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Contra Force: The Forgotten Contra!
by: Dr. Boogie

When Contra came to the NES, it was huge. It was so huge that newspapers were forbidden from mentioning it at all because mere words would not be able to convey the magnitude of its hugeness. Suffice to say, a sequel had to be made. Thus, Super C came and made everyone's day. Still, the bigwigs at Konami knew there must be more that they could squeeze out of this title. And so, they decided to do what Nintendo did with Super Mario Bros. 2, and slap the "Contra" name on an unrelated game. Thus was born Contra Force.

Use the Contra Force!

Like the third Halloween movie, the third Contra game had nothing to do with anything. Rather than controlling shirtless commandos, Bill and Lance, you and a friend are in command of the Blue Group (not the Blue Man Group, mind you), a counterterrorist group fighting some sort of mundane, earth-based terrorist organization, as opposed to the high-tech alien terrorist group, Red Falcon. In other words, there was pretty much nothing to connect this with the rest of the Contra series, apart from dying after a single hit and tucking yourself in a ball when you jumped.

Iron the Red-Nosed Agent.

Also different from the other Contra games is that you control a squad of four men: Burns, Smith, Iron, and Beans. You choose from one of the four in the beginning, and then you can switch to any of the other three during the course of the game. Each one has access to two specialty weapons, such as a machine gun that can only fire two bullets at once, homing missiles with a ten-foot turning radius, and time bombs (which work great in a game where you're constantly running toward the enemy). Here's the kicker: in addition to being able to switch to any of these colorful characters, you can also order one of them to assist you during the game.

Shoot him with your tomato gun!

Just give the order and one of your compatriots will jump in and start shooting at anything that moves. For five seconds. After the five seconds have passed, you're on your own again, for as long as it takes you to pause the game and bring your buddy back out. Seems kind of pointless to me, since your partner is invincible when you do this, and you can do an unlimited number of times, so it's a little tedious pausing the game every five seconds to request a little backup.

Shouldn't have used that semtex-based paint.

The biggest advantage the game has over the original (and let's fact it, the REAL) Contra games is the destructible environment. Sure, you could blast things like turrets and such in the previous games, but the environments in Contra Force are just littered with blastable stuff like oil barrels and fancy electronics, along with things that explode, seemingly for no reason at all. Wooden crates, metals walls, the corners of stuff, you'll be surprised at what those nasty terrorists have packed with explosives.

They really shouldn't cram these things into the ceiling.

Speaking of which, instead of getting weapons from floating pods, you'll find briefcases that pop out of all that environmental stuff that explodes for one reason or another. The briefcases themselves aren't weapons (briefcase guns are only effective against office worker aliens/terrorists), rather they allow you to unlock weapons and power-ups by filling a power-up meter a la Gradius. Unfortunately, this means you'll have to wait a fair amount of time before you can trade in the default pea-shooter weapon for something with a little more chutzpah. Unless of course, you decide to walk back to that box/wall/whatever you just blew up and blow it up over and over again until it starts giving you the briefcases you need.

Really, the best part of the game is the countless instances of Engrish. The story is pretty ill-defined, and is spotted with great lines like "how could you take a strong item like plutonium?" and at one point, one of the villains states that "time is coming to an end." Good lord, I thought, they plan on destroying time itself! These are the greatest terrorists ever!!! None of it could compare, however, to the epilogue:

All your base...

A missing head? A figure lurking behind you? "Burns destiny"? This game has it all.

The thing is, as bad as this game is, it's not the worst Contra game out there. Sure, the weapons are weak, the plot is nonsensical, and there's a glitch in the game that enables you to bypass most of the enemies in the game by jumping in midair, but even with all that in mind, you could be doing worse. It's really too bad that the bad guys had to be ordinary terrorists, as it meant that cool, scary alien bosses have been replaced with boring, run-of-the-mill, gun-toting guys. Except for this guy:

Who put all those pencils up there?

He might be an alien.

Why do my pants smell bad?

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play Contra Force! ***


Note: to play this game you'll need a NES emulator.

Want to see some more video game related content?
Then check out Dr. Boogie's feature on:

Silver Surfer: The NES Game!
Silver Surfer: The NES Game!

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