Konami takes us back to the old-school with Contra ReBirth, the 10th entry in the classic shooter series, lovingly rendered in 16-bit for Nintendo's WiiWare.
Contra hero Bill Rizer is back, joined by the humanoid alien samurai Genbei Yagyu from Neo Contra, sent back in time to defeat the Neo Salamander Army led by Colonel Salamander. The story is neither here nor there. Is there running? Yes. Is there gunning? Plenty. Those are the two main elements that made the original Contra titles a big hit, and developer M2 has left them completely intact, along with retro 16-bit graphics and music yanked and rearranged from the original Contra games.
It's basically as if we are getting our hands on a Super Nintendo Contra game that never went to market. Does that work for you? Here's how it worked for us.
Classic Contra: Contra ReBirth, much like Capcom's Mega Man 9, is a return to the glory days of Contra. It's got 16-bit graphics, remixes of original Contra music, and the rock-solid run and gun gameplay we all remember so fondly. M2 has even preserved the standard aspect ratio, so the game looks and feels as if you are playing a Virtual Console title rather than a WiiWare one. There are a few differences, such as the ability to shake your Wii remote to switch between two equipped power-ups, but otherwise this is classic Contra at its finest.
It's A Good Pain: Contra ReBirth is not an easy game, but the difficulty level is right in line with earlier titles in the series. At first the game was frustratingly difficult, but I soon realized that this was simply because I was no longer accustomed to this sort of title. Call it old-school difficult. Like a scrolling shooter, you have to figure out what enemies are coming when in order to succeed, and yes - you will die doing that. The important thing here is that once you do get your bearings and make it to the end, the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. It's something missing from a lot of newer titles, and it's very welcome here. You can always set the difficulty to easy, but be warned - you'll be missing out on some of the game.
A Shortness of Death: My only major quibble with Contra ReBirth is the length of the game. There are only a couple of hours worth of game here, and while that has worked perfectly well in the past, it feels a bit short compared to the sort of titles I'm used to paying $10 for these days. Of course, as far as negatives go, this one is completely up to the consumer. There are five levels, and depending on your skill level you could spend more time trying to get through them, or up the difficulty level for more of a challenge, or try to top your high score. There could be replay value here for you. There just really wasn't for the type of gamer I am.
While it might be frustratingly difficult for the younger generation, Contra ReBirth is a real treat for those of us who were around and coherent when the original games made their way onto the NES and Super NES. Not only is it simple yet challenging fun, it serves as a reminder of how far gaming has come and the sacrifices we've had to make in getting here.
Contra ReBirth was developed by M2 and published by Konami for WiiWare on September 7th. Retails for 1,000 Wii points, or $10. Completed game on both easy and normal difficulties.
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