Total Recall DUD OF THE MONTH COLLECTION!
CONTRA Shattered Soldier
(Konami, November 2002)
Sometimes it's not always so easy to make a better sequel or a better spin off of a popular series just because it's on a more advance game machine. Take the Contra series for example: look what happened with Contra: Legacy of War (or Contra LOW to many) and The Contra Adventure for the Playstation, despite some nice 3D graphics here and there, these games failed to impress the diehard fans of shooting series and these games did not sell too well thus dishonouring the legend that was the original Contra. Konami isn't giving up just yet; here we have the latest attempt to save the once beloved series. Contra Shattered Soldier for the PS2 features some slick 3D graphics in the good ol' traditional 2D view, new louder sound effects, and the super chaotic game play that will have you begging for mercy. Is Contra finally back or did Konami fudge it up yet again?
From hero to villain to anti-hero
Earth is facing another terrible crisis as the Blood Falcon army prepares to conquer the world. As a last resort, the Government decides to release the fallen hero Bill Rizer from a cryogenic prison to fight the Blood Falcon army in a virtual suicide mission. Even though Bill and Lance were the ones responsible for saving the earth from a deadly alien threat years ago (the first Contra), Bill was charged with the murder of his friend Lance and he was also blamed for a huge disaster that nearly wiped out earth's entire population. Criminal or not, Bill and his new partner Lucia must overcome great odds and the destroy the ruling Blood Falcon army and defeat the enemy commander behind the mess.
This NES Contra may look basic but it sure plays better.
If you never played a Contra game before this is basically what you have to do. Simply run from point A to point B while shooting everything in sight. Your characters never ever get tired and they never run out of firepower neither. This game is mostly pure arcade action and even the instruction booklet is only about 10 pages. Sounds cool enough, eh? Don't get too cocky though because only one will kill you plus there are three lives per character and only three continues (in Normal mode). Even though this game is fairly short in length, the game is designed to catch you off guard so you're going to die a lot until you memorize all the tricky patterns and tactics in each stage just like in Contra Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis. "In other words, this is one tough game!"
OK, where my Spread gun?
There are some new additions to this new Contra as well like the ability to Lock (L2) your weapon into place so you can move around while your gun fires in a fixed direction. This game also has a new weapon system that you’re either going to love or your going to hate. Both Bill and Lucia start the game with the same three guns: the Heavy Machinegun, the Ground Mines, and the Flame Thrower (although Contra Hard Corps had different weapons per character). These weapons can be changed anytime during the game and now you can even charge your weapon (using the 'O' button) to unleash a more powerful attack. The newer controls do take some getting use do and some will not like the new buttons needed to press especially players looking for a simple shooting experience. Sadly, Contra vets (like me) will notices that many classics weapons like the Spread, Laser, Chaser, and many more are NOT in this game, in fact Contra SS works on a NO power up system making the game seem a little lifeless during stages. "Some sequel!"
Moving on the graphics in Contra SS, everything is now 3 dimensional but the action is always viewed in the traditional side scrolling fashion so the action is always easy to see. The characters are detailed enough to look like rejects from Metal Gear Solid 2 but the many bosses really help to steal the show. I can't get those disgusting enemies out of my mind like that giant ugly mutant head boss that pukes acid and the giant Seaman creature with a rotten human face on a fish's body. Although the graphics are fairly nice I wasn't really blown away because of some plain looking backgrounds and I even seen some pop up during the train/robot fight. The graphics do not suck but I was just expecting more from the pros at Konami.
The game has some great effects like the different sounds that come from each gun and you can't help to be impressed with the various screams and explosions your enemies give off after being attacked. It really brings the game alive. The sound effects are great but the music is too generic to be anything special unlike in the NES Contras.
Lots of action and lots of enemies yet something’s missing
There is one major thing that this new game doesn't do well and Contra Hard Corps also had this same problem. "WHY DO I HAVE TO FIGHT A BOSS EVERY 5 SECONDS!" I usually love fighting big bosses in a video game but I don't want to play a game that has nothing but bosses at every turn, plus there is the fact that some enemies can attack from the background but I CAN'T SHOOT THEM! It's not fair and it makes the game very tedious instead of fun. Contra: Shattered Soldier as a lot going for it like some impressive graphics and sounds but since the StarSoldier still own the first NES Contra (of course), I have to make comparisons between the two. As much as I wanted to like this all new Contra for the powerful PlayStation2, this game fails to revive the same passion I had for the first action packed Contra on NES and it's just another strike against this once popular series. The originals Contra had more action, better guns, and more diverse level designs. If you want better value for your money than go for the original Contra and Super C for the NES, better games at a better price!