It’s funny to look back on my initial impression of Super C. Don’t get me wrong I knew it was great but I didn’t think of it as anything special. I guess in my mind I just assumed it was Contra, everyone loves it, of course the sequel would be better. But it wasn’t until my cousins used it as ammunition to deride my NES library (which isn’t hard when you have gems like Milon’s Secret Castle and Mystery Quest lining your shelf) that I really took the time to examine it. That was enough to make me realize Super C was one of the best damn action games on the market at the time.
Super C was originally released in the arcade with the NES version following not too long after. This version of the game is more of a sequel to the home port of the original built around the arcade’s content. That may sound strange but once you jump into the game it rings true. Obviously it doesn’t look as good but it doesn’t matter. While some elements have been cut it also adds content to make up for it. All in all Konami did an awesome job squeezing the game onto the system.
In terms of its weapons things are mostly the same. The machine gun, rapid fire, spread gun and laser all return. The spread gun’s bullets appear to be larger which makes it even more effective but the biggest change is the flamethrower. Rather than a useless twisting stream of fire it now lets out fireballs and is far more useful. You can also charge it to release a big ball of flame that is the game’s strongest attack. It makes up for the loss of the missiles, which make a return in the Alien Wars.
The home version contains most of the same content as the arcade however there are plenty of slight differences that I think work in its favor. The levels are longer and in a way that feels rewarding. Rather than the over the shoulder base levels stages two and six are overhead scrolling levels and far more enjoyable. The only thing missing there are the screen clearing shells but you don’t really need them. Most importantly there are three new levels making this a more substantial package. Curiously these stages are primarily vertically scrolling levels but I think that is sheer coincidence. To complement the better jumping mobility (seriously leaping in the arcade looked really stupid) there are added bottomless pits.
With the addition of the new stages the level flow has been shuffled around. What was stage four in the arcade is now the final level, complete with a new boss. The new fourth level is an upward climb up a tower complete with winged soldiers. Stage five is another climb, this time up a mountain. Its boss is closely patterned after the High Speed Anti-Gravity Hovercraft in the first game. What was the last stage originally is now the sixth. Stage seven is brand new, this time featuring a downward descent into an alien hive. The true boss of stage one has been omitted however stage three has an added encounter, the mobile assault spider. They’ve managed to balance it out pretty well making this the superior experience.
Contra could be challenging but was fair and the same applies here. Weapon drops are often enough that it isn’t completely detrimental if you die. While some are incredibly powerful like the fire weapon and spread gun they need to be wielded with skill. For those that relied on the infamous Konami code to get through the first game you’ll find no such crutch here. There is a different code but it only grants ten lives rather than thirty. It’s still just enough to give you an edge but not enough that you can be completely sloppy in your play. I think it’s a nice compromise that forces you to develop some level of skill to proceed.
Obviously this could never match the arcade game’s presentation but I feel Konami did a good job mimicking it and actually staying consistent with the look established with the port of the original game. While they aren’t as detailed I prefer the NES sprites for Bill and Lance and their jumping animation looks far better as well as being more effective.
What is far more interesting are the changes in art direction. Konami has always drawn inspiration from the Alien films when it comes to Red Falcon’s forces and that was proudly on display in the arcade version. Face huggers and bursting alien pods could be found everywhere and stage four in particular would not have looked out of place in an Alien adaptation. That has been scaled back significantly and it only really shows up in the final two levels here.
As great as Contra was in my opinion Super C is even better. It takes everything that was great about the first game and makes it even better. As both a port and a game Super C is one of the best games in the NES library. Still a classic after all these years.