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January 24, 2004
Neo Contra - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price

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The isometric viewpoint.
Woo Hoo! Contra is coming back to the PS2. The previous game on the system, Contra: Shattered Soldier, was a great game for old school gamers, but not the casual gamer. The game was rock hard, with many levels taking direct inspiration from the Super Nintendo title, Contra 3: The Alien Wars. Neo Contra is quite a different game with many options and enhancements that were very much lacking in the previous title.

As a series Contra has been around for almost two decades now. First released in 1986 (and renamed Gryzor in Europe) the game has gone through several generations peaking with the stunning Contra 3: The Alien Wars on Super Nintendo, but then collapsing to the pathetic Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure on PSOne (these were coded in Europe unlike other Contra titles which were coded in Japan). This second PS2 Contra title is being coded in Konami Japan looks set to rekindle the spirit of the Super Nintendo title - and in a big way.

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Nice exlposion.
Once again Contra's hero Bill Rizer returns, as well as a new character named Genbei Jaguar - a Samurai who has his own unique style. The story, which still remains unknown, will be told through CG sequences littered throughout the game. The development team has even enlisted the assistance of people who worked on the stories in the Silent Hill and Castlevania games. While the main character remains the same, the gameplay will not. The series is moving to a full 3D universe with much of the game now viewed from an isometric viewpoint. Likewise there are other parts (such as riding the dinosaur below) which takes place from a more 3rd person perspective. Yes, this is a cause for concern from hardcore fans of the series, but much like Konami's upcoming Castlevania: Lament of Innocence if it comes off well it could usher in an entirely new legion of fans and solidify the series' continuation well into the future.

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Riding the dinosaurs.
Nobuya Nakazato, the games producer who has been with the series since the 16-bit days, has promised a return to the glory of the SNES title, and one aspect that returns is the much needed spread gun. As well as this weapon the game includes a standard machine gun, a lock-on laser, a charge shot, a flamethrower, and a few more gems. Before entering each level you will be able to select three of the weapons to use to take out the enemies. I can only hope that the bomb which pretty much obliterates everything on screen also returns.

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Now that's a boss!
The move to 3D has forced one major change to the title - but I'm not sure why. It seems as if you will no longer be able to jump in the game, so to take out airborne enemies the developers have included a "lock-on" button to target those enemies. Another addition is the inclusion of a dinosaur which you can ride into battle. This should act in a similar manner to the motorbikes in previous games, but is an interesting addition nonetheless. The length of the levels will also be increased greatly.

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Under heavy fire.
With Neo Contra approximately 40% complete as at January 2004 there is still a fair bit of development to go prior to the American release this November. With a PAL release probably not until December at the earliest, and early 2005 more likely, gamers will be waiting for quite some time to get their hands on this title. Given the less then glowing reviews for Contra: Shattered Soldier on PS2 and the poor-ish sales it's great to see Konami backing one of it's all time great intellectual properties and taking it in a new direction.