Contra (video game)

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Contra poster.jpg
Promotional brochure for the North American arcade release
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Designer(s) Arcade version
Koji Hiroshita (director)
NES version
Shigeharu Umezaki (director)
Shinji Kitamoto (director)
Composer(s) Arcade version
Kazuki Muraoka
NES/Famicom version
Hidenori Maezawa
Kiyohiro Sada
Series Contra
Platform(s) Arcade, Famicom/NES, PlayChoice-10, MSX2, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MS-DOS
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Run and gun
Mode(s) Single-player, cooperative
Cabinet Upright
CPU Hitachi 6309 (12 MHz)
Sound Motorola 6809 (3 MHz) driving a Yamaha YM2151
Display Raster, standard resolution (Used: 224 x 280)
vertical orientation

Contra (魂斗羅(コントラ) Kontora?), known as Probotector and occasionally Gryzor in Europe and Oceania, is a 1987 run and gun action game developed and published by Konami originally released as a coin-operated arcade game on February 20, 1987.[5] A home version was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, along with ports for various computer formats, including the MSX2. The home versions were localized in the PAL region as Gryzor on the various computer formats and as Probotector on the NES, released later. Several Contra sequels were produced following the original game.


In Contra, the player controls one of two armed military commandos named Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, who are sent on a mission to neutralize a terrorist group called the Red Falcon Organization that is planning to take over the Earth. Details of the game's setting varies between supplementary materials for the console versions: the Japanese versions sets the game in the year 2633 on the fictional "Galuga archipelago" near New Zealand,[6][7] whereas the manual for the American NES version sets the game during the present in an unnamed South American island. The American storyline also changes the identity of "Red Falcon" from being the name of a terrorist organization to the name of an alien entity and gave Bill and Lance the nicknames of Mad Dog and Scorpion.[8]


The two player characters attempt to enter the second base at the end of Area 4.

The main character is equipped with a rifle with an unlimited amount of ammunition. The player can also jump, move and fire in eight directions, as well as move or jump simultaneously while firing. A single hit from any enemy, bullet, or other hazard will instantly kill the player character and discard the current weapon.

There are 10 stages in the arcade version, with two types of perspectives.[6] In addition to the standard side scrolling stages, Contra also features stages in which the player character is seen from behind and must move towards the background in order to proceed. Each of these "3D maze" stages are set inside the corridor of an enemy base in which the player must fight through the base's defenses in order to reach the core of the base. During the 3D maze stages, the upper screen will display a map of the base along with a time limit. Each maze stage is followed by a "3D fixed" stage set at the core of the base, in which the player must destroy a series of flashing sensors in order to reveal the boss and destroy it.

Contra also features a two-player cooperative mode. Both players occupy the same screen and must coordinate their actions. One player lagging behind can cause problems for his partner, as the screen will not scroll onward, and a slow player can be fatal to his partner. The European release, Gryzor, does not feature a simultaneous 2-Players mode. Instead, both players take turns: whenever one player dies, the other gets his turn.


There are a total of four weapons the player can retrieve from flying weapon capsules, pill-box sensors, or red guards during 3D mazes. All the power-ups in the arcade version are represented by Eagle-shaped letter icons with the exception of the Machine Gun and Laser. In the arcade version, the flying weapon capsules only appear if the player is not wielding any special weapons. The upgrades are:

  • Machine gun (auto-fires repeatedly while the fire button is depressed)
  • Laser gun (fires one bolt of energy at a time)
  • Spread gun (fires five projectiles at once in an array that spreads apart as it travels away from the player, it is the best gun)
  • Fireball gun (fires spining fire ball bullets)
  • Rapid fire (increases bullet velocity)
  • Barrier (temporary invincibility)

Version differences[edit]

The Contra arcade game was released in three versions. The Japanese and American versions are virtually identical, aside from the title logo. However, the European version, titled Gryzor, only allows two players to play the game alternating rather than simultaneously.


Home computers[edit]

Under license from Konami, Ocean Software produced ports of Contra under the title of Gryzor for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC, which were released in Europe in 1988.[9] The Commodore 64 version was released in North America under the Contra title. Ocean's ports were patterned after the original arcade version of the game. An IBM PC version was developed by Banana Productions and released in North America. This version was released in Europe under the Gryzor name.[10]

The cover illustration of Ocean's Gryzor ports by Bob Wakelin was inspired by different poses of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger from the film Predator.[11] The illustration was later used for the American cover art of the NES version and the Japanese back cover of the MSX2 version.


The boss of Area 3 in the NES version

Konami produced its own home version of Contra for the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES), which was released in February 1988 North America.

The NES version of Contra differs from the arcade game in a few ways. All ten stages from the arcade version are present, although the "core" segments are no longer individual stages but boss battles that occur at the end of each base stage, reducing the total number of stages to eight. The base stages themselves were also made into linear levels instead of their original maze-like structure (resulting in the removal of the map display) and the time limit was removed as well. The rest of the game's stages were also modified with the addition of more traps (such as surfacing spiked walls, mortar launchers, and bottomless pits). The design of the end boss of the Waterfall stage was changed as well.

All six power-ups from the arcade version are present, with the Machine Gun and the Laser Rifle now represented by letter-based Falcon icons (an "M" and an "L" respectively) like the other four power-ups. A seventh power-up is also introduced called the "Special", which destroys all on-screen enemies once picked up. It is represented by an unmarked Falcon icon. Unlike the arcade version, the flying capsules appear regardless of which weapon the player is using.

The NES version of Contra was one of the earliest games to use the Konami Code, which originated with the NES version of Gradius. Inputting the code (entirely as the screen scrolls, or entirely after the screen is done scrolling) on the title screen before starting the game will grant each player thirty lives each time they start (both when a game begins and each time the game is continued).


Probotector is a modified version of the NES Contra that was released for the PAL region on December 28, 1990.[1][2] This version redesigns the human protagonists and some of the enemy characters to give them a robotic appearance.[3][4][12] This was done to circumvent the BPjM's censorship laws in Germany, which prohibits the sales of violent video games to minors. Subsequent Contra games for the NES, Game Boy, Super NES, and Mega Drive followed suit, all being released in the PAL region under the Probotector title and featuring similar modifications. The Contra series would later retain the Contra title and characters in Europe beginning with Contra: Legacy of War.


The Family Computer (or Famicom) version of Contra was released in Japan on February 9, 1988. While the gameplay remains identical to the NES version released around the same time, the Famicom cartridge utilizes a custom-made Multi-Memory Controller that Konami produced called the VRC2, which allowed for extra graphical effects not featured in its NES counterpart (which used an UNROM chip). The effects essentially consist of background animations, including the windblown palm leaves in Area 1, the snowstorm during parts of Area 5, and the undulating innards which comprise virtually all of Area 8. The Famicom version features cut-scenes before each stage, including a map of the Galuga archipelago displaying the player's current location. It also features a stage select cheat code (in addition to the thirty lives code), a sound test mode, and a hidden post-credits scene which can be accessed by holding down the Select and Start buttons during the ending credits sequence.


An MSX2 version of Contra was released by Konami exclusively in Japan on May 26, 1989. The MSX2 version of Contra greatly differs from the arcade and NES versions. Due to hardware limitations of the MSX2, the game does not scroll but instead uses flip-screens like Konami's other MSX2 games such as the original Metal Gear and Vampire Killer. The player is given a life gauge, allowing their character sustain more than one shot before losing a life. There are two main power-ups in the MSX2 version, a Falcon-shaped power-up that increases the player's walking and shooting speed, as well as a gun-shaped power-up which allows the player to change their current weapon. After picking up the weapon power-up, the player can choose between the default Normal Gun or four other weapons. The Spread Gun is not featured in this version, replaced by Rear Gun similar to the tailgun in certain Gradius games, which fires at two directions at the same time. The MSX2 Contra is composed of 19 stages. The first nine stages are based on the arcade version (which excludes the Hangar stage), while the final ten stages are new to this version. Unlike the arcade and NES versions, the MSX2 version is single-player only.

The MSX2 version of Contra was released for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on February 2, 2010.[13][14]

Later releases[edit]

  • A PlayStation 2 port of the arcade version of Contra was released in Japan on May 25, 2006 as part of the Oretachi Geasen Zoku Sono-series of retro game ports by Hamster.[15]
  • A second rerelease was made for the Xbox Live Arcade on November 8 of the same year, with Digital Eclipse handling the conversion.[16]
  • The arcade version was also included in Konami's classic game compilation Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits for the Nintendo DS.
  • During Konami Mobile's tenure, several variations of Contra were released for different mobile phones, based off the arcade version.
  • The NES version of Contra was also included in the 2002 video game compilation Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra for Microsoft Windows in North America, which also included Super C and the three Castlevania games released for the NES.
  • The NES Contra and Super C are included in the Nintendo DS game Contra 4 as hidden bonuses.


Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 4/5 stars[17] (NES)
The Video Game Critic A[18] (NES)

Much of the game's popularity came from its two-player simultaneous gameplay, which was an uncommon feature in video games at the time of Contra's release. While successful in the arcades, the game became and remained widely popular and remembered when it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988.

Computer Gaming World called Contra on the Nintendo "a truly outstanding action epic" set on a "scrolling and beautifully drawn playfield".[19] It was voted #1 by gaming website as being the "Toughest Game to Beat".[20] Nintendo Power ranked Contra the seventh best Nintendo Entertainment System video game, calling it one of the best multiplayer NES games.[21] GamesRadar ranked it the 19th best NES game ever made despite its inferiority to the arcade version.[22] Game Informer also included it in their list of best games ever at number 13. The staff noted that while not revolutionary, it was fun.[23]

The MS-DOS version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #142 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column.[24]

In 2010 IGN ranked the main antagonist Red Falcon 76th in "Top 100 Videogames Villains".[citation needed]


The music from the arcade version of Contra is one of the soundtracks included in the video game album Konami Game Music Vol.4: A Jax, which was released by Alfa Records on May 10, 1988, in CD (catalog no. 28XA-201), cassette (ALC-22922), and vinyl (ALR-22922).

The name of Vampire Weekend's second album is, among other things, an homage to this game.[25]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Contra Release Information for NES". GameFAQs. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Contra (1988) NES release dates". MobyGames. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Fire and Forget - Probotector". Power Play (in German) (Markt+Technik Verlag) (12/90). 1990. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Roboter in Rage - Probotector". Video Games (in German) (Markt+Technik Verlag) (1/91). 1991. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Contra". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 5 Oct 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Scans of the Japanese brochure for Contra". The Arcade Flyer Archive. [dead link]
  7. ^ Konami. Contra (in Japanese). Family Computer. Level/area: Instruction manual. 
  8. ^ Konami. Contra. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual. 
  9. ^ "Save the Last Lance for Me (Gryzor review)". The Games Machine (003): 52. February 1988. 
  10. ^ Power Play (in German). April 1988 |url= missing title (help). 
  11. ^ "Bob Wakelin at Exotica". 
  12. ^ "Instruction Manual of Probotector for the NES (transcript from NES World)". 
  13. ^ "Details of Contra (MSX2 version) for the Virtual Console at Konami" (in Japanese). 
  14. ^ "MSX Virtual Console Lineup" (in Japanese). D4 Enterprise. 
  15. ^ "オレたちゲーセン族 - 魂斗羅". 
  16. ^ "Contra - Game Detail Page at". Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  17. ^ Knight, Kyle. "Contra - Overview". Allgame. Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  18. ^ "The Video Game Critic's NES Reviews". Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  19. ^ Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill; Worley, Joyce (June 1988). "Video Gaming World". Computer Gaming World. pp. 40–42. 
  20. ^ IGN: Top 10 Tuesday: Toughest Games to Beat
  21. ^ Nintendo Power - The 20th Anniversary Issue! (Magazine). Nintendo Power 231 (231). San Francisco, California: Future US. August 2008. p. 71. 
  22. ^ "Best NES Games of all time". GamesRadar. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  23. ^ Cork, Jeff (2009-11-16). "Game Informer's Top 100 Games of All Time (Circa Issue 100)". Game Informer. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  24. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (February 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (142): 42–51. 
  25. ^ James Montgomery. "Vampire Weekend Have Konami To Thank For Contra". MTV Online. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 

External links[edit]