Konami's Contra series has been the go-to franchise for run 'n' gun chaos for decades so get ready to take on the Red Falcon yet again.
Contra Anniversary Collection contains 7 iconic games from the series. Although it's advertised as having 10 games, 3 of the titles are merely region variations. Anyway, to start off, you get the fantastic original arcade games in the form of Contra and Super Contra. These classics are super-tight and hold up beautifully, especially if you have a friend to play cooperatively with. The same could be said for the NES ports Contra and Super C. You also get the Japanese Famicom version of Contra which has some very minor differences. Next, Operation C is a Game Boy title that's quite enjoyable as it stays true to the familiar gameplay without making many compromises.
Finally, we have the 2 big 16-bit games in the form of Contra III: The Alien Wars for SNES and Contra Hard Corps for Genesis. Each one of these games also comes with its European counterpart in Super Probotector: Alien Rebels and Probotector, respectively. The main difference between these versions is that you play as robots in the European games but why would you want to do that when you can play as Jimbo, Sully, Ray, Sheena, Fang, and Browny? Either way, these 2 games are the highlights of this package with Contra Hard Corps being my favourite game in the whole series. Their action-packed campaigns are quite possibly the best in the entire genre.
After all is said and done, I'm mildly disappointed that Konami didn't include more games because let's face it; most of the selection here is far too similar so it would have been great to have more variety. For starters, even though Contra Force is far from the best that the series has to offer, I would have liked to play it nonetheless. Also, the PS1 sequels Contra: Legacy of War and C The Contra Adventure would have made excellent additions to the collection. Heck, the fact that Contra 4 doesn't even make an appearance is puzzling.
If you want a break from running and gunning then there's a cool Bonus Book just like in the previous 2 Konami compilations. However, this one isn't as elaborate and interesting as the one in Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Even the one in Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection has better content but I digress. Here, you get information about each included game, interviews with Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra Hard Corps director Nobuya Nakazato and illustrator Tom duBois, and some additional info and design sketches.
As I prepared for my Contra Anniversary Collection review by playing each game, I didn't notice any emulation issues which is impressive. That being said, I was far more familiar with the games in the previous compilations so I could easily pick out any discrepancies. Either way, I am delighted that I didn't come across any stand-out issues here. However, one major problem is that you can't remap the controls so you have to force yourself to adapt to the unintuitive button layout that you're stuck with, unfortunately.
Contra Anniversary Collection may not be the definitive collection of Konami's retro run 'n' gun franchise but what's here still provides top-notch action-packed co-op entertainment. Contra: Rogue Corps couldn't come out soon enough.
- + Contains 7 classic Contra games and 3 variations that hold up beautifully
- + Virtually no emulation issues
- + Bonus Book has interesting interviews
- - Could use even more games, especially considering how similar they are
- - No way to change the controls
- - Bonus Book needs more content