Super Contra is the sequel to Contra and was developed and distributed into arcades by Konami in 1988. It’s another challenging vertical screen run-and-gun shooter featuring super soldiers Bill and Lance, fighting the same alien creatures as seen in the previous game. Except this time they’re on a different mission and events are set one year later.
Most of the five levels are side-scrolling, platform-based missions, although this time there’s an overhead scrolling section, similar to Commando and Ikari Warriors. And at the end of each stage you must destroy a specific stronghold, or a ‘boss’ contraption. There are also sub-bosses to take on during stages, like helicopters, tanks and gun turrets, which stand in your way occasionally.
Super Contra features “improved graphics” over the previous game, although it wouldn’t be unfair to say that they’re a little ‘drab’ by today’s standards (personally, I think the colours and visuals are horrible – especially when compared to the next game in the series, Contra III).
Gameplay is just as difficult as the first Contra (ie. stupidly hard at times), although progress can be made a little easier with the simultaneous two-player co-op mode that’s available.
This time the player characters can shoot capsules, occasionally seen flying overhead, and pick up better weapons than the default machine gun. As seen in the first Contra, there’s also a ‘spread’ gun, and a laser gun, and a new addition is a rocket gun, or ‘bomb gun’.
Players can somersault jump and shoot, but the most frustrating aspect of the gameplay is the slow pace at which Bill and Lance run, which makes avoiding bullets sometimes very difficult.
The in-game music is jolly but inappropriate for this type of game – sounding more like the soundtrack from a Japanese game show than anything remotely atmospheric. Although some people seem to like it – I didn’t much care for the music in Super Contra.
Overall, Super Contra is reasonably fun to play – especially cooperatively, with a friend – although thankfully the series was to greatly improve with the next instalment, Contra III: The Alien Wars on the SNES.