Boomer alert! Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A is in full effect. It’s been over 30 years since Konami released the first Contra game. Originally debuting in 1987 as a coin-operated arcade game Contra soon made its way to the first Nintendo Entertainment System amongst other systems throughout the years. In the original 2 commandos shared one screen in a nonstop run and gun side-scrolling shoot’em up alien killing frenzy. A pseudo-3D perspective allowed players to feel like they were in a 3D environment by forcing movement towards the background of the stage. Konami now aims to capture the flavor of the original release with some modern upgrades in Contra Returns which is free to download with in-app purchases.
Before we go into the gameplay itself let’s talk about the price of free. Konami and Tencent have made the game free to download but is it a pay to win? Contra Returns UI bears a striking resemblance to most other Tencent mobile games. You will also notice similar menu options like the shop and of course a slew of mini-games that have a chance to yield you in-game rewards. While this may give you the impression of a pay-to-win, I do not think it’s as drastic as it seems. Diamonds are the in-game currency used to make microtransactions. Firepower is the system that measures your progress and level. In PVE each stage has a recommended Firepower level that determines its difficulty. In PVE you can play at your own pace, you can earn diamonds by the various farming systems available and grind your way through. I really don’t see a significant reason to buy Diamonds in PVE unless you are just stuck on something and need Firepower on demand. In PVP yes you can pay to boost your Firepower and become much stronger than people. But I do think the gap between raw skill and high Firepower is a small one and even lower Firepower players could kill those pay to win accounts.
Is this the same Contra we knew and loved back in the day? The short answer is… no. Why would we want to play such a primitive game like that nowadays anyway? Obviously, the graphics are better, the story element has been upgraded with voiceovers and cinematics, and of course, we now have online PVP! Contra returns is everything but content starved, and you can’t buy your way through the initial progression system. The progression does put a bit of a dampening on your fun by locking everything behind a level gate system. In order to play these new modern modes like boss battles, daily challenges, online co-op, or PVP you will need to grind them unlocked. Be prepared to put some hours in before you get everything opened up. You can purchase Diamonds to upgrade your Firepower and plow through levels faster, but you will still need to beat the levels to unlock modes. Contra Returns content is fun and engaging any true gamer or Contra fan will not have any trouble through the initial grind. Even with all the modern additions, I believe Konami and Tencent did do a great job of preserving the original gameplay. Combat is fun and you will get a chance to see some throwback bosses from the original games. My only dislikes as far as gameplay goes is that they kept the weapon cooldown system from Rogue Corps and the stages are way too short.
As I would expect from companies like Konami, TIMI, and Tencent the game is a quality developed. We were able to play on a Google Pixel 3 XL which is a few years old without any technical issues or slowdowns. The controls felt pretty solid and easy to use for the most part but swapping weapons did feel a bit wonky. The movement joystick on the left can sit in a fixed position or follow our thumb around. On the right side, you will find the fire button and 2 special skill buttons. Weapon swapping by default is placed in the top right corner of the screen but can be moved in the settings. A solid production with a legit sound kit, quality voiceovers, and crisp cinematics. The gameplay is super addicting, I found myself sinking into my phone at restaurants and other public places. In my experience with Contra Returns, I was not given an in-game currency, boosts, or any type of enhancements by the developers.