Contra Anniversary Collection Review

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The run ‘n’ gun genre has fallen by the wayside in recent years. But at least you can experience some of its highlights via the Contra Anniversary Collection.

Bundling up a load of classic Contra games released between 1987 and 1994 into one package alongside a bonus book crammed with information that fans of the series will fawn over, Contra Anniversary Collection is yet another attractive retro compilation from Konami. Although its in-game menu might suggest that it contains 10 games, it actually only contains seven – or five if you’re going to be really pedantic.

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The arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra are standout titles, along with Contra III: The Alien Wars for the SNES, Operation C for GameBoy, and Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis. Also included are the NES and Famicom versions of Contra, which are different enough from the arcade version to be entertaining but are pretty much exactly the same as each other aside from some visual alterations; Super C which is a NES port of Super Contra that has so many differences that it can be considered a separate game; and a duo of Probotector games. Released only in Europe, Super Probotector for the SNES is Contra III: The Alien Wars with all human characters turned into robots, while Probotector for the Mega Drive is – surprise, surprise – Contra: Hard Corps with all of its human characters turned into robots.

Every single game in the Contra Anniversary Collection is fun to play even now, though they’re all challenging. When launching the arcade version of Contra and Super Contra, you do get the option to choose a difficulty, and can also give yourself as many credits as you like. Unfortunately the same can’t be done with the NES, Famicom, and GameBoy Contra games included in the collection. The SNES and Mega Drive/Genesis Contra games, however, do have difficulty settings available in-game. Like in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, you can also make use of save states to aid your progress.

Feature-wise, the Contra Anniversary Collection is exactly the same as Castlevania Anniversary Collection really, which is no surprise given that they’ve both been handled by M2. Emulation is excellent, a variety of display options are available, and replays can be saved to show off your prowess. But like in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, the option to rebind the controls is missing. Still, it’s not a major issue, just a bit of an annoyance.

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Due to the quality of the games that are on offer, it’s hard to truly find fault with Contra Anniversary Collection. Its games have stood the test of time even better than those found in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Moving through them from the oldest to the newest, they just get crazier and more varied. Vertical scrolling sections are added which present new challenges, you gain the ability to climb walls and hang from ledges, and weapons can be kept in reserve to give you more offensive options. Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps still offer some of the best run ‘n’ gun action available. They don’t look too bad either. It would have been nice to have had some of the newer releases, such as Contra: Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra, both released for the PS2, but I guess they might be being saved for another collection to be released in the future. I hope so, anyway.

So, for fans on the Contra series or the run ‘n’ gun genre, Contra Anniversary Collection is a must-have. A lot of its games might feel overly similar to one another, but for its budget price you’d have to be a bit of a scrooge to hold it against it. Contra Anniversary Collection is action-packed, and each and every one of the distinct games included are massive amounts of fun to play. I just hope it’ll start a run ‘n’ gun revolution, because playing these titles again has reminded me how good the genre can be.

Contra Anniversary Collection is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. We reviewed the PS4 version.