Cover art of Contra Force
|Genre(s)||Run and gun|
Contra Force is an action shooting game released by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992 exclusively in North America. It is a spinoff of the Contra series, being the third game in the series released for the NES following the original Contra and Super C, although the game's plot and setting are unrelated to previous entries, as the villains in the game are human terrorists instead of an alien menace. The game was scheduled to be released in Japan under the title of Arc Hound (アークハウンド?), with no ties to the Contra series, but was canceled.
Contra Force begins with the player being asked to choose between one of four characters. In addition to Burns, the team's leader, the player can also choose between Iron, a heavy weapons expert; Smith, a sharpshooter; and Beans, a demolitions expert. Each character differ from each other, not just in what weapons they wield, but also in their speed and jumping ability.
The game consists of five stages: the odd-numbered stages (1, 3, and 5) are played from the standard side-view perspective, while the even-numbered stages (2 and 4) are played from an overhead perspective (similar to the ones in Super Contra and Operation C). The objective is as simple as getting to the end of each stage, fighting every enemy who gets in the way, before confronting the boss awaiting at the end.
The controls are similar to previous Contra games. At the side-view stages the player can walk left or right, as well as crouch and jump, whereas in the top-view stages the player can move in eight directions (but cannot jump nor crouch). Shooting is possible at any of the eight directions depending on the context. Instead of the instant power-ups from previous Contra games, the player has a power selection meter similar to the Gradius series which shows what power-ups the player can obtain. The player must pick up briefcase-shaped power-ups, which are hidden within the destroyable environment of each stage, to move the cursor on the indicator by one increment. When the cursor is on the power-up the player wants to obtain, the player can confirm their selection with the select button. The items on the indicators includes a standard-issue pistol for every character, two character-specific weapons, a turbo fire power-up that increases the number of bullets on-screen, and a rolling attack that keeps the character invulnerable to enemy fire while in mid-air.
The player can pause the game and go to a sub-menu where they can change their current character. At the sub-menu, the player can assign another character to a second player or call forth a computer-controlled partner. The player can assign from one of six possible strategies to their partner ranging between defensive and offensive. The partner character will then appear for five seconds to assist the player before disappearing. When the partner is gone, the player can summon him again from the sub-menu. Each character has only three lives. If a single player loses all of their lives as one character, the game will end. The player can use the sub-menu to switch to another character that still has extra lives before that happens. In the 2-player mode, if one player loses all of their lives, they can be assigned another character, but the character that lost all of his lives will become unusable. Unlimited chances to continue are provided.
In 1992, C-Force, a task force composed of former military professionals, is formed to protect Neocity from terrorism. One day, the team's leader, Burns, receives a phone call from their informant Fox, who tells him that the Head of Intelligence is being threatened by a criminal organization known as D.N.M.E. Burns arranges a meeting at the Harbor with Fox to learn more about the situation, only to find out Fox's corpse when he arrives at the destination. Now it is up to C-Force to save Neocity from D.N.M.E.
Contra Force was originally planned to be released in Japan under the title of Arc Hound in 1991 and originally did not had any ties to the Contra series. The game was announced in magazines such as Famicom Tsūshin and advertised in official Konami brochures with a scheduled October release, but this early version of the game was canceled.
Despite the cancellation of Arc Hound in Japan, the game was still localized for the North American market as a spinoff of the Contra series. Initially scheduled for a Winter 1991 release, Contra Force was announced as the third console game in the series, being released sometime prior to Contra III: The Alien Wars (known as Contra IV at the time). However, Contra Force was delayed to a late 1992 release, a few months later than Contra III, causing the latter game to be renumbered prior to release.
Reception and legacy
Contra Force has received mixed reception. Allgame editor Brett Alan Weiss criticized the slowdown and flicker that the game suffers from, but praised the added strategy of being able to select from different characters each with their own unique skills and weapons.The Video Game Critic described Contra Force as a "catastrophe". He criticized the control as "sluggish" as well as the backgrounds for being "poorly designed" and "confusing".
In the manual of the Contra III: The Alien Wars, the ruined city of the first stage is identified as Neocity from Contra Force (originally the city was nameless in the Japanese version). This reference is carried over to the U.S.-developed sequel Contra 4, where Neocity serves as the setting for the seventh stage. An arrangement of the player select theme from Contra Force is featured in Contra ReBirth.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 14.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 12.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 13.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 5.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 7.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 8.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 10.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 11.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 6.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 9.
- Konami. Contra Force. Nintendo Entertainment System. Level/area: Opening.
- Konami. Crisis Force (in Japanese). Family Computer. Level/area: Pamphlet included with the game.
- "Arc Hound preview". Famicom Tsūshin (in Japanese). June 28, 1991.
- "Pak Watch: From Konami/Ultra". Nintendo Power (Volume 26): p. 95. July 1991. "As for sequels, look for Contra Force (aka Contra 3) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 sometime this winter"
- Nintendo Player's Guide: Super NES. 1992. p. 152. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Weiss, Brett Alan. "Contra Force - Review". Allgame. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- "The Video Game Critic's NES Reviews". videogamecritic.net. Retrieved July 28, 2013.