Contra: Operation Galuga

Review: Contra: Operation Galuga

Every once in a while, a game that’s a little more simplistic, with a back-to-basics and retro feel, really hits the spot. Contra is a franchise that has been around since the 1980s. The original titles for the NES and arcades were incredibly impactful at the time.

The action and co-op gameplay was not only fun but incredibly challenging. Contra: Operation Galuga shares a lot of DNA with its predecessors while also bringing in some fresh looks and ideas to the series. Not all of it is a home run, but it’s a 2D action game worth your time, especially with friends.

Contra is Back!

It’s been a long time since Contra was in the limelight. The 80s and 90s have come and gone, and this franchise has also been left dormant for much of it. I don’t envy Konami and any developers they’ve worked with. Contra is a particular flavour of 2D action, and it’s hard to bring that to the forefront when the 3D and 64-bit eras have been dominant for so long.

With Contra: Operation Galuga, WayForward has done its best to make the game look and feel like the originals that kicked out butts so long ago. Essentially, I think they’ve succeeded!

Playing as one of a handful of characters, including the original duo of Bill and Lance, you’ll be outfitted with the classic “spinning jump,” a dash, and some other abilities like a grappling hook and a later character who can jet boost and float in the air.

This is an area I felt brought the franchise forward. Sometimes, pulling off the moves felt a little cumbersome, especially the grapple hooks. But other than that, they were nice additions to the formulas and gave me more opportunities to take out enemies and dodge their fire.

I7TAfkk

Locked and Loaded

Yes, Contra: Operation Galuga is a challenging game. The franchise pulls in all the classic stereotypes of a 2D “bullet hell” and run-and-gun game, with waves of enemies, obstacles, and almost every turn. If that style is your tea, sit and sip away because it’s in spades!

Accessibility and difficulty-wise, WayForward lets you play the game with the classic “one-hit-and-your-dead” mechanic or a health bar. I appreciated this option. More choice is always a good thing, and I assure you that even with 3-5 HP points for your character, that game won’t feel easy.

e2G1vnS

Weapons are always a big part of Contra titles, and Contra: Operation Galuga is no exception. I found the arsenal to be a little limited, with only six to collect. What is a nice touch is each one can be picked up for a second time and upgraded, adding new features to each one.

In most games, players gravitate toward what backs up their personal play style. The upgraded Laser was great as it bounced off enemies and walls, while the classic Spread shot provided a wide area of cover, I remember from the NES days.

Contra: Operation Galuga Brings the New and Old

The updated approach to weapons, characters, and abilities is a nice touch, but how does it all come together? It’s hit and miss.

Stages are interesting and exciting. The set pieces are pretty epic and play out the way I assume the original developers pictured them in their minds 30+ years ago. If you want cheesy 80’s action-movie explosions filled with puns and one-liners, you’re good to go with Contra: Operation Galuga.

84MOrXn

Unfortunately, the issues arise with some of the level design. For me, traversing up and down was a bit of a struggle. Contra has primarily taken the left-to-right approach, and that’s the case here. But it’s pretty tough to shoot anything directly above or below you. You’re always moving while you fire, so the game introduces a simple shoulder button press to stand still and aim freely. It’s a good idea in the early stages, but halfway through the game, standing still was a death sentence almost every time.

Last but not least, the new in-game currency you earn. As you play, you’ll accumulate credits to unlock passive abilities and upgrades for each character. These can all be unlocked through replaying the game, so no extra transactions are needed. Unfortunately, they’re all costly, and it takes an exceedingly long time to unlock something as simple as an extra HP point. It’s a good idea on paper, but in practice, it lacks the sense of accomplishment I believe the developers were hoping for.

Verdict

Contra: Operation Galuga has done a solid job of updating the franchise, while also making it feel like the games from yesteryear. It can be punishing and sometimes feels unfair; but that’s sort of the point of Contra isn’t it?

Despite a brief Story Mode, there’s still some fun to be had, especially if you can play co-op. WayForward has proven it can bring older franchises to the modern age. Contra: Operation Galuga, even if it isn’t a perfect experience, it is a fun one.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PC

Contra: Operation Galuga
Review: Contra: Operation Galuga
Summary
Contra: Operation Galuga is a prime example of a game that feels fresh and retro at the same time. It's a punishing game that also provides some epic set pieces that fans of the franchise are sure to enjoy.
Liked
Still feels like classic Contra action!
Updates to systems make it feel modern
Weapons are fun with cool upgrades
Story is corny and cheesy like an 80's action flick
Didn't Like
REAL hard on the one-hit classic mode
Story mode feels a little short