Konami is back on form with the classic game Contra, now brought back as Contra: Evolution, with the benefit of enhanced graphics for the modern gamer. Taking such a well known game from t1988 and revamping it’s graphics is one thing, but is the game as hard as we all remember? And have they done anything to improve the game? And how on earth can such a fast pace run-and-gunner work well on a touchscreen device?
Contra: Evolution is old-skool, old-skool in every way apart from the graphics. For the most part, your player will run from the left of the screen to the right, shooting everyone and everything that get’s in your way. And, of course, to make things difficult, there are a huge amount of things in your way, from enemy soldiers, to mechanized vehicles and gun emplacements. Virtually every space piece of land is taken up by something that is out to get you, so if the player is of a nervous disposition, or can’t handle old-skool chaos, then this really isn’t the game for them.
Before the game begins, the player chooses between four players, two male and two female characters. The difference between them is the speed they can move, how much armour they have and of course how powerful their unique weapons work. During gameplay though, it doesn’t matter which character you choose, as the game is hard, and because of the touchscreen, there are some niggles with the controls.
During the game the player can choose between, Arcade or Mission, the most authentic mode to play is the arcade mode, which brings back so many memories of the original game. And this Evolution version is the original game, but with much better graphics, so as the player passes each level, they can “ooh” and “aaah” as they remember what comes next in the game.
Sadly for Contra: Evolution, the gameplay has one major downfall, and that is the control system. There is a virtual joystick on the left of the screen, and fire, jump and special buttons on the right of the screen. Because of the nature of the game, which means you have to fire at various angles, the virtual joystick is a nightmare to use accurately. No amount of being careful can get your gun aiming directly below you, and because of the fast nature of the game, firing at enemies is literally a hit or miss affair. That said, the game does seem to be a little easier than the original. To review this game, I played an hour or so of the original for comparison, and the original seems way harder even with perfect controls.
This being a modern game, Contra: Evolution suffers from the curse of most new games, that of in-app purchases. During gameplay, the player collects various items such as Gold for upgrading weapons etc, but the game will make you want to spend real money to buy joking Gold. As this is a paid for application anyway, it’s a little unfair that in-app purchases are so prominent in the game.
Graphically, Contra: Evolution is a nice looking game. They’ve kept the same levels as the original, but transformed them into modern looking hi-res, with plenty of colors and animations. Even the players character is animated well as he or she moves through the levels.
There are some levels where the screen scrolls towards the player, sadly, these scroll very jerkily, and considering the technology we have today, this should not have been an issue. Explosions within the game are bold and colorful, and the added detail throughout makes the game look very nice to play through.
The game have evolved in the sound department too, with some great sound effects and tunes. Just as the graphics are modern, but with an old-skool edge, the sound is the same. It’s all very well done, and a welcome upgrade to the original 1988 game’s sound.
Contra: Evolution could have been so much more, however, the limitations of the touchscreen mean that there are problems with the control which do affect the way in which the game is played. Also, the in-App purchases spoil a classic game, in a way in which they really shouldn’t. I don’t believe it’s greed on the part of Konami, but more a lesson in the way modern gaming is heading. If it were possible to play this game with an external bluetooth gamepad, it would the perfect remake. No doubt some people may be able to do this, but for the rest of us, this game is going to remain hard. And, because of the nature of the gameplay, this game has always been hard.
Contra: Evolution, with all it’s little problems though is a fantastic blast from the past, and should one persevere with it, will be rewarded with a brilliant game that is genuinely as much fun as it it frustrating. For modern gamers who have not experienced the delights of Contra, this game may not hold as much attention. Overall, a great game with plenty of nostalgia making old-skool gamers come back for more.