Contra is struggling...
Contra from Konami was the premiere side scrollin' shooting game of the late 80's and early 90's. It was both on the 8-bit NES and both 16-bit game consoles, and it reigned supreme. In this Playstation version, Konami changed the gameplay a little too much to keep it viable in the shooter market.
Contra's graphics aren't bad. In fact, the polygon environment is a great improvement over the old shooter genre. But, the characters are still bitmaps, and with the top down perspective they look squished and silly. All of the guns and battlements are made of polygons, have fluid movement, and are all around 'perty. But most of the enemies, power-ups, and items are bitmaps. This mix of graphics formats just doesn't fit well in Contra's case and shouldn't have been used, Konami should have stuck with one or the other.
There are four different characters you can choose for your adventures. Ray and Tasha are humans. Also included is CD-228 and Bubba, a robot and a alien respectively. Each has a total of four weapons, and these weapons are different depending on which character you choose. Other than that, there are no differences. Konami should have included some different attributes for each character, for instance: Ray can jump higher, but Tasha is faster.
Disappointingly, there are only six gun totin' levels. Although they are fairly large, you can run through the first two in about 5 minutes. Some of the deeper levels have some cool features, including a boat that you can drive around. In the second level, there is a "jungle arcade" that has two arcade machines with some old cheesy 80's games on them. Just walk up to them and it inserts the quarter for you! Get ready to play either Gyruss or Pactank. These little details and features are the ones that can really make a game stand out, but there just weren't enough of them in Contra.
Throughout the game there are various big bad bosses that attack you. Most, if not all, of them are made of polygons, and they all have fluid motion and look great. Again, if they had made all of the characters polygonal, Contra would have been a much better game. But, then again, sometimes the game has some bad slowdown. When surrounded by tons of enemies, the game lost about 10 frames a second. Konami is trying to push the Playstation too hard in Contra and the slowdowns are annoying because of it.
The sound is very good and the music follows suit. All the machine gun and laser fire sounds are 'realistic' (or at least sound good), and the ambient sound adds to the environment too. Even though the music is typical to a shooter, it's still enough to keep you going through the level.
The game is really easy to control. Contra doesn't suffer any inconsistencies when slammin' buttons on the controller and it really shows as you go through the game. There is also a "strafe" button that allows you to side-step left and right. This is really useful while heading up in a level, you can just step side to side and keep firing instead of turning all around the place. Konami made it complex enough for advanced players and simple enough for everyone else.
You also get some cheesy 3d glasses with the game. Turn on 3d mode in the game, but on the blue and red glasses, and get ready for a headache. There is some slight depth perception at the expense of all the color, and a flickering screen. It just a worthless gimmick. There was no point in including it, except for fancy packaging... I mean, who couldn't pass up 3d glasses!?
Contra is a decent game, but it's nothing like its 16-bit predecessors. If you want some real Contra action, just pull out your SNES or Genesis.