quinta-feira, 28 de agosto de 2008

Contra Retrospective

So, less than a week ago I decided to play every Contra game released to date (not every port of every game, although I did play more than 1 version of some games) and today I can proudly say that I successfully accomplished this. Yeay! So, if you're curious about this series but don't have the time/patience/interest to do the same yourself, here's a summary of what I think about every game for your information (note that after each title I only indicate the version(s) I played, not every single version made):

Contra (NES)

The original game, this is what most people remember when they think of Contra. I bet it was a great game back in the day, but unfortunately I never played it back then and nowadays I can honestly say it sucks! Yes, I said it! Hit me, Contra fanboys! Ok, seriously now, that's indeed my opinion about it. The graphics suck, the gameplay is competent but not that great, the "3D" areas suck, the game is hard as hell and after you lose there's not many reasons to come back.

Super C (NES)

The follow up to the original game, it's even more difficult and although there's a couple innovations, for the most time it feels just like Contra all over again but, for some reason, slightly worse.

Contra Force (NES)

Well, if the previous games sucked, this one sucks 100x more! Why? Because it wasn't even supposed to be a fucking Contra game! Like Silent Hill 4 or Pirates of the Caribbean, CF was going to be an original game, but instead they decided to give it the name of a famous license. The result? A game that barely has anything to do with the other games in the series. It's slow, the gameplay is not that much fun and overall it just plain sucks.

(note that the slowdown is not from the video or the emulator, the game is really that slow)

Operation C (Gameboy)

Now, this is a good game for a change! The graphics are what you can expect from a gameboy, with that unique design in black and white. Unlike the previous games, the controls seem fluid and natural, and for a portable game, this one kicked ass.

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES, Gameboy Advance)

Some people consider this the best Contra game ever. I wouldn't got that far, but it's definitely in my top 4 (what? I couldn't just pick 3 games...). The graphics are amazing, the gameplay is refined and addictive, the weapons are awesome and overall it's just an awesome game. One thing I didn't like though, and that was the over-head stages, where you have to manually rotate the camera around the character, because not only are those sections slow-paced and boring, that camera thing makes me dizzy.

The GBA port is pretty much the same with 2 big diferences: the graphics were toned down (although still pretty good for a GBA) and the over-head stages were replaced with levels from Contra: Hard Corps, which is good in my opinion, but many people didn't like that.

Contra: Hard Corps (Mega Drive)

For me this one is even better than C3. The graphics pushed the limits of the system and the gameplay was pretty evolved compared to the previous games. For the first time you had 4 characters to choose from, each with their own set of weapons, you could carry 4 weapons at the same time and there were multiple paths you could take, leading to different levels and diferent endings. There were 6 endings, and the game was so addicitve that I ended up watching them all, and they were worth it.

The only bad thing about this game is the difficulty, or so I hear. It's regarded as the hardest Contra ever, but I can't really say. Why? Because I'm a fucking cheater, that's why! Yeah, I know this isn't something pretty to say, but even the easiest C games are too damn hard for me, so, in order to prevent me from going insane, I played every game using life or invincibility cheats. Shamefull, I know, but it was the only way for me to have fun with the games, and that's what matters for me.

Contra: Legacy of War (Saturn, PSX)

If you're really interested you can read my full review over at the Saturn Junkyard. On the other hand , if you're just looking for a quick summary, here it is. This game sucks! Hard! By attempting to bring the game to 3D they decided to make everything in a overhead view and they sucked at it. This game is just not fun.

C: The Contra Adventure (PSX)

The title is right because, after the flop fo the previous game, they decided to take a new approach. A return to the origins? No, although it seems like it at first, with the first level being a side-scrolling one just like in the old games. Unfortunately eventually the "adventure" levels come, in a 3rd person Tomb Raider-like style. Yeah, I know, back in the days everyone was looking for that kind of games to show off the PSX's capabilities, but as expected, in the end the game sucked. Not so much as the previous one, but still.

Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2)

Now this is a 3D Contra game! Probably my favourite (and the one who gave me more problems to get it running, like every old PS2 mine doesn't like CD's that much so any CD-based game gives me a headache), it's basically what one can expect from it. A side-scrolling Contra game with fast paced action, great graphics and huge (and fucking ugly) bosses. Probably the hardest game after Hard Corps, it was still beatable after some serious level memorization. Anyway, it was a blast to play.

Neo Contra (PS2)

Why? After getting it right with Shattered Soldier, why did they have to fuck things up again? Although not as bad as the 32 bit games, Neo Contra is still a bit on the sucky side of things. With an overhead instead of sidecrolling perspective, this could've worked, if only it had a control system like Geometry Wars, to give a recent example, where you control the character with one stick and shoot with the other. As it is, it's just too damn hard to hit enemies, and that takes some of the fun of the game. At least it's somewhat easy when compared to the other games.

Contra 4 (Nintendo DS)

Actually the last game of the series was the first one I played to the end, sometime ago when it was first released. Great game, in a 2D style similar to the first ones, and making use of the 2 screens to bring back the experience of the first game's Arcade version, which featured a vertical screen. There's also a lot to this game other than the main adventure. There's a series of challenges that seriously challenge you and if you're skilled enough you can unlock full versions of Contra and Super C for the NES, among other neat extras. Definitely a mandatory purchase for fans of the series.

So, in the end, what were my favourites? Definitely Shattered Soldier, Hard Corps, C3 and 4, and if you're thinking about getting into Contra I recommend you play those ones first. The worse were the original NES ones, which, nostalgia aside, didn't stood up to the test of time, and the 32 bits games, which were already bad when they first came out, but in the end I have to admit there's a "clone" of this series than I enjoy even more than any Contra game

Metal Slug! Now that's a good series with hardly any bad game (although MS X, 4 and 5 did suck a little), that elevated the gameplay first introduced by Contra to whole new levels. Contra may be the original but for me Metal Slug is the pinnacle of the run 'n gun style of action games, so I recommend everyone, and I mean everyone, to check those games out.

terça-feira, 26 de agosto de 2008

Maximum the Hormone

Do you know Random J's corner of JPop? Well, this is Nebacha's corner of JMetal! Ok, not quite, but I thought that sentence sounded cool (actually the "J" in the title of J's blog is referring to himself, it's J's blog of Pop, not of JPop). Anyway, the fact is, although I'm quite a fan of Japanese culture (not a Japanophile, though. I'm interested in their culture, not obsessed with it, or better, with the romanticized version of it portrayed by most games and anime series), I have to admit, their metal sucks! Although they're pretty big fans of the genre, they usually suck at it, having few and somewhat mediocre bands. Still, thanks to Death Note I've just found a fucking awesome JMetal (if we can call it that) band: Maximum the Hormone!

Here, watch this:

Freaking awesome, isn't it? Ok, maybe not at first time, but after a while it starts to grow on you, and the images fit right in with the sound (love the way they put images of Misa in provocative costumes right when the song gets heavier). But this one is even better, in my opinion:

Those are just short verions used in the anime, you can check out the full songs on youtube if you're interested. Preety cool, uh? It definitely caught me by surprise, with an interesting mix between clear elements of heavier sounds, like Death/Black Metal or Grindcore, and softer sections, like the beginning of the second song. The full album, Buiikikaesu, reflects this even more, it's not as heavy as one might think just from listening to this. It's actually more rock than metal for the most part, but, regardless of what it is, what matter is that it's awesome, and reminds us that there's more to Japanese music than just J-Pop.

quinta-feira, 14 de agosto de 2008

If only I could freeze time...

Damn, I haven't blogged in ages... Although I have the whole days to do what the fuck I want, I always come up with shit to fill that free time up to the very bottom. Most of the time is spent between my book, which is finally on tracks (for you to get the picture, it took me 2 years to write the first 80 pages, but after a month and a half of intensive writing I'm already at 180, and I want to reach 250 till September 15th), and playing games that have been on my list for what seems like ages. I'm specially concentrated on RPGs since they're the most time-consuming, and after beating Lunar 1 and 2 I'm currently busy with Final Fantasy VII (yup, I'm just playing it now...).

In between I've been enjoying some movies and anime series. I took a trip to the past by watching some old Disney movies again and I just discovered the HUGE impact Tarzan had on me. I loved all the Disney movies I saw when I was a kid, but Tarzan is the only one I have in both VHS and DVD, have the PC and PSX version of the game and the movie's soundtrack, which is freaking awesome! Believe it or not, I always get the shivers when I listen to this:

Original English verion here.

On anime, just started watching Death Note after hearing the best things about it and, wow, what can I say, it's just as good as everyone says! Unlike most anime, the story is always developing, there's no filler, every minute something awesome happens and when you know it 20 minutes have passed and the episode already ended, but you still need to see more of it, and so you end up like me watching 10 whole episodes in a single day! Story-wise it's about a kid who finds a notebook called a Death Note where you can write the name of someone and that person will die. It's obviously more complicated than that, so I'll leave it for you to find the rest, but trust me, everyone should check this out, anime fan or not. Give it a shot:

Now, on to other things, I feel a little guilty for not having posted this sooner, but, as we say in Portugal, better late than never (don't know if you have that saying or a similar one in English-speaking countries). In case you haven't noticed, DETRIX, the man-god who's responsible for both Gnome's and Father Krishna's artistic depictions, just made this! Oh. My. Effing. Gawd! I would recommend everyone to check out his most awesome of blogs, but since I think that everyone does that already, meh, I'll say it anyway. Go here. Now!

About game related things, last week I received a Dreamcast VGA box from Racketboy and let me tell you, that shit be tight! I have half a post already written about it for the Dreamcast Junkyard, so I'll tell you more about it later.

About music, which is, I think, the last thing I talk about on my blog, I've been listening to In Flame's last cd, A Sense of Purpose, and it's pretty good, although at first it didn't have the same impact as the previous album, Come Clarity, which started right off with the amazing song Take This Life (no, it's not emo). That one is in Guitar Hero 3, by the way. Anyway, A Sense of Purpose, although not having much of an initial impact, only shows its true worth when we reach track number 8 and find In Flame's longest track to date, an 8-minute epic that goes by the name of The Chosen Pessimist. Do yourself a favour and check this out (it's not too heavy, I promise):