Contra Evolution Review

Contra Evolution Review

Sep 23, 2013

Ever play the original Contra on the NES and get to a really hard part and say “If I could, I would pay real money – and a good amount, too – to get a more powerful weapon to beat this boss” or “I would sell my firstborn for more continues?” Well congratulations – the advance of technology has finally caught up to one of the most challenging run ’n gun games of all time, and Konami has made NES Contra into an IAP-laden experience, though the soul of the game definitely remains.

This is still the NES classic version of Contra, just with some new additions to the meta-game that change how players interface with it. Mostly, what Konami has added is a two-tier currency system and the ability to buy special weapons while mid-game. Think a laser would help beat that boss? Drop a couple hundred coins or a gem on it and play with power! There’s still the flying football things that drop weapons when destroyed, and the weapons system works like Contra 3, at least: if it’s not the selected weapon when killed, it doesn’t disappear.

Oh, but that’s not the only thing to cost money: continues no longer come for free, now they’re all bought with coins or gems. And they get more expensive the later on in the game gets. Devious.


The graphical update is regrettable. There’s too much detail to tell what’s going on at times. The controls fiddle around with virtual joysticks when really, there’s only the need for the virtual d-pad, which is infinitely more accurate. There’s no multiplayer. There’s at least an interesting mission mode which throws modified segments of levels at players to try and get high scores on them to earn eagle medallions, which can be used to unlock two new female characters who play differently. So at least there’s that. Overall, just adding all this IAP to one of the most pure games of all time feels dirty.

The thing is this, though: no matter how much they chop up Contra, it’s still Contra. The same soul of the game remains. The weapons have clearly been rebalanced to favor special weapons (and the people who pay to buy them) as the standard pea shooter feels even weaker than it ever did. And despite a hideous new coat of paint, the classic moments are all there. This is Contra, the NES Contra, that same game I enjoyed as a kid playing with my dad, it’s here. And it’s hard not to feel nostalgic or to have fun with it. Konami may want players to pay – and keep paying – for the pleasure of playing it, but at the very worst, they couldn’t destroy the soul of Contra.

But it’s only for those who have played and enjoyed Contra before and really want to play it legally on their phones to whom I can recommend this game. For those new to this classic? Play the classic NES version, some way, somehow. This should not be anyone’s first experience with Contra. No, Contra Evolution is only for those who know what this game is.