for PC (CGA)

Alternate Titles: Gryzor
Company: Banana Development
Year: 1988
Genre: Action
Theme: War
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 8267
Review by contrafan (2018-04-04)

Contra for DOS is a port of the original arcade game with the same title. Unfortunately, it is regarded as the poorest version of Contra officially released, despite being one of the more obscure titles.

On a whole, Contra is a side-scrolling run-n-gun shooter. Gameplay elements, common to the source material, include traversing multiple locations and shooting various types of enemies. This includes various soldiers, gun turrets and other machines. Bosses are encountered at the end of each stage. Powerup weapons can be found throughout most of the stages to assist; additionally, the game can be played in simultaneous 2 player mode. The game works on a system of lives; however, what makes Contra difficult is the 1-hit death system: a single hit of any kind (including contact with most enemies) will result in a death, and the player will lose any weapon powerups they may have had.

This version of Contra does attempt to show some promise. It retains more enemy types from the arcade original than any other version of the game. All of the levels and their essential content are also present; the limited palette is at least used to attempt to replicate the arcade original's visuals. Most guns and powerups are included, and one of the missing powerups is replaced by another. Furthermore, it is the only home computer conversion that retains the simultaneous 2-player mode. It is the most faithful version in these particular regards.

The game-breaking flaw resides in the control system. Unless the player uses a joystick or gamepad, controlling the character(s) is very difficult. When using the keyboard, there are separate buttons for diagonal aim; additionally, a separate button must be pressed to stop running. Even worse is that each press of a keyboard key reduces the game speed. This inevitably results in unresponsive controls and, most importantly, a high frequency of deaths.

It is no help that there are no continues and extra lives are gained after every 50,000 points. This large number makes it useless to even attempt to gain any lives, as one will not even reach this number by the end of the game during a regular play session. Another issue concerns the player's running speed, as well as that of many of the enemies. Both are uncontrollably and/or disproportionately fast.

DOS Contra’s audio is another weak point. Music is nonexistent (the closest to music is a pitch-shifting sound clip played at the title screen), while sound effects are abysmal and irritating. PC speakers are the sole option for the sound source; what is heard is a small variety of beeps that will completely compromise the player’s focus, the death sound effect being the most prominent.

Visuals use CGA and are somewhat superior to the ZX Spectrum version, but projectiles still sometimes camouflage in backgrounds. There are 6 different palettes, each assigned exclusively to at least one of the levels. Guns are mostly the same, except that an H gun replaces the laser; it merely shoots larger, stronger rifle bullets. If using the keyboard, all guns are automatic and fire at a tremendously high rate.

The fact that a faithful translation to DOS is demonstrated supports the notion that this DOS version of Contra could have been designed better.

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