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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
GENRE: Adventure
PLAYERS:   1-2
November 07, 2002
Hard Corps: Uprising

Hard Corps: Uprising

Contra ReBirth

Contra 4

Super C

More in this Series
 Written by Matt Swider  on January 17, 2003

Review: This Contra Advance review is dedicated to John Scalzo, that Contra crackhead who gave its PS2 partner a perfect score.

Game Boy Advance has been home to countless Super Nintendo classics, acting almost as if it were a 16-bit emulator since day one of its existence. Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX is the latest to be ported onto the handheld after originally releasing for both the Super NES and Sega Genesis under the name Contra III: The Alien Wars. The only thing simpler than the fast paced shooting gameplay is its barebones theme. Matching the story from 1992, Contra Advance pits players against a swarm of aliens, robots, and monsters that have infested the planet. It's your job to defeat them through the mere six levels available on the Game Boy Advance. Despite some obvious flaws and the fact that the game is over a decade old, for many Contra addicts, revisiting this aged adventure will remain a blast.

When Contra III: The Alien Wars released during the 16-bit era, its visuals appeared to be top of the line as far as 2D side-scrolling shooters were concerned. Contra Advance sports those same satisfying graphics onto the Game Boy Advance, and they seem to be on par with everything else available for the handheld these days. Each of the six levels look varied with great color appeal and moving backdrops to make for a nice effect. The one and only difference to be found is that this game didn't contain any of choppiness that its predecessor often encountered. Because no other technical aspects were changed in its visual presentation, Contra Advance replicates the same graphics we remember from the early nineties and now avoids all of the nasty slowdown in the process.

The visuals may have survived the test of time, however this doesn't exactly hold true when it comes to Contra Advance's audio. Sure the sound effects stuck around with this handheld conversion, but the game's original music is glaringly absent. The ongoing action isn't accompanied by silence of any sort, but it is far from providing the energetic tunes that graced this game so many years ago. Nevertheless, the echo of explosions and character screams still exist and fill the ears with some quality sound while your mind will more than likely stay focused on the in-game action and its tight gameplay.

Moving about in Contra Advance is as simple as can be and is much like many other 2D side-scrollers out there. While the A and B buttons pertain to jump and shoot, the shoulder buttons give players extra support. The L button places your character on a fixed shooting angle while he is free to move about. On the other hand, the R button locks the character's feet and the D-Pad is now used to control his weapon direction. While this shouldn't be all there is too the controls, sadly, it is. Contra Advance doesn't allow players to switch between weapons since it's impossible to carry more than one. Speaking of weapons, fans of the original will surely miss the sight of an aura bomb, which cleared the screen of most enemies with its explosion. Those new to the game won't know what has been omitted, however there's more missing from the original than just weapons.

Since Konami felt that the Game Boy Advance couldn't handle the two levels displayed from the overhead perspective, both were replaced with new side-scrolling stages. While the box proclaims these levels to be exclusive for Contra Advance, be warned, they also appeared in Contra: Hard Cops for Sega Genesis. There may be a good chance you haven't played them and since they haven't been offered together with The Alien Wars prior to this, that's what makes them exclusive. However, those who have blasted through both the original Alien Wars and Hard Cops won't find anything new to behold.

For a game that offers only six levels, Contra Advance isn't easy to complete and feels impossible to charge through in one try. The game seems to be just as challenging as it was on the Super Nintendo with a number of trial-and-error patterns that are reminiscent of every other Contra. Thus, it will take the average player dozens of tries to progress through the difficult stages. After finishing on novice, normal, and finally the expert difficulty though, there's very little reason to go back. Anyone fortunate enough to find another owner of this game can experience the classic co-op connection with a link cable. This makes every Contra game more fun to play even in the face of repeating the same levels a bunch of times.

Bottom Line
Game Boy Advance owners have been looking for a good game of Contra to take on the road for quite some time. Now that Konami has released The Alien Wars EX on the handheld unit, fans can now rest knowing the game comes off rather well on a portable system. It's not without several flaws, especially considering the missing overhead levels and a generally short lifespan, but the overall experience should suit the likes of any fan or rookie. Unless you have beaten to death both The Alien Wars and Hard Cops on a 16-bit console, Contra Advance supplies a short yet more than satisfactory solution to our portable Contra needs.

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