Contra: Shattered Soldier.....The full review.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Romier S, Oct 30, 2002.

  1. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Game title: Contra: Shattered Soldier
    Developer: Konami
    Publisher: Konami
    16:9: No
    480p: No
    5.1 audio: No
    Introduction
    Its been far too long.
    How else can you really describe the elation you will feel when playing the resurrection of one of the greatest shooter series in gaming history. Many a gamer has with bated breath awaited the day when Konami did right by the Contra series and that day is here ladies and gentleman.
    Unfortunately things were not as exciting for the Contra series in the days of the original Playstation. Two very uninspired sequels were created that fell far short of capturing the run and gun gameplay of the Contra series and moved the series into what many consider to be its dark age.
    Konami intelligently did not give up on the Contra series and chose to bring the latest and greatest to Sony's Playstation 2. Preserving the 2D platform aspects of the original games in a pseudo 3D environment, lets delve into exactly how well this new Contra truly is.
    Story
    You mean there is a story here?[​IMG]. Humor aside, Contra: Shattered Soldier is actually the most story driven game in the series.
    The game begins with a pulse pounding CG intro which introduces you to the main character Bill Rizer. Bill is one of the original soldiers from the very first Contra game. Accused and condemned of killing his partner Lance along with mass genocide on a global scale, Bill was cryogenically frozen to prevent any other "mishaps" from happening.
    Now there is a new threat to the world, a separatist army has declared war on the Earth's council and even worse they have allied with the alien forces that humanity has been struggling against for years.
    The council must do the unthinkable, release the most feared mass murderer in our history to deal with the alien threat. Along with a new female android sent to monitor his actions, it is up to Bill and his companion to defend the planet earth yet again.
    Gameplay
    I want to make something very clear right off the bat. I am a very big fan of 2D side scrollers in general and the Contra series brings back allot of memories for me. Put in the most direct way that I can put it, this is my kind of game. It appeals to my sensibilities as a gamer, though it wont have the same effect on many people.
    Contra: Shattered Soldier is designed from the ground up with an "old school" mentality. No other way to say it. The level design, the challenge, the pattern recognition and the numerous boss battles, it all gels together to create one of the hardest games to come out in the past couple of years. You will die allot but you will feel rewarded when you beat that hard boss, or complete that impossible sequence. This is vintage Contra gameplay folks and I'm sure many are happy to hear it.
    Shattered Soldier has a total of five levels for you to explore. Between these levels you will experience some short but interesting sequences that will progress the story along. With that you will also have access to three distinct difficulty levels that will affect how the game is played.
    The easy difficulty does not change the difficulty in the game per se, it simply supplies you with 8 lives per continue along with a nearly unlimited amount of continues for you to complete the game with. Normal on the other hands supplies you with only 5 lives per continue and only 3 continues for you to do business with. Finally let me just say that I have a better chance at becoming president of the United States than you will at beating this game on the hard difficulty setting.[​IMG]
    The controls are not in any way complicated which would have been a detriment to the gameplay. Here is the control layout for you to glance over:
    X: Jump
    Square: Shoot
    O: Alternate Fire
    R1: Switch weapon
    L1: Switch weapon
    R2: Hold character in postion
    L2: Hold weapon direction in position
    You'll notice the weapon change selections along with the alternate fire button. The biggest change to the Contra formula is the inclusion of a limited weapon system. The days of collecting various weapon upgrades are in fact over. This was a bit a dissapointment at first since that was an important part of Contra's charm but once you understand how the new weapons work you won't bother worrying about the missing power-ups.
    Upon entering the game you will be introduced to the first weapon in your arsenal, which is the standard variety Contra "Machine gun". It fires exactly like the standard weapon in the original games (Contra and SuperC) and Contra III The Alien Wars. By hitting the weapon change button you will be able to switch to your next piece of hardware, the powerful flame thrower which is great for up close and personal combat. Finally you will be able to pull out your most unique weapon, a homing grenade launcher. Its ammo fires in a arch type path and scrambles on floor like moving mine. Great for dispensing foes that are open to attacks from below.
    Along with these standard weapons you will also have access to an alternate firing mode for each. You can use this alternate fire mode by holding down the O button or by double tapping and holding the regular fire button (Square). The standard weapon shoots a small projectile that will open and let loose a 360 degree barrage of bullets. The flame thrower will "charge up" and fire a large fireball like attack. While the homing grenade launcher will fire 5-6 homing laser shots that will seek out your enemies and blow them to kingdom come.
    The limited weapon system heavily influences how Contra is played. You need to know which weapon to use at which particular time or you will die (allot). It adds a tactical element that was not in the original games while allowing the player to experiment with how to handle a given situation.
    The game is played from a 2D perspective while your character and the environments that surround him/her are 3D (very much like Klonoa 2). There are certain sections of the game where the view will change to accommodate a boss battle or a particular sequence (such as a snowboarding action sequence from the first level that is played from a forward perspective). These view changes are not too plentiful but when used give the game a good sense of variety.
    Speaking of boss battles, there are allot of them. You will be embroiled in sub-boss boss battles and full on boss battles throughout a large portion of this game. The bosses are absolutely grotesque and at the same time extremely difficult. All of them adhere to tried and true formula of recognizing thier pattern and dispensing with them soon after. In fact pattern recognition is what this whole game is about. Its a shooter through and through. Your memory is almost as important as your reflexes.
    You will need those reflexes too for the many platforming sections of the game. Even more to the chagrin of challenge hating gamers, allot of these platforming sequences are mixed in with the boss battles you'll have to contend with. You will need to worry about firing at the boss, jumping high onto a platform to avoid thier attacks and changing weapons when needed. Its can be an absolutely harrowing experience and I love it.
    Adding even more to the strategy element of the game is the position buttons. There will be times when an enemy is coming in behind you and you will need to fire backwards continuously. In this case you will want to use the "character hold" postition button which will lock your chacter in place and allow you only move the weapon in your hand. The second position button will allow you to lock the gun in whichever direction you are aiming. Say for instance you are shooting upwards at an enemy and want to have the gun locked in that upwards position. Simply hold the "gun hold" button. You will need to master using both of these gameplay elements as they can mean the difference between life or death.
    I also want to mention the games difficulty once again. This is not an easy game. It will not appeal to anyone that does not want to be challenged. When I say challenge I mean CHALLENGE. Beating the game on easy is not an accomplishment since you are given unlimited continues to contend with. Attempting to beat the game on Normal is where the the real meat of this game comes. It will drive you to the brink of insanity until you really start to recognize enemy patterns and memorize the levels.(and I'm proud to say that I have beaten the game on Normal, and yes Im tooting my own horn[​IMG]). Please keep this in mind if you are thinking about purchasing the game.
    Of course its always fun to bring a second player along. Nothing like having a friend to help you conquer this beast.[​IMG]
    Everything here just works. This is Contra the way it was meant to be. Konami didn't fool with the formula much and the result is one of the most challenging and outright fun games to play.
    I do want to mention a small "gripe" that may sway some gamers away from a purchase and more towards a rental. This is not a long game. The 5 levels in question are not large and if your playing the game on easy it will not take you an inordinate amount of time to beat Shattered Soldier. I cannot stress enough though that this game is meant to be played on a more challenging level and doing otherwise will result in a less lengthy and less satisfying experience in my humble opinion.
    On the note of length ,I also want to mention that after each level you are given a rating as to how well you did. This rating includes hit percentages, lives lost percentages so forth and so on. Getting higher scores will not doubt be a something many gamers will strive for and I think its worth mentioning that you will want to play through these levels again. Not so much for the higher ratings but just cause the game is so much fun to play. The replay value is there, but only for those that can really get into this type of game.
    Graphics
    Konami really comes through with a one-two punch here. Along with a fantastic gameplay experience you get some exciting and unique visuals.
    The games dark apocalyptic world is rendered beautifully with explosions coming left and right and some of the most grotesquely animated bosses in the history of videogaming.
    (The first level boss alone, a throwback to the "turtle" boss from Alien Wars, will make you want to vomit..BLECH!)
    The framerate is constant and never falters. The textures used in the game can vary from fairly bland to very detailed. Some of the droid and mechnical enemies in the game for instance can display some really ultra-detailed engineering, down to the nuts and bolts. While at the same time some of the backgrounds can be a little blah and in need of more interesting "fluff" so to speak.
    Sticking to the "old school" game design regiment I mentioned earlier Konami chose to animate its enemies and the main characters much in the way of the older games. Animation can appear to be a bit stilted at times but somehow this works in the nostalgiac sense. For example your main character still does the "flip" jump from way back in the day[​IMG]. Its still neat to see but some may be turned off by it. However your characters run animation is silky smooth and some of the bigger enemies will surely impress with some complicated movements that look very realistic.
    This is a great looking PS2 title. No doubt about it.
    Sound
    Contra features no voice acting at all. The story sequences are told with text which kind of cheapens the storyline aspect of the game for me.
    The music in the game consists of heavy metal guitar riffs that really compliment the action well. Your heart will be pumping while blasting away the alien threat.
    The game has no multi-channel support but the pro-logic soundtrack services the game well. The explosions and sound effects are suffuciently clear and defined but the game cries out for a more succint use of bass that would have really added to the atmosphere.
    Home Theater Performance
    Contra does not include 16:9 or 480p support unfortunately. This is ashame as the game would have benefited from the higher resolution of 480p.
    When displayed on my Toshiba 42H81 Contra looks quite smooth but a tad dark. I had to move my brightness up a few notches from my regularly calibrated game settings to get a better view of the action.
    Jaggies are not a problem on my set. It seems the more PS2 games that are released the less this problem arises (thankfully). The game does not look bad on the various stretch modes on my set but my preference lies with a straight up 4X3 display for this one. Not too much going on for the Home Theater crowd with Contra.
    Closing
    Contra: Shattered Soldier is pure gaming bliss for fans of the 2D action side scroller. I would recommed it whole heartidly for any fan of the original Contra games or any fan of challenging 2D gameplay. This one is truly heavenly.
    The difficult level along with the relative shortness of the game will no doubt put off many gamers out there but even still I would reccommend everyone to at the very least give the game a rental. Its too good a game to just abandon without at the very least playing it once.
    Contra is back ladies and gentleman and I can't wait to see what Konami does next with the series.
    Its been far too long indeed.
     
  2. Andre F

    Andre F Screenwriter

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    Great review. Very indepth. [​IMG] Thanks for taking the time out to do it.
     
  3. PerryD

    PerryD Supporting Actor

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    I'm mixed on deciding whether to purchase this game. I loved finishing the original Contra and SuperC, and titles like Ninja Gaiden on the NES, and difficult Genesis games like Revenge of Shinobi and Ghouls 'N Ghosts. But that was over 12 years ago, I just don't know if I have the same drive I had back in my college days [​IMG]. I was happy that I could finish Jak & Daxter, but I never heard anyone say that it was a difficult game either. I may end up getting C:SS with the current TRU 3for2 offer though.
    I assume this game allow you to save your progress between levels? Back in the old days, I had to play a marathon all day gaming session to finish those games.
     
  4. Calvin Watts III

    Calvin Watts III Supporting Actor

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    Romier, excellent review!!
    I'll be sure to buy this...
    When it's dropped in price.
    This way I won't feel so bad after I break the disc in my gaming frustrations [​IMG]
     
  5. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  6. GlenHaag

    GlenHaag Supporting Actor

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    I had a chance to try this out the other day at a friends house and was enjoying it quite a bit, until I got to the point where I needed to use a continue.
    Continue from Beginning, and continue from middle were the only options.
    When did they decide to get away from the "continue from where you are way of gaming?"
    Just a minor gripe. [​IMG]
    Glen
     
  7. Dean Cooper

    Dean Cooper Supporting Actor

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    It will be very interesting to see if this game takes off. I’m sure that many of us “old school” gamers will embrace this style of game and enjoy the hell out of it. I hope its very successful and encourages developers to have another look at how 2D can still be fresh and the similar enough to the good old days to strike that cord with todays target market.

    Dean
     
  8. JoshF

    JoshF Supporting Actor

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    I ordered this game for some old-school fun. Should be here in a week or so. My girlfriend is especially into the series.

    I'll add my impressions once I play.
     
  9. Tim Schwalk

    Tim Schwalk Extra

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    I agree -- this game is great ! I didn't realize just how much I missed the old 2d side scrollers. I really hope this game doesn't bomb, cuz I would love to see more like it. Be warned, it is very very hard, but oh so much FUN !
     
  10. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Outstanding review! [​IMG]
    BRING IT ON! The original Contra and Super C are like old friend's to me! I know the original back to front and have rolled the game over at least 10 times in a row (can't really remember) back in the day.
    I'm going to pick up 'C:SS' next week and am really looking forward to balls out mayhem and destruction! [​IMG] Glad to see that they brought back my old pal Mad dog too. I played it over a friends house a few times and it was just like slipping on an old familliar hat. [​IMG]
     
  11. JasonK

    JasonK Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review, Romier. I picked this up a few days ago and have not had a chance to play it. I will post my thoughts when I do though. I look forward to crying for 6 hours or so while I'm stuck on a level.

    The big question I have, is "The Code" in the game at all?
     
  12. John Bryant

    John Bryant Second Unit

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  13. Duane Robinson

    Duane Robinson Second Unit

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    Not too sure about getting this game but I just wanted to say that was one of the best and most complete reviews for a game I've ever read. Kinda wish GS and IGN who get paid for their stuff actually put out this kinda quality. You not only told how you felt about the game but also how certain people would feel about it and who would enjoy it. Not to mention the whole HT angle which most reviewers seem to neglect for the most part since most gamers are still playing with composite cables and all that. Hope you do more of these.
     
  14. Najib_H

    Najib_H Stunt Coordinator

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    I have been playing this game for days now and every day i get better and better at it(with the help of two players). But last night I was up till 3 in the morning try to beat it. Damn this si so hard. What sucks if you die during the last boss fights you have to start form the first boss again and he is not easy at all. Konami must have been smoking something to make this so hard.
    But as my friend said, thats what Contra is about. Dying and doing it again.
    Nice review. Its about time a decent review is up about this game
    Najib
    www.roninonline.com
     
  15. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Thank you very much for the kind words guys. I love writing these reviews and I have more coming (if I ever find the time). I really appreciate your comments.
     
  16. felix_suwarno

    felix_suwarno Screenwriter

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    i like the look of this game. i have downloaded any video clips that i could find. but...not gonna buy it. too many games, and i still remember the nightmare because of playing contra3 on snes for hours everyday...

    i hate hard games. they make me feel like a loser.
     
  17. JoshF

    JoshF Supporting Actor

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  18. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    ARRRRRRRGH!

    Sound coming from bedroom after playing CONTRA: Shattered Soldier for an hour.
     
  19. Jean-Michel

    Jean-Michel Supporting Actor

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    What's strange about this game is that it's hard as hell at first but gets a lot easier the more you play it. The previous Contra games were always hard (I've played through Hard Corps something like fifty times and it's still a bitch) but after spending a good amount of time with this I can get through the first level in less than ten minutes and the second in just slightly more. Not sure what's changed but something definitely has. Also rumor has it that there's a hidden sixth level you can unlock by beating the entire game without losing a single life, and although I'm suspicious of the sixth level thing I really think it might be possible to beat this on only one man. If I said that in regard to one of the earlier games in the series they'd lock me up.
     
  20. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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