Anyone who had the misfortune of playing Contra: Legacy of War was scarred. The game was so bad it single-handedly ruined the series legacy of excellence. Yet two years later Konami would return with the same developer and deliver its direct sequel, C: the Contra Adventure. That means LoW sold well enough to warrant giving its developers a second chance which boggles my mind. I wish I could say their second effort is worth it but I can’t. C: the Contra Adventure in some ways is even worse and nearly killed the franchise. Stay the hell away from this game.
After the events of Legacy of War a meteorite containing the last remaining alien falls to Earth. It lands near a South American temple, which it takes over and begins to convert. Hard Corps member Tasha is sent to investigate but disappears, prompting Ray Powered to be sent in for retrieval.
As first impressions go the Contra Adventure tugs hard at nostalgia. The first level is side scrolling like the classic games (and is even referred to as such in the manual). Although everything is composed of polygons movement is restricted to a 2d plane. It works better this way although it lacks the tightness of the old games. You can carry up to three weapons like its predecessor and bombs return. Joining the familiar roster of weapons are the scatter gun and the grenade launcher. The initial level serves as a decent introduction to the game’s mechanics while trying to wipe the memory of Legacy of War. Unfortunately it’s all downhill from here.
If the Contra Adventure were composed entirely of its side scrolling levels it could have been decent. Unfortunately the majority of your time is spent in the third person view and it flat out doesn’t work. There are so many problems I don’t even know where to begin. Most of the game’s problems stem from its awful camera. The camera is pulled in too close, making navigation of the tight corridors a nightmare. It also rarely wants to stay in place and moves slowly. This makes the boss battles incredibly frustrating.
The problems don’t stop there. The draw distance is very short, leaving you a sitting duck from off-screen enemies. With a large chunk of the screen covered in darkness it is easy to miss the sensors and towers that need to be destroyed to progress. The auto aim is near useless with most weapons as it can’t decide which enemy to prioritize. I haven’t even mentioned the worst part yet: tank controls. Tan Controls are one of my least favorite control schemes and they are an abomination here. The controls are sluggish and make circle strafing and general movement a slog when they shouldn’t be.
Even ignoring all that the Contra Adventure fails in its level design. The missions are large and confusing in their layout despite featuring a single path. Enemy and switch placement comes across haphazard rather than intelligently designed. There are numerous elaborate boss battles throughout the game but even they can’t save it. Every boss battle goes through multiple phases but between the camera and lacking aim assist they are frustrating more than exciting.
I haven’t even mentioned the frequent platforming. Why they would add such extensive platforming on top of the game’s myriad problems I’ll never know. Just know this: this is the most aggravating aspect of the game and ruins it completely along with everything else. The most difficult parts of the game feature the worst fixed camera angles, making them even worse. It seems even the designers realized this as there are usually invincibility power-ups to skip the worst sections of the game.
Of all of its shifting viewpoints the top down perspective works the best. The camera is zoomed out to a comfortable degree, giving you a good view of your surroundings. Platforming is kept to a minimum and is easier. As a result of the view the auto aim actually works as well. The few levels in this style aren’t visually interesting but they also aren’t half bad. I would have loved to see the game in this style completely (which we would get with Neo Contra).
I’ve gone on at length about the Contra Adventure’s problems but there are few moments that I did enjoy. Stage seven takes place in an antigravity elevator. Once you get the hang of movement it is actually pretty fun. Stage nine is an assault on the enemy base similar to the base levels in NES Contra. It looks and plays identically with a few twists as well. The last level features light homages to past games and is the only other side scrolling level. While nice these seem less like an homage and more like a desperate plea for legitimacy.
C: the Contra Adventure is a terrible game all around and would leave the series dormant for many years. It fails on nearly every conceivable level and is best left forgotten in history. If you really need a PlayStation action fix you are better off picking up Silent Bomber or Apocalypse.