Now, before you send me angry e-mails for ragging on Contra, just know
I'm not. Contra is awesome. And so are Super C, Contra III,
and Contra: Hard Corps. Shortly after Contra III came out on the
Super Nintendo, though, Konami created one last NES game called Contra
Force, which was greeted with very little fanfare. Haven't heard
of it? Don't worry, you're not missing much.
Originally planned as a Famicom game called "Arc Hound" with no
relation to the Contra series, Konami elected to make it a US-only
release, using the Contra name to boost sales. But, as the game
was released after the advent of the 16-bit consoles, this scheme
didn't work too well. The game was also plagued with some rather
severe lag issues; the game slows to a drag severely and often, which
greatly inhibits any fun there is to be had.
Every cliche action hero of the 80s
is at your command!
One interesting system in play in Contra Force was the ability to swap
the characters in play by hitting Select. Each character had
their own stock of lives, so were you about to run out you could simply
switch to someone with lives to spare; particularly useful for the fact
that, like Battletoads, the game ends if one person loses all their
Also of note was that the player has the opiton to summon another
character as a CPU-controlled helper for a while. The latter were
particularly helpful in that they were invincible while onscreen, and
would automatically bound around firing bullets in every direction for
a few seconds, giving you some breathing room. They would
disappear after a short time, but could be summoned again by going back
under the pause menu and setting another AI option.
Another interesting concept in the game was the Gradius-styled weapons
system; each time you gather a weapon powerup, one of the icons at the
bottom of the screen lights up; pressing Select will switch your weapon
to the one selected. However, these new weapons tend to just make
things more difficult for you; Burns' grenades have much less range
than his basic gun and tend to impact harmlessly against ceilings due
to their upward arc, and Beans' time bombs require you to get close to
the enemy to do any damage with them - something you definitely want to
avoid in a game with one-hit kills. There are a few decent picks,
such as Burns' homing missiles and Iron's flamethrower, but for the
most part these weapons are just more trouble than they're worth.
This is especially evident due to the fact that losing a life resets
you back to your basic weapon; if you want your homing missiles back,
you'll have to collect the powerups all over again.
Beans' 5th-level weapon can turn him
invincible while jumping; good luck getting it though
Another of the annoying aspects of Contra Force was the awkward jumping
puzzles; they happen frequently, and enemies are usually shooting at
you the whole time, which makes it pretty difficult to concentrate on
what you're doing. The one pictured above left is particularly
nasty; you must jump using the fan's lift, but jump too high and you'll
hit the spikes. Don't jump high enough, though, and you'll hit
the spikes between the fans. Oh, and there's a guy on the far
ledge shooting at you too. Have fun!
Further adding to the frustration was the inability to duck under
especially throws you off if you've played the other games in the
series, where it's almost a mandatory survival tactic. Here, though,
your characters don't duck low enough to avoid any shots. Even
Beans, who ducks lower than the rest, still gets cliipped by bullets
that look like they should easily fly over him. Your only chance
here is to jump every bullet, or just fire wildly at the edge of the
screen and kill enemies before they see you. The lone exception
to this was the first stage's boss, who was tall enough to fire over
your head if you ducked his shots.
The underwhelming first boss; just
wait for him to stop rolling around, duck, and fire. Repeat until
As with Super C, some stages took part in an overhead view. These
don't get a break from the annoying slowdown or a few other annoying
design flaws. Most notable of these is the fact that there's no
invisible walls anywhere - get too close to the edge of a ship or
bridge and you'll fall right into the drink and lose a life; and since
the enemies' AI is so bad, that makes the lack of guardrails the most
dangerous obstacle in the entire stage! What a disappointment.
Here's the second boss; just stand in the position pictured and fire to
win without a hitch. The game's just too much of a chore for me
chugging through, so if you're really dying to see the third stage or
beyond, you're on your own.
One-line Synopsis: Unless you're a
die-hard Nintendo collector, give this one a pass.