Contra Anniversary Collection is a retro collection of ten retro games from the side-scrolling, top-down and 3D action adventure platformer series available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Contra franchise has came a long way and utilised many gameplay mechanics within varying genres on majority generation of gaming since the original Contra made its debut in the arcades in 1987 with many Contra games having been released including rarer spin-offs and sequels such as Contra: Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra on PS2, alongside the WiiWare exclusive titled Contra ReBirth. Can Contra Anniversary Collection deliver the best port of classic retro Contra games?
Contra Anniversary Collection features ten retro era side-scrolling, top-down or 3D Contra games including the arcade version of Contra from 1987; Super Contra from 1988 on the arcades; the NES version of Contra from 1988; Contra from 1988 on Famicom; the NES version of Super C from 1990; Contra III: The Alien Wars from 1992 on SNES; the Game Boy version of Operation C from 1991; the SEGA Genesis version of Contra: Hard Corps from 1994; Super Probotector: Alien Rebels from 1992 on SNES; and the SEGA Mega Drive version of Probotector from 1994. Meanwhile, there are bonus Japanese versions of half a dozen Contra games including the arcade version of Contra; Super Contra; Super C; Contra III: The Alien Wars; Operation C; and Contra: Hard Corps.
A bonus book titled The History of Contra comprising 74 pages of an overview of each game including story, controls, gameplay elements and screenshots; two major interviews with Nobuya Nakazato who has produced numerous Contra games and Contra franchise box art illustration artist Tom duBois; a historical chronology of when each Contra story is set, events and playable characters; and exclusive material encompassing game design documents and rough sketches with notes localised into English and interchangeable with Japanese language from the development stage of various Contra games.
Contra Anniversary Collection will not be ported to Vita; despite the quantity of quality portable Contra games that began as early as 1991 including Operation C on Game Boy and Contra 4 on Nintendo DS, although remote play is a consolation. Contra Anniversary Collection’s remote play performance is pretty good for all ten games as the graphics, audio and general performance maintains the quality of the PS4 version. Contra Anniversary Collection’s controls are the same as the DualShock 4 controller other than for displaying the options menu being remapped to the top left of the rear touch pad; resulting in a very playable remote play experience for Contra fans.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the majority of the Contra games consisting of pressing O or square to jump; pressing X or triangle to fire your character’s weaponry; pressing L1 to toggle rapid fire or holding R1 to engage rapid fire; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or pressing left, right, up or a combination of buttons on the d-pad to move your character while simultaneously aiming in that direction; moving the left analogue stick downwards or pressing down on the d-pad to duck; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; pressing L2 to display the options menu; and pressing the options button to pause the game. However, the player can also customise the majority of the control scheme by moving each action assigned to a button to the left or right. There is no vibration that could have seen vibration occurring when an enemy hits your character or landing after a jump, while there is no light bar support that could have produced a colour representing the quantity of your character’s remaining continues, alongside no touch pad support that could have provided an alternative method of aiming and firing your character’s weaponry.
Contra Anniversary Collection features a 1080p resolution graphical enhancement and performance at an original 50Hz or a turbo 60Hz refresh rate that performs at the same speed as the Japanese and North American versions of specific Contra games; however there is no 4K resolution. It would have been nice to see some additional graphical enhancements such as an optional Game Boy Colour equivalent colour palette for Operation C. There are borders on the left and right as well as the top and bottom of the screen by default within the original display setting, while pixel perfect expands the aspect ratio marginally further, alongside a full screen 16:9, a retro styled 4:3 aspect ratio with scanlines, pixel perfect with scanlines and 16:9 with scanlines. Meanwhile, the player also has a choice of two wallpaper designs related to the subject matter as the backdrop for the gameplay area, although it would have been even better if the front cover artwork and perhaps even the back cover artwork from every region for each of the ten Contra games within the collection were available as further subject matter related wallpapers.
Contra Anniversary Collection’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, game selection menu, bonus book, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The main menu background showcases the two lead characters surrounded by numerous enemies, while menu backgrounds focus on one of the two lead characters and some enemies with an overlay of the title, year of release, platform, backstory, title logo and a screenshot from each game.
Sound effects include firing your character’s weaponry at enemies, enemies firing their weaponry at your character, explosions and collecting power-ups; complimented by climactic instrumental music. The DualShock 4 speaker does not produce any audio, despite previous Konami retro collections such as Castlevania Requiem producing sound effects when collecting items or performing specific fighting moves.
Contra Anniversary Collection has a single trophy list containing trophies for all ten Contra games including 16 trophies with 15 bronze trophies and 1 gold trophy, although there is no platinum trophy, despite Castlevania Requiem and Konami Arcade Classics 50th Anniversary Collection both having a platinum trophy in each of those respective collections. Easier trophies include the Run N’ Gun Specialist bronze trophy for playing each Contra game within the collection, while harder trophies include 14 bronze trophies for completing each Contra game and some with particular regions of a certain Contra game and completing each of the five routes that can be explored in Contra: Hard Corps, alongside the True Contra Warrior gold trophy for completing all Contra games. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 50 to 100 hours to 100% the trophy list.
Every Contra’s supreme difficulty will divide opinion between long-time Contra fans that have adjusted to the trademark difficulty and newcomers to the classic franchise. Arcade releases of Contra and Super Contra have four difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard and very hard with the major differences being that the enemies that run from right to left during very hard difficulty also run in the opposite direction resulting in far more occasions when the player’s character has to jump or fire to prevent losing a life within a continue; whereas the enemies that run from right to left do not return from that side of the screen during easy difficulty. Meanwhile, the further eight Contra games within the collection are from console ports and sequels that do not all have any varying difficulty levels. However, even after losing each of the three lives within a continue results in the playable character returning to their previous area of progression into that stage; losing all three lives within a continue forces the player to utilise a continue yet simultaneously positions their character back to the very beginning of the stage that had previously been reached, therefore the Contra games without difficulty levels are as hard as those that do have them.
Local co-operative multiplayer for two players is available in every Contra game within the collection with exception to Operation C as it was a Game Boy game, although an alternate turns multiplayer adaptation would have an improvement. The majority of games perform identically to their single player counterparts and displays an individual high score for both players providing a form of points scoring focused competitive multiplayer during co-operative gameplay.
Contra Anniversary Collection’s replayability originates from the inclusion of ten classic retro Contra games including the arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra; Contra on Famicom; Contra and Super C on NES; Contra III: The Alien Wars and Super Probotector: Alien Rebels on SNES; Operation C on Game Boy; Contra: Hard Corps on SEGA Genesis; and Probotector on SEGA Mega Drive that will collectively bring Contra fans back for more classic Contra gameplay for dozens of hours. Elsewhere, there is local co-operative multiplayer for two players and competitive high scoring during local co-operative multiplayer gameplay, while an additional feature allows the player to save a replay of their gameplay from any of the ten Contra games to watch at a later time.
• Title: Contra Anniversary Collection
• Developer: Konami/M2
• Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
• System: PS4
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-2 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer/Competitive High Scoring)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 1.15GB (Version 1.01)