Contra Shattered Soldier Playstation 2 Review

For close to 20 years now, Contra has been a part of our gaming lives. >From it's humble roots on the classic NES, to the pitiful attempts at reviving the beloved franchise on the PlayStation and Saturn, Contra has always been there for us. Now (for the lack of a more creative tag line), Contra is BACK and it's better than it's ever been on the PlayStation 2. While not a perfect revival, most fans will find enough to like about this version that they'll fully accept it as part of the Contra legacy.

Contra: Shattered Soldier throws out the 3-D gameplay of the 32-bit versions and goes back to its classic 2-D roots and results are miraculous. Running to the left and shooting a whole bunch of army-alien like things has never been this much fun. Unfortunately, while running, stopping to take on some massive machine/alien mid-boss occurs too frequently, a departure from days past. This puts the sole challenge of the game heavily on memorization of the bosses' patterns, and less on sheer skill. Gamers less accustomed to this style of play will no doubt toss more than a few controllers in agonizing defeat, while those us who can make it through Contra III in one life will find this highly satisfying.

Another departure from the classic franchise is the power-up system, or lack thereof. Three weapons are given to the players from the start and that's all they'll see for the duration of the game. Each weapon has a secondary mode of fire that comes in handy during most boss battles and making sure the correct weapon is being used is crucial. Swapping weapons can be a challenge in the heat of a battle and will result in even more deaths, so a power-up system could've helped some of the, uh, un-Contra-fied gamers out there.

While only five stages fill the CD, each of them has their own unique look and style. Sharp-eyed players will be able to recognize scenes from Contra III, Hard Corps, and the NES version. Seeing these moments filled with polygons is a dream come true for fans and newbies will find these segments to be all new challenges. The small characters help to show the immense size of the enemies attempting world domination and make it somewhat easier to avoid the constant barrage of blinking bullets. The explosions show off some of the best lighting effects the PS2 can pull off and the bosses that fill the screen cause no slowdown, an achievement to say the least.

The LOUD heavy metal music may seem like a logical choice for the series, but it ends up being downright grating. Thankfully, the barrage of explosions and gunfire drown it out a majority of the time. The voice acting during the few cinemas the game has is respectable, better than other current games that rely on it. (*cough* Resident Evil *cough*). Again, those who have played the previous installments will notice a few classic sound effects have seeped into this version, but it's not enough to make up for the horrific soundtrack.

Since it's been some time since the last decent Contra game, Konami could've put out a sub-par game and most fans would've taken it due to "Contra withdrawal." Thankfully, this revival slaughters the previous 2 incarnations of the franchise and brings it to an entirely new generation of gamers. The ridiculous challenge level, grating music, and tough control scheme bring it down from classic status, but it's still a worthy addition to anyone's gaming library.

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