[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/contraadvance/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Contra Advance is a throwback to the 2d Contra games that appeared on NES, SNES, and Genesis in the early 90s. The original NES game paved the way for probably the most famous cheat code in gaming history that has even had [url=http://www.gameskins.com/item–Infinite-Tee–gssh010]t-shirts[/url] with its button combinations emblazoned upon them. Contra Advance is a remake of Contra III which appeared on the SNES way back in 1992.
It has been nearly a decade since I remember playing Contra last and I had a very difficult time getting back into the rhythm of things with Contra Advance. In recent years I have been spoiled by platform games with unlimited lives that restart you merely a few minutes away from where you last died. Contra Advance gives you no such luxury. Armed with the customary “1 weapon at a time” philosophy of the anti Red Falcon operatives I set out to battle aliens through 6 difficult stages and overcome the enemy threat. Had this been a real military exercise I probably would have failed.
The control setup on Contra Advance is exactly as you will remember it: Jump and Shoot. No more, no less. Since you can only carry 1 gun at a time there is no need to switch weapons. Contra Advance really subscribes to the “less is more philosophy” in this remake title. This is a change from the original Contra III where you could carry more than 1 gun and swap them. You will also notice an absence of the aura bomb. The lack of 4 buttons on the GBA makes this a necessary change as those shoulder buttons are not always easy to hit during intense action.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/contraadvance/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]I have a tendency to rush through platform games and die on very simple parts time and time again because I remember doing that with Mario games back on my NES. Once again I attempted to breeze through this game only to have a pretty difficult time getting past even the first level. There are only 6 stages so the game would be very short had I been able to breeze through each level, but it wasn’t. The first level whipped my butt and taught me a new respect for patience in gaming. After some practice I honed my skills and laid the smack down on some aliens.
The experience was just as I had remembered it and having 5 or 6 lives sure wasn’t as appealing as having 30, even though you do get a plethora of continues. As I played through each level meticulously trying to find just the right pattern for each boss and just the right timing for each jump I became very nostalgic about the whole thing. My frustrations began to mount and I would take a break so as to not damage my precious new Classic GBA. After completing each level I would write down the code so I could pick up right where I left off. I had a hard enough time beating each level so there was no reason for me to have to play them again.
The level codes were incredibly tedious and annoying. You complete a level only to find out that you are expected to type in a 20+ alphanumeric code to restart there at a later date. This got on my nerves and really cut back on the number of times that I wanted to play after I had beating any of the levels. Forget remembering the code, I hope you enjoy playing the first level.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/contraadvance/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Most of the time I played with the music off, but a few times I cranked it up and really basked in the 1990s midi soundtrack that accompanied the game. It isn’t something I would recommend doing on a regular basis; your ears will thank me.
Overall, Contra Advance was a mighty frustrating experience. At only 6 levels it is mighty short, but those levels could possibly take a while to complete, especially if you lack the patience to recognize patterns (*cough*ME*cough*). Contra Advance is a decent 2d shooter that seems way too short for the price. Nostalgic Contra III fans may find the port a little disappointing considering some pretty massive changes were made, but it’s a fun game to toss in for a few levels. It even supports the GBA link cable for some co-op action. I don’t know that I would recommend this as a purchase given its length, but if you are looking for a challenging on-the-go shooter to play with a friend, Contra Advance may be just what you are looking for. If not, you can probably just look the other way.