Developer(s) – Konami & Factor 5
Publisher(s) – Konami
Designer – Nobuya Nakazato
Rating – N/A
Released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, and under multiple titles in different regions, such as Contra Spirits in Japan and Super Probotector: Alien Rebels in Europe, Contra III: The Alien Wars puts players in the shoes of two new heroes, as they repel a full-scale assault from the hostile aliens of the Red Falcon organization. Personally, I find it to be much more accessible than the previous two games, even without the inclusion of the Konami Code, and by proxy, far better.
Graphics – 8/10
Of course, the greatest leap from the second to the third game was in its visuals. Taking advantage of the vastly superior technology of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the level of detail had been greatly improved, and even more, intense and explosive special effects have been included adding to the series’ already highly charged atmosphere. From a conceptual standpoint, the third game is also much more thrilling and scarier than in the previous games. The opening cinematic for example was particularly imposing for a lot of players.
Gameplay – 8/10
The gameplay in Contra III: The Alien Wars is also as intense and fast-paced as ever, offering perhaps not as much of a challenge as in the first two games, but still a legitimate one. I guess Konami thought to make it much more accessible in order to appeal to as many gamers as possible, and in my opinion, this was the right choice to make. They would also go on to do the same with Castlevania when it came time to port Super Castlevania IV to the Super Nintendo and continued to do so as the series progressed.
Controls – 10/10
Games in the Contra series prior to this had pretty decent controls compared to many other NES games, but for the third installment, they have been improved dramatically. With more fluency and smoothness, it’s a lot easier to get to grips with than previous games, and the general movement feels nowhere near as stiff. Taking advantage of this key feature is actually integral to mastering the game; especially when it comes to the harder playthrough and certain stages.
Lifespan – 6/10
Clocking up at roughly 4 hours after both playthroughs of the game, depending on skill level, it lasts about as long as a standard platformer, which is acceptable enough since this was the average lifespan of a game at that time. It would be a good few years before the standard length of a game would be increased with the advent of mainstream RPGs back in 1997, but games like this still provided a challenge stern enough to last even longer for players as they improve their skills.
Storyline – 7/10
The story simply involves two heroes, as they join the fight for humanity against the Red Falcon organization, as the alien horde invades the Earth overnight, which is on the brink of apocalypse. It slightly deviates away from the typical gaming scenario whereby the white knight resolves to save the damsel in distress, but it’s still quite basic, as that was how games were at the time; extremely light on the story. But this game does make a little more of an effort than many other games, incorporating a cinematic cutscene in the beginning, and bringing out a great deal of raw emotion in players to add to the gameplay.
Originality – 6/10
2D side scrollers at the time were the standard play style synonymous with most games at the time, but it is quite unique from my perspective since it was the first time I’d witnessed a game that had a sense of maturity about it, making me think that they can be more than just about calm environments and fun levels and enemies. For most gamers, it was Doom that had that same impact, but I didn’t play Doom throughout my childhood, instead of going to play it for the first time many years later.
In summation, Contra III: The Alien Wars is most definitely my favorite out of the original three games and remains one of my favorite Super Nintendo games of all time. It provided something very different from what I was used to during the fourth generation of gaming and is still an experience holding up to this day.