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Contra: The Alien Wars

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Released: 1994

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Game Boy

Publisher: Konami

Developer: Factor 5

Submitted by: Alex Holmes

Outside of the arcades, I think the only Contra I played as a youngster was a quick blast on a friends NES version, but one year on holiday I spotted a Game Boy multi cart which I snapped up and instantly fell in love with this game which was one of the titles featured on said cartridge.

Released two years after the seminal SNES Alien Wars this for me is easily the best Contra game to feature on Nintendo's handheld, and thats certainly an achievement as the Game Boy had a few Contra games to its name, all of which are excellent.

Gameplay wise, its typical Contra fare, from the opening titles where a large alien spaceship comes down and with one blast from its cannon destroys an entire city to make way for the games main enemy, the Red Falcon.

The game itself has five levels which at certain points borrow heavily from the SNES original, with three being scrolling, platform, shoot em up stages and the other two acting as top down shooting stages as seen on the SNES. The levels in general are brilliantly designed and have nice effects to paint the picture of a gloomy landscape.

As usual, the end of the stage has to be reached after destroying or avoiding such enemies as fixed turret soilders, aliens and giant hornet type enemies which will drag players off the screen and to a certian death should they catch you. Plus theres the customary end of level gaurdians ranging from a giant turtle to and a huge half man half crab type affair, and theres also some nice mid level bosses thrown in for good measure.

Weapon wise the usual suspects such as the homing gun, lazer and the classic spread shot are present and can be collected by shooting the many pick up boxes which fly across the screen at certain points, and also a smart bomb is featured which is activated by pressing select and does a fair amount of damage to all the enemies on screen.

And following the final showdown with the main enemy, the Red Falcon a text ending shows that the world is safe and humanity is restored.

Although not half as tough as the Super NES version, this still offers a good challenge and with the well designed levels and responsive controls theres a fair amount of replay value to be had from this beauty of a game.