Contra 3: The Alien Wars
Box Shot
Contra III: The Alien Wars
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Action
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Let me get this right off my chest: Contra 3 is my personal favorite of the series. The NES never had the horsepower to run the original Contra games as they were meant to be played. The adreniline, the explosions, the action...this is what the Contra games are all about! The game details the third invasion by Red Falcon, taking place in the 27th century. They've destroyed Neo City and are ravaging the entire planet! Since Mad Dog and Scorpian from the original games are now long gone, two new commandos pick up their guns and join the crusade: Jimbo and Sully. Of course, the obligatory two-player mode is back to allow for a friend to play (what would a Contra game be without two players? Not counting C: The Contra Adventure for the Playstation? That doesn't count...)

This is exactly how I would have imagined a 16-bit Contra game. The game seems familiar in level structure, bosses and obstacles but still manages to be not only different, but even better too! The first thing you'll notice right off the bat is that there is an automatic rapid fire...you no longer need to find a machine gun or buy a turbo controller to fire fast. The game itself is even more fast-paced than before. The first level is example of the brilliant designs...you get to hop into a tank, get attacked by napalm from a passing jet, and navigate the resulting rubble before reaching the end of the stage. Level 4 is an intense jet bike attack on a highway that ends with a battle in sky. To kill the boss, you need to jump from missile to missile and destroy the barrier in front of the final enemy. This is honestly one of the the most intense battles I've ever had in a video game. That's saying something. And in the final level, you must run an assault against Red Falcon again, defeating a few old bosses along the way.

In fact, the bosses are nothing short of incredible. The first boss is a gigantic, fire-breathing, mutant-turtle like thing...it has to be seen. Gigantic robot heads, multi-eyed biological saucers, spike wielding drills that refuse to die. These memorable bosses are tough but fair, and aren't placed so numerously throughout the game so that the side-scrolling elements are diminished (like its Genesis sequel, Contra: Hard Corps).

The weapons are similar but are also somewhat redone...you'll recognize the spread gun, laser and the homing missiles (from Operation C) but the flamethrower is now completely different. It's a short range weapon that blows flames around in any direction. Also new is the Charge weapon (make explosions) and missiles that you can pick up, store and use when necessary, killing everything on the screen. You can also have two weapons at once and can switch between them. Additionally, by holding down either L or R, you can plant your commando in place and make aiming easier. Futhermore, hold down both top buttons and fire...you'll do a somersault in the air firing in all directions. Very cool!

The only disappointment happens to be that the game is only six levels long. Levels one, three and four and six are your typical side-scrolling run n' shoot levels. Levels two and five are in overhead screens, but they're a bit different from Super C. See, the object is to track down various monster generators in a given level and destroy them. The control method here is a bit different. Your character always faces forward, and you use the L and R keys to rotate the screen. It's dizzying, but I like the effect. These levels aren't too hard and are usually over pretty quickly...though you can only get the "true" ending of the game by playing on the Hardest difficult mode. Damn those programmers at Konami of America....they even took out all of the cheat codes from the Japanese version!

The visuals continue to overwhelm me, with the crisp visuals and smooth animation. The sound effects are a bit on the disappointing side, as the explosions don't sound as powerful as I'd imagine them too. On the plus side, the music is wonderful...dark and foreboding, with plenty of metallic sounds, yet still powerful, it provides the ultimate mood to go along with the pace of Contra 3.

Overall, this is not only a boffo game, but it's tons of fun too! Contra III is one of those games you can pop in your SNES and just play for the fun of it. The difficulty levels also vary enough to make it playable for any player. One of the best SNES games out there and, again, the best of the Contra series!