Feature: Vomit, snot, aliens, tongues with legs, giant spiders with spread eagle legs. John explains all the mysteries and oddities of Neo Contra.
Neo Contra is not an overly long game. Five regular-sized levels and (if you prove your mettle in those) two mini-levels are all that make it up. That's not to say I've had a change of heart, the game is still a fantastic member of the Contra series. Here I am a week later and there are no surprises left. They were some pretty decent surprises, but I've uncovered almost everything. But there's enough here to keep a Contra fanatic like myself busy and thinking for a long time.
Nothing makes you think more than this cockamamie story Konami has shoehorned into the game that they call a plot. Contra games aren't supposed to have plots. They're supposed to be exercises in gunplay against hordes of marauding aliens, robots and really big guns. And that's the one thing Neo Contra doesn't even acknowledge. Where did the aliens come from? For that matter, why were Bill and Jaguar even dragged into this fight? Earth is a prison planet in the game, humanity has moved on to the stars and left the planet behind. Why didn't they just nuke it from orbit? After all, Bill rides to Earth on the back of a nuke that takes out a city, civillain casualties couldn't have been that important.
And then there's the final reveal. The player's Bill is a clone and the evil mastermind is Bill's consciousness implanted into a computer. I mean what is that? The whole thing makes zero sense and to hear Evil Bill ramble on and on about the importance of the Bill Rizer name is excruciating. It's also strongly implied that Mystery G is the real Bill Rizer, but that's impossible. Neo Contra is said to take place in the year 4444, over 1800 years after the events of Contra: Shattered Soldier. That would make Mystery G one very well preserved 2000 year old man. Someone alert Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.
But for all the idiocy in the story and dialogue, a lot of it unintentionally hilarious. Especially the banter between Bill, Jaguar and the four Elites. It's worth the price of admission alone to witness a cocker spaniel in a Nazi helmet explain his plan to blow up an airship and sacrifice all of his men onboard only to hear Bill reply "You dog!" And speaking of Nazis, the Elite in the first level must have been a fan of Mein Kempf as he actually gives a Nazi heil as he dies. Kinda makes you think about the word "Neo" being featured so promanetly in the title doesn't it?
Even with all of this nonsense, the story of Neo Contra is easily ignored by a push of the Start button. Who needs a plot when the real story of Neo Contra is the return of the Spread Gun (and to a lesser extent, the Classic Fireball)? The greatest weapon in video game history has finally returned to Contra and it's not even the best weapon in the game. Among the original three sets, the machine gun is the best choice, no question. But when you complete the game with an A ranking even that gets shoved to the side for the Lightning Gun, the Rocket Launcher and Heaven's Laser, a truly unstoppable trio.
The unlockables in Neo Contra are either downright brilliant, outright weird, or a little of both. The Lightning Gun is just the first part of it. It's a fantastic piece of weaponry that actually jumps from enemy to enemy just as real lightning would. And using the death from above that Heaven's Laser provides is just fun. It gets weird when you think about the unlockable characters. Lucia is normal enough, but Speedo Bill and Speedo Jaguar defies description. And the bonus movie that introduces them? Wow. I don't think I needed to see Jaguar swimming while Bill hangs on to his loin cloth for dear life. I swear I'm not making that up. Unfortuneatly I can't comment on Bikini Lucia as I haven't finished the game with a 100% hit rate yet, but trust me, she's there.
However, I think the character that meets the little of both description is Katana Jaguar. Playing as Katana Jaguar changes the game of Contra completely. Close, melee combat becomes the name of the game and using a weapon set that features the Katana ratchets up the difficulty considerably. Anyone that had a problem with the difficulty should force themself to play the game with the Katana. They'll be begging for mercy after the first half hour. But I have to ask, why didn't Konami let us play as Mystery G? He rocked.
My earlier jokes about Naziism aside, I think this is all part of a plan Konami has to literally make the Contra series "neo." New is the name of the game as there are few real homages to previous games in the series. If Shattered Soldier and it's non-stop self-referential nature was a big sloppy wet kiss to all Contra fans, then Neo Contra is Jeresy Girl. Sure there were the Geiger heads, alien spider pods and that giant armadillo skull faced thing (that here turns into a moth) that was in Contra III, but that's it. There are no mentions of Red Falcon, no Heart, and no flying mosquitoes of death. But there was a mutated Konami code that offered 19 lives (19!) and the Spread Gun did come back. But the fifth level boss was more of an homage to the Mother Brain since it was a giant brain in a glass case, which then periodically opens to spew out alien spores.
Finally, I've got to talk about the thing I've dubbed Quato. Even if you've never played Neo Contra you know all about Quato. He is that dragon-looking thing with the diseased baby head sticking out of it. He spews vomit, snot, and maggots at your Contra soldier before hiding in his cave while the acidic snot rains down upon you. And the diseased baby head makes it look like Quato, the leader of the Mars mutants from Total Recall. It is the most vile, disgusting creature the team at Konami has ever dreamed up and I don't know whether to be repulsed or to applaude. The only thing that comes close is the mutant turtle's vomiting ass-face (complete with gurgling sounds) from the first level of Shattered Soldier.
Now you know some of the things that Neo Contra has forced me to think about. I've spent a lot of quality time with the game and I loved every minute of it. Some of it made me question my sanity, but all of it was great. To those that pick it up, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy hunting.
Oh, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the computer animated music video for the Neo Contra pop theme that plays before the title screen. The graphics are spectacular, but it's a pop song! A ***damn pop song! It's wrong!
I were making that up.