To many a child of the 80s, Contra is considered one of the most
cherished video games of all time. And so after Matt (aka Agent
Guilty By Association was introduced to the game last spring,
I came up with the idea to team up with him to take an in-depth
look at this cult classic, & ripping it apart by the seams.
Here is the game's highly detailed version of the plot:
A.D. 2631: The story begins when New Zealand reports
that a meteor crashed into the nearby ocean.
Two Years Later: Red Falcon begins the destruction of
Two of earth's marines, Bill & Lance, become the Contra.
Their mission: Stop the world's destruction.
Earth go boom.
if I were the Marines, I totally wouldn't believe the New Zealand
people because they lie. Really, they do. I mean, they basically
said, "Bah, it's just a meteor, gov'nah. Take a load off, have
a Foster's. I'll go put another shrimp on the barbee!" They should've
known better. For starters, an alien with a sissy Earth name like
Red Falcon must be pretty bitter about it after a tortured childhood.
And the government acted all surprised when they found out that
he was bent on conquering our planet. I mean, come on... it's
like naming your kid Prudence. Naming your kid Prudence is like
saying "Hello! I want my child to be an ugly little nerd for the
rest of her life!" Silly parents. They should've named her a hot
girl's name, like Samus.
the other hand, if all it takes to stop this big, scary alien
is 2 Australian guys with guns & no shirts on, I don't see
where the big threat of destroying humanity comes in. Things must
work differently in the 27th century than they do now. In the
20th century, the Contra was a counterrevolutionary force in Nicaragua,
made up of thousands of members. Humans must've toughened up quite
a bit by the time Red Falcon shows up, because this Contra is
just made up of a pair of Chippendale's dancers.
The moral of the story is, if an alien ever tries to attack you,
just show it your nipples & fire a pistol at him. That should
make him back off, but in case it doesn't, here's our extended
guide to how to beat the living daylights out of it, in 8 easy
(and I use that term loosely) steps.
Level 1: Jungle
The action begins on the alien infested shores of 26th Century
New Zealand. Your mission: shoot everything in sight. Your assets:
a plasma gun, a pair of those camouflage pajama pants with the
feet on them, & 3 lives. Yeah, I know, there's a code that
gets you 30. Everybody knows that code. Up, up, down, down,
left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. Guess what. I don't
need your sissy code to beat this game. And let me tell you, that's
all I had to do to impress my friends back in the day. Nowadays,
if I really wanted to impress my friends, I'd need a nice car,
a well-paying job that I enjoy, & a beautiful girl that'll
actually stick around for more than 4 weeks. Back then, if you
could beat Contra without the code, you could pretty much start
your own religion.
Weaponry was what set Contra apart from other games of its kind.
There were 7 different power-ups that could change your objective
from "shoot everything in sight" to "get the laser before player
2 does" once that glowing football thing flew overhead.
R is for Rapid Fire
This power-up was supposed to make your shots travel faster. So
instead of your bullets going 50 miles an hour, they go 60 miles
an hour. This wasn't a very big improvement, not even from the
everyday plasma gun you started with. And yes, plasma guns are
an everyday household item in the future. This is mostly due to
the fact that the bullets travel a whole lot more slowly.
M is for Machine Gun
This was a real power-up. The bullets didn't travel any faster
or cause any more damage to the backpacking football players &
their robot friends, but it did leave your thumb a lot less sore
since you could just hold the button in & have automatic rapid
fire right there.
What's the first thing everyone always remembers about Contra?
The 30 lives code? Oh, shut up. Ok, fine. What's the SECOND thing
everyone always remembers about Contra? The exploding bridge,
of course! Remember the first time you jumped over it & landed
safely on the other side? You were the hero of the block, weren't
you? Yes you were!
F is for... oh, crap
This weapon sucks, & frankly I'm embarrassed to share a name
with it. The fireballs travel in spirals that you can literally
outrun. Anything that gets hit by this thing deserves to die.
L is for "Laser"
Invented by Dr. Evil in the 1960's, the "Laser" was 4 times as
powerful as a normal gun. To most, the "Laser" was the ultimate
weapon in the game. Kids would get into fights over who deserved
to wield the almighty "Laser" during a 2-player game, & the
fight would last until the guy who got it got hit because he was
too busy yelling & then reset the game due to a "lack of fairness"
by the Nintendo.
S is for Spread Gun
Now this was what I considered to be the ultimate weapon in the
game. In fact, this was what I considered the ultimate weapon
in ANY game. I wanted one for Christmas one year, but I wasn't
too upset when Santa gave me the Ninja Turtles game instead. The
feeling I got whenever I saw that letter S was as close to the
feeling I get nowadays when I see a cute girl as I could get at
When we got to this here boss, I figured I'd show you a little
something else that Contra introduced to the video game universe...
stealing lives. This was the first game to allow players who lost
all their lives to steal a life from the other player so they
could stay in the game. This also resulted in reset games, black
eyes, & a week without speaking to each other.
Level 2: Base 1
This level boasted 3-D graphics, but the thing is, you could only
see 2 dimensions at a time. Still, in 1988, this was pretty impressive.
This was the coolest thing ever seen in a video game. "Whoa! The
guy's running... forward! You know, like... up, & stuff!"
Your mission in this level was to infiltrate the base by shooting
glowing targets on the far wall. You can't see them very well
in this screenshot, because there's a group of pesky, red-headed
gymnasts with guns in the way. They'd hop around the room &
shoot at you. Also shooting at you were fake wall target gun thingies
that looked like Flat-Top from Dick Tracy had a love child with
a Snifit from Mario 2.
Sometimes the evil gymnasts in green leotards would throw exploding
corn dogs at you. And then there'd be rooms where deadly Arkanoid
paddles would come out of the floor & try to trip you. Aliens
are really screwed up in the head.
The last wall had a HOLY GIANT MUTANT TARGET, BATMAN! Watch as
I demonstrate the danger of the electric barrier that the big
target is controlling."
There would be a hopping evil gymnast in red leotards in some
of the rooms that would toss you a power-up when you shot it.
Let's see what this one gives me... oh crap!
This is the 2nd level boss. It's a computer with some guns &
blinking red dots. All you really have to do here is shoot the
red dots & avoid being shot at.
E is for Eye Drop Gun
After you got rid of the guns & red dots, the computer would
wake up & expose its itchy, watery eyeball. Then he'd get
really upset & cry on you. Keep in mind that we're not dealing
with regular crying here... these are giant circular acid bubble
alien tears! The easiest way to beat him was to find the secret
Eye Drop Gun. You got it from the jumping Ben Stein in red tights
earlier in the level.
Then instead of trying to kill you, the computer would let out
a monotone "wow" of relief & offer you a ride to the next
level on its magical forklift.
Level 3: Waterfall
This level was unique in that it was vertical. You climbed up
the waterfall (pronounced "wood-er-fawl" with my South Jersey
pseudo-Philly accent) to reach the enemy base at the top.
See the guy hiding in the water shooting explosives? I hate that
guy. Why? Well, I don't know...
He never really caused me a lot of trouble. But
for some reason, I really hated him & got a really satisfying
feeling of accomplishment whenever I shot him.
B is for Force Field
That is seriously what the instruction manual said. It was really
for Barrier, but as everybody knows, third-party video
game companies has a habit of hiring idiots to write their instruction
manuals. This power-up made you invincible for a while. Anything
you touched that could explode did just that. The only thing that
bugged me was that it was hard to tell when it stopped, because
the music didn't change or anything, so you had to watch carefully.
I used to have this incurable reflex where every time I was about
to fall into a pit, I'd pause the game. This was immediately followed
by a military funeral fanfare, hummed by any of my friends that
happened to be there watching.
The entrance to the next base came alive & started breathing
fire from its mouth & flailing... stubs. Kind of reminds
me of when my kindergarten teacher got pissed off at me for saying
"the A-word" in class one day. Except she only had one stub.
Oh yeah, & she didn't turn into an enemy base when you shot
her in the mouth. Believe me. I've tried.
Level 4: Base 2
I remember my first time getting to 2nd base. It was a beautiful
night. The stars were out. Everything was perfect. Hey, I see
you guys have redecorated. Smashing job!
In this base, several of the targets had special shields over
them that you had to break in order to get a good shot at the
target behind them. That was the only new thing in this level,
so we're just going to skip right to the boss.
This computer had midgets in football uniforms & big guns
that would run from behind it & shoot you.
Then another group of midgets would come out in Batman outfits
& try to jump on your head. These guys rule. They're my favorite
enemies in the entire game. Yeah, for some reason, I really liked
shooting them more than anyone else in the game. Even that jerk
sitting in the water. I hate that guy.
Now, there's been some controversy over what exactly these things
were. Some say they're Nazi generals in gas masks. Others say
they're Alf twins with marine hats. I always thought they looked
like Transformers with magic bubble wands. Yeah, they blew bubbles
at you. Toxic alien spit bubbles. They really hurt. Honest.
T is for Transformers Movie Gun
Here's a rare trick that not many people know about. If you can
find the red ballet fairy in the base that gives you the secret
Transformers Movie gun, you can beat these guys in a snap. All
you had to do was shoot it into the hidden VCR in the middle of
the computer where a glowing red target used to be, & then
fast forward to the part where Optimus Prime dies. Everybody cries
during that scene. So while they're sobbing their eyes out, shoot
them in the face.
Silly robots. They'll never learn.
Level 5: Snow Field
Ok, now I'm really worried about the future of this planet. It's
not so much the alien invasion anymore. Now it's the plant life
that scares me. Not only are all evergreens completely bare from
the waist down, but they also throw exploding track & field
batons at you. Maybe the tree huggers know something we don't...
like that trees secretly hate us. So that's why they only eat
plants! They're concentrating their hunger on helping to prevent
our predetermined doom!
Useless Trick #1:
Every game has a little trick that looks cool, but is completely
useless. Contra's useless trick was this one rock. There are a
lot of blue rocks in the background scenery in Level 5, but this
one was the only one you could STAND on if you dropped down onto
it. In fact, if you moved just a tiny bit to the left, you could
hover over the treetops below. This is one of those things you
can show to people & they'll be like, "What the... I never
knew that... that's messed up!" As for its usefulness, it isn't,
really. At all.
Falcon is for Blow Stuff Up
A new power-up shows up in this level. The falcon-shaped icon
destroys everything within about a 50 yard radius of it with a
flash of blinding light. As part of their training, Contra soldiers
learn to develop an immunity to the mass-destructive falcon bomb
of doom, so as you can see, I survive unscratched. Curled up in
a ball & cowering in fear, maybe, but not harmed in the least.
CANNONBALL! Oh wait, I forgot! This is COLD water! NO!
I hate you guys.
Oh no! It's the Giant Evil Zamboni Machine of Doom! Everybody
hated this thing. Some of us have had nightmares about it. I'm
not going to mention any names... including my own. No, instead,
I shall sing you a song! Call Mr. Plow, that's my name, that name
again is Mr. Plow!
M is for Mega Man Gun
At the end of this level, a spaceship that looks remarkably like
Dr. Wily's would show up in his ship & drop smaller spaceships
on you. But if you picked up the Mega Man gun earlier on in the
level, he'll be waiting here to help you out! Oh, wait... the
M gave you a Machine gun... I forgot. My bad.
At last, we've reached Red Falcon's tool shed! Who knows what
vile things he's doing in there? Probably looking for his evil,
humanity-destroying lawnmower-mobile! That fiend!
Level 6: Energy Zone
This level was crawling with gas leakages & little football
aliens hiding behind walls farting into them to create these massive
And if you look out the window on your left, you'll see... um,
more flames. And a hard to reach power-up. Timing was essential
in this level. Real quick show of hands: how many of you have
thrown your controller after your guy apparently decided out of
his own free will to take a break from ducking right when a flame
was over his head? Stupid Contra.
When you reached the end of the level, you had to face a giant
mutant alien boy with ADD who had to wear a helmet & pads
outside. And when he decided he wanted to throw his shuffleboard
discs at you from the other side of the room, you had to jump
10 feet in the air over his little bubble head.
Ever notice how bosses in video games had a tendency to change
colors or "blink" as they took more damage? This always fascinated
me as a kid. I thought there was some kind of special pigment
that was common among the forces of evil that made their skin
change colors when exposed to pain. A small side effect that comes
with the ability to take several bullets to the head before flinching.
Level 7: Hangar
You know that game in the arcade where you take the crane &
try to grab a teddy bear or something? They're all over this level,
but instead of picking you up, they just kill you. Probably gouge
into your back or something. Tasty.
Useless Trick #2:
This level was also full of spiked walls that would rise up from
the floor. You had to shoot them until they exploded before you
could move on. But if you timed it right, you could jump on top
of some of them. Didn't do a thing, but it looked cool when you
showed your friends, plus it bought you about 5 seconds of time
you would've otherwise spent shooting them.
Screw saving the world! I'm going gold diggin'!
I know you all had to look it up as a kid, so just to refresh
hang’ ar noun, a shed for housing aircraft.
What?! Airplanes?? What kind of airplane shelter
has cranes, spiked walls, & mine carts all over it? The airplane
shelter of the future, that's what kind! Before I looked this
up, I had thought hangar meant some kind of electronic coal mine.
The boss of this level was nothing more than a blinking light
above the door. Sure, there were cannons on the floor that shot
fireworks, but if you just stood right in front of the door &
kept shooting the stupid light, you were in.
Honestly, I don't see why we couldn't just knock.
Level 8: Alien's Lair
Level 8 was dark & scary. And there was glowing scaly stuff
on the floor that blinked as if to say "Don't step on me. I will
Well... now I understand why Red Falcon's so disgruntled. If I
had a genital problem like that, I'd want to kill everybody,
If you remember from my post about Perverted
Moments in Video Games, my friends & I somehow established
that these things were boobs & the stuff they squirted out
was superintelligent powdered alien milk.
Needless to say, we thought this part was hilarious.
This is it?! All I have to do is blast Red Falcon's internal organs
until they explode & I save the world? Piece of c- ...EEEK!!!
SPIDERS!!!! Nobody said anything about spiders!!!
Since the invention of the explosion, there have been five explosions
that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left
them all behind.
And so, our hero has defeated the vile Red Falcon... or at least
given him an extremely bad case of heartburn. Now it's time to
hitch a ride home via helicopter.
As he looks back at New Zealand crumbling to its doom behind him,
our hero can't help but remember all the good times he had destroying
the evil alien race. The faint glisten of a tear shines in his
SPEECH!! Watching those credits role was, indeed, a worthwhile
experience. And when I did it for the first time without dying
(yeah, you heard me), it was like the first time. No, really.
Once again, I'd like to thank
Matt for his help & large contribution to this article.
Written by MikeFireball.