Nintendo Nerds
Nintendo Nerds

Contra for the NES

by Aaron Dennis 2 years ago in nintendo / vintage

A Retro Review

Contra for the NES

Gryzor! What the what?!

Contra on the NES has always been one of my favorite games. I think most people will also agree that it’s at least a very fun game. You run around, you hop around, you shoot shit, and shit blows up; it’s great, but did you know that before Contra, there was Gryzor?

Actually, Contra is the American version of Gryzor. An altered release of a game is nothing new today, and even in the golden age of gaming—yes, I think the NES days were the golden age of gaming—Japan was known to tweak their games before releasing them to the west.

One of the most often employed tweaks is toning down the difficulty of a game. Japanese programmers seem to have always believed that westerners don’t enjoy quite so brutal a challenge, so they normally made a game easier before adapting it for U.S. release, but is that all that changed between Gryzor and Contra?


Gryzor had a whole freaking story line and cut scenes!

The Red Falcon, the alien faction that’s trying to take over in the year 2633, has set up base near New Zealand. Two Marines, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, team up and become the Gryzor; they are masters of guerrilla warfare.

Now, I know the manual for Contra contains a lot of the same information, but it’s strange to play a game your whole life, come across a different version of it, and then find out that a great deal of the game has been cut or altered.

I mean, it’s cool to beat a stage, and then see Bill Rizer bust out the phone and make a comment to, well, whomever it is he’s reporting. It’s cool to get a cut scene where meteors, or something brown that could be meteors, is hurtling towards earth. It’s cool to see what the game was in its original form, and I’ll never understand why Japanese programmers cut these kinds of details from so many games.

Sometimes, they change stage layouts, names, music, or colors. I don’t get it, but in the end, I’m just glad I got to play a ton of cool games when I was a kid.

To my knowledge, there weren’t any American video game companies competing with the NES back then, and there weren’t any American programmers creating quality games for the NES; no, butchered, unlicensed games don’t count, and Ultra was just a shell subsidiary of Konami, so I don’t know if that even counts as an American videogame company; I'm not counting it....

Enough jibber-jabber; Contra is a great game. It’s a run and gun platformer where you and a friend can mow down enemies while picking up power ups like the machine gun, the spread shot, and the laser cannon. It’s kind of hard, too; you die in one hit, which always makes me laugh.

Think about it; you play as a heroic Marine, and you run around blasting aliens with rifles, but if an enemy so much as bumps into you, you die; I mean, c’mon.

The Good: Great game play, super responsive controls, fun music, and visually stimulating. All the stages look radically different, and you even get a few stages that are a sort of third person perspective; you’re looking at your Marine’s backside and trying to dodge oncoming enemy fire while blowing up walls and doors in order to reach what I think is some kind of super computer.

The Bad: Honestly… there is no downside to Contra. I love everything about Contra.

Contra is one of very few games that I simply can’t find anything warranting a complaint. Yes, it’s kind of hard, but you get continues, you get extra lives, and if you score high enough, you get even more lives.

It’s perfect for a run and gun platformer. My score has to be an A+.

Thanks for reading. Share this retro review with your friends, and then go play some mother-crunching Contra with your boys!

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Aaron Dennis

Creator of the Lokians SciFi series, The Adventures of Larson and Garrett, The Dragon of Time series, and more.

See all posts by Aaron Dennis