Contra Anniversary Collection Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Contra Anniversary Collection is the final piece in Konami’s classic game re-release puzzle. The Contra series has included some of the greatest and most cherished games of all time and this collection contains some of the most memorable titles spanning from arcade versions to special localisations. Just like with the other two collections, Castlevania Anniversary and Arcade Classics, while the emulation is flawless and the feature set on offer is robust, Contra Anniversary Collection also lacks control customisation and its bonus content is barebones.
Like its counterparts in Konami’s trip down memory lane, Contra Anniversary Collection contains titles from several different platforms of yore. The titular game that started it all, the very first Contra, is included in not one not two but three different versions. There’s the classic arcade version, complete with its stiffer and frustrating controls, and both the Famicom (Japanese NES) and NES versions which are arguably superior to their coin-op predecessor. The core difference between the two console versions is that the Japanese one contains cutscenes that set the plot of the game. Both console versions are marked improvements over the arcade Contra in that they have better controls, visuals, and larger maps.
Super Contra is the sequel to the arcade Contra and along with its console remake, Super C, they are both worthy additions to this collection. Super Contra corrected a lot of the issues with the original game while Super C takes it a step further by improving the visuals and controls as well as introduce all new stages to the game. Contra III from the SNES era rounds off the original trilogy in Contra Anniversary Collection. Its 16-bit visuals and faster-paced action make this one of the best games to grace the system back then and the legacy carries on even today.
Contra: Hard Corps was a spin-off of the original Contra series for the Sega Genesis. This game featured a selectable cast of four different characters, each with unique abilities. One of the other particular aspects of this game was its choice based cutscenes that advanced the story through branching paths depending on the player’s decisions. Furthermore, a slide was introduced that made characters invulnerable throughout its animation.
Next up are the European localisations of Contra III and Contra: Hard Corps. Both Super Probotector, released on the SNES, and Probotector, on the Mega Drive, replaced human characters with robots (that looked oddly similar to Robotech Valkyries) in order to allegedly comply with German laws regarding violence in video games. Aside from the replacement of human characters, nothing else is different between the Probotector games and their original Contra counterparts.
Finally, the collection is closed off with the Game Boy title Operation C, which is a standalone title containing elements from both Contra and Super C. Despite the portable console’s limitations, the development team had managed to include a lot of what made the series unique so it’s a solid addition even if just to play a bit for nostalgia’s sake.
Contra Anniversary Collection contains all the emulation bells and whistles found in the other two collections. Save states are possible, though each game only gets a single save slot. Screens can be adjusted to classic 4:3 or *gasp* 16:9 aspect ratios both of which can be further customised to be pixel perfect and/or simulate CRT scanlines. As mentioned earlier, controls can’t be reassigned which can get annoying when jumping from one system to another. This led to several deaths in the Sega versions (not a single controller was harmed...sort of). the Bonus segment contains yet another browsable PDF with a couple of interviews with key Contra creative figures and some nuggets from the game series history. It would have been nice to include some artwork and concept art or even a documentary style video.
Contra Anniversary Collection is a robustly put together collection of classic gaming with superb emulation that contains all the essentials video game historians and old people like myself require. Its lack of control customisation is a grave oversight as there is a disparity in button mapping between systems. Lacking some form of bonus content such as artwork would have made this an even better package as what’s on offer is not particularly appealing. The titles, however, are all superb and a great way to experience the legendary Contra series as it was meant to be played.