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Contra: Legacy of War - PlayStation, Saturn (1996)

by Kurt Kalata - July 30, 2014

American Cover

With the rise of the console HD era, more and more classic Japanese gaming properties were handed over to Western developers. The results have been mixed, but there have been enough successes that the idea isn't completely abhorrent. Back in the 16/32-bit era, this was almost always a recipe for disaster, seeing subpar sequels to beloved games like Blaster Master 2 and Strider Returns. But perhaps the most well known, and most widely derided, was Contra: Legacy of War for the PlayStation and Saturn.

Contra is a series that was much more popular outside of native Japan, so in some ways it made sense that it would be outsourced to a Western developer. That developer was Appaloosa Interactive, a Hungarian team previously known for the Ecco the Dolphin games, as well as a few mediocre Genesis titles. With Contra, they did a pretty bad job.

Most game franchises had some problems when moving from 2D to 3D, but Contra was particularly poor. The main issue is that it's doesn't even feel like proper 3D - the viewpoint lies at an awkward overhead angle that recalls shooters like Commando and Mercs, but it takes vertical space into account too. You can jump, but it's impossible to determine spatiality, so you're never really sure what you can hit, or what can hit you. You just have to hope the vague auto-aim will work out in your favor.

Like many European games of the era, it lacks the meticulous design that Japanese games - especially earlier Contra titles - were known for, as enemies and bullets haphazardly flood the screen. To make up for its sloppiness, in true euroshmup fashion, your characters can take several hits before dying, but they only have a single life. Nothing about the movement feels right. The backgrounds are polygonal but the characters are sprites; they never feel connected, as the players skate over the scenery, as the camera drunkenly attempts to keep up with the action. It's also ugly. This is almost a given for any early 32-bit title that uses polygons, but with its overtly brown/grey/dark green color palette, it has all of the artistic qualities of a pile of dirt.

There's not much of a plot, in typical Contra fashion, except for a hilariously jarring cutscene where the main antagonist, a fat green colored face speaking in an implacably thick accent, delivers a rambling speech that was probably meant to be intimidating but comes off as one of the least threatening villains in video game history. His visage is even imposed on the backgrounds of one of the final stages, an incomprehensible series of brightly colored grids floating over a dark abyss.

Even though Legacy of War was widely derided by critics and spurned by the audience, through reasons that can only be described as Corporate Business Logic (speculation: black out drunk bar agreements), Konami hired Appaloosa again to make their next PS1 Contra sequel. The resulting game, C: The Contra Adventure, was met with even more spite, which should have been predicted, but somehow wasn't.

The music's pretty good, though.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Appaloosa Interactive

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Contra: Legacy of War

Contra: Legacy of War

Contra: Legacy of War


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