reviews\ Oct 27, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Neo Contra - PS2 - Review

In the quest to resurrect every decent video game series on the planet, another of the most successful game developers has reached inside the gaming vault and pulled out a classic.

Konami was the developer reaching into the vault, and what they received is a game that plays like something from 1991, but looks like it came from 2000: Neo Contra.

Dubbed “The Ultimate Run ‘N’ Gun Shooter,” Neo Contra was born from the creators of Contra Shattered Soldier.  The classic gameplay, simple controls and relentless enemies are intact.  This time, however, the world is coated in brighter colors, improved textures and more over-sized monsters than you can shake a loose eyeball at.  Neo Contra may not be a survival/horror game, but it’s gruesome enough to frighten the kids on Halloween. 


The gameplay brings to mind visions of Contra's past, as well as bits and pieces of One (an underrated PSone shooter) and the Metal Slug series.  Gameplay is still primarily stuck in the second dimension.  The perspective has been changed, giving you multiple camera angles that try to emulate the 3D experience.  It's not all that effective since your level of control is still limited to a flat playing field.  It was sort of like controlling a character that's trapped inside a box: he can go left, right, forward and backward, but he never feels free.

The restrictive-ness stays consistent through the end of the game.  Looking at Neo Contra as a next-generation game, this is somewhat annoying.  But if you look at it as a part of the Contra series, the controls seem much more appropriate.  A less restrictive control scheme would have turned Contra into a third-person shooter.  The game industry has enough of those.

I don’t remember what the music of the previous Contra games was like, but I’m pretty certain Neo Contra will leave a long-lasting impression.  Its soundtrack, while comprised of techno-style music, is very entertaining.  The driving beats are enjoyable without being repetitive.  They work well in conjunction with the sound effects – a combination of gunfire, explosions, and dying enemies.

Neo Contra's graphics don't deliver the same visual punch that other PS2 remakes have.  The particle effects, enemy detail and frequent camera changes are all very noticeable.  No one's going to leave the game without at least understanding how much work went into putting each piece together.  However, complexity doesn't mean beauty.  If it weren't for the monsters, which are somewhat advanced, Neo Contra wouldn't look too far beyond the best-looking Dreamcast games.  That would be great, except that we're not in 1999 anymore, and this isn't Dreamcast the game was made for – it was developed for PlayStation 2.  Given that it's a Sony exclusive, the developers could have maximized the game's beauty by using the PS2's greatest graphic tricks, many of which were introduced in 2001. 

Makes me think of Star Wars.

Sure, the graphics get the job done, but if that was all that mattered we wouldn't need to upgrade or PCs or buy new game consoles.  Beauty counts.  I really expected more from this one.

In the end it's the gameplay that counts most.  The two-player mode is the best way to play Neo Contra.  The enemies aren't any less challenging, but games never seem as difficult to beat when you have a friend to help blast the monsters. 

Like its predecessors, Neo Contra is a game of getting to the finish line.  You're always moving forward, always determined to defeat the enemies that are in front of you.  Progress cannot be made if your enemies are alive.  The path will continue until they've been killed.  That's how Contra has always been.

Consequently, it means the Neo Contra experience is very short lived.  I haven't played too many run-'n'-gun shooters that lasted more than a day.  (Metal Slug is the exception.)  There aren't too many ways to increase the length these kinds of games.  Either increase their difficulty or slow down the action.  You could always design more worlds, but then you run the risk of making the game repetitive.  Shooters are repetitive by nature; adding to the repetition would not be a smart move.

This leaves us with a shooter that's fun but very short.  The MSRP is $40, so it's definitely not a must-buy for everyone.  However, the target audience isn't everyone, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten an "M" rating from the ESRB.  Anyone who's old enough to remember the original Contra is old enough to legally buy this game in all 50 states.  Chances are if you remember it the memories are good ones, giving yourself a good excuse to check out Neo Contra as soon possible.

Review Scoring Details for Neo Contra

Gameplay: 7.5
Aim, shoot, and run for your life!  Neo Contra is the game Contra fans have been waiting to spend a day with.  I say a day because it’s so short.  The controls are classic; your aim is based on the direction in which the analog stick is pressed.  Pressing the analog stick moves your character in that direction, creating a simultaneous aim-and-move control scheme.  Moderately challenging and genuinely fun, Neo Contra is a great way to kill a boring weekday, or an unusually long weekend.

Graphics: 7
Not the beautiful-looking masterpiece it could have been.  Take one look at Konami’s other next-gen offerings and you’ll know what I mean.

Sound: 8
A surprising mix of great techno music and explosive sound effects.

Difficulty: Medium
No Contra fan has gone through life without beating a Contra game.  Anyone who’s accomplished that will surely be able to defeat Neo Contra.

Concept: 6
Same old Contra.  No innovations, no groundbreaking changes – just new a graphics engine to take you into the polygon dimension.  Actual 3D gameplay is not present in this remake.

Multiplayer: 7.5
Call up a friend or grab your neighbor, anyone will do.  Neo Contra is most entertaining when you have a partner to help remove the creepy monsters from your dying world.

Overall: 7.2
Neo Contra’s greatest fault is that it ends before its time.  Second, it’s a bit on the easy side when compared to other run-‘n’-gun shooters.  The easy mode is perhaps too easy.  You get 30 lives, and the enemies aren’t too difficult to kill.  The normal mode, however, is a little too difficult at first, with more challenging enemies and a limit of 5 lives.


About The Author
In This Article
From Around The Web
blog comments powered by Disqus