping the game in for a few seconds” after dinner. Neo Contra barely lasted until the 11 o’clock news. Four hours after first watching that opening screen, I found myself looking at the closing credits for the “good” ending, having unlocked and successfully defeated all the levels. Thinking there must be something more, I dove back in for more of that unlockable goodness. A scant few hours later, I’m sitting with a “perfect” score on all but one level. Well, at least it didn’t overstay its welcome.
I’ve never played any of the previous Contra games, nor have I really even played any of the classic “shooter” style scrollers. So the story, such as it is, really makes very little sense to me. From what I’ve gathered, it’s The Future, and Stuff Needs Shootin’. So “They” thaw out the super-soldier, Bill Rizer, hand him a few guns, and set him loose. The plot, thin as it is, really doesn’t matter. But it is fun to shoot stuff.
Players initially have access to four missions, which can be played in any order. After completing these missions with a high enough performance rating, the subsequent missions become available. None of these missions are very lengthy, although they do have a nice mix of flavor. There are the typical “shooting stuff while running around” parts to most of the levels, which are interspersed with “shooting stuff while riding a speeding dinosaur”, “shooting stuff while climbing a wall and being chased by a huge monster”, and even “shooting stuff while running atop the whirling blades of a helicopter, somehow managing to avoid being pureed.” Since the levels are all so short, they’re quite simple to memorize, which becomes essential for getting the high performance rankings later on.
There’s no collection of power-ups or weapons here. A “weapon set” is chosen at the beginning of the game, and that set will last the entire game. Each weapon set consists of two “ground level” weapons and an “above-level” weapon. The ground level weapons can be swapped out quickly and easily when the need arises, and they take care of anything that walks, rolls, or crawls around in front of Our Hero. The above-level weapon takes care of anything that’s out of reach or hovering overhead. It takes a bit of practice to effectively use the various weapons of a given set, but after a short while most everything on the screen is falling in a hail of lead/flames/plasma. As for the weapons themselves, they run the gamut from mundane (machine-gun, grenade launcher, homing missiles) to the truly bizarre (drill gun, squiggly laser stream). And the weapon sets differ greatly in usefulness, too. Some are almost useless, and some are so powerful as to be almost game-breaking. In fact, once one particular weapon set is unlocked, it’s laughably simple to complete the game in short order.
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