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March 18, 2003
Contra: Shattered Soldier - Review
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Classic Contra moment...
Contra: Shattered Soldier is one of those games that will have older gamers drooling in anticipation, while younger gamers will be wondering what all the excitement is about. The original game on Super Nintendo is still regarded as one of the highlights of the 16-bit console era and is still one of the most loved and cherished titles. The 2002 E3 show saw Konami announce another game in the series was in development, but rather then try to move to a 3D world Konami have retained the 2D gameplay and beefed up the graphics, and difficulty. Is this classic game design from over a decade ago still relevant in today's game world? Read on to find out.

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This boss looks familiar.
The biggest change to this game from previous versions is the removal of the power-up's. The Super Nintendo game included your standard machine gun, homing missiles, laser gun, spread shots and powerful bullets as well as the all-powerful bombs. This game only offers three weapons machine gun, flamethrower, and grenade launcher each of which also has a secondary fire mode. Unfortunately the all-powerful bomb doesn't make a return to this game. While this may sound like a downgrade the developers have made the selection of weapon, particularly against the bosses, much more crucial. Some bosses suffer more at the hands of one weapon compared to the others. This adds an element of strategy to the title.

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The cut scenes are average.
One of the most interesting things about this game is the insane difficulty. Well, not really insane, but extremely difficult - something which gamers as looking for more and more these days. The game includes 3 difficulty levels, Easy, Medium and Hard (which is unlocked after playing the game) but rather then change the number of enemies or their tolerance to your weapons the developers have opted to change the number of available continues. Konami have also included a training mode (which basically gives you a tonne of lives) to help you get to grips with the enemies and level layouts before you tackle the game proper.

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One of the mechanical bosses.
The real disappointment in this title actually lies in the familiarity of so many enemies. Rather then design new bosses many are re-used from the Super Nintendo title. That's not to say they're bad. On the most part they are stunning, but it does smack of a lack of imagination going into this title. Many people will also be turned off by the difficulty mentioned above and in that respect Konami could have possibly structured the game a little better.

Graphics really are Contra: Shattered Soldier's strongest point. Although devised of polygon models this really is a 2D side scroller, much like the original, and most other 16-bit titles. In a world where everything almost needs to be in 3D to get shelf space, and more importantly, sales, then this title appears rather fresh and exciting. Obviously with almost a decade passing this game looks substantially better then the SNES title. The characters are all well animated and the bosses will still have your jaws dropping. While the in-game graphics are exciting the same can't be said of the cut scenes which seem sterile and dull at times. With games such as Silent Hill 3 showing such realism I would have expected better from Konami. Thankfully they have included a 60Hz mode to keep the action fast and frantic.

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My, what a big gun.
Sound-wise Konami have retained many of the key elements and themes from past titles in the series. The action is backed by a thumping electronic/rock styled soundtrack and while the game only includes Stereo sound it will have your room rocking. The effects such as explosions are suitably meaty and get your heart racing.

Older gamers who played earlier Contra titles dating back to 1987 should love this title. Yes, it's rock hard. But this game is a great reminder that you used to have to work hard to complete a game - and you felt such a sense of accomplishment when you completed that final level while rapidly running out of lives. There are no handouts here, and that's a nice change from so many other titles.

GRAPHICSStill predominantly side scrolling, but nice 3D visuals and spot effects.
SOUNDA rock music track, some nice explosions and gunfire. Overall: Neat.
GAMEPLAYVery damn tough - be warned, but fans of the series will enjoy this.
VALUEThe game isn't overly long, but is made long by constant restarts.
OVERALLContra: Shattered Soldier is a great trip back down memory lane for hardcore gamers and fans of the Super Nintendo game. The biggest problem is that the game is more a test of memory about enemy locations rather then skilled pattern or puzzle solving. It's also pretty damn tough. It only took me about 120 seconds to lose all my lives on the first attempt.

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