June 17, 2024
The granddaddy of run and gun shooters returns, with Contra: Operation Galuga. Does it still have the chops, or can Bill not Rizer to the challenge anymore? The Finger Guns review:

Contra-ary to what my age my suggest, I never actually played a lot of Contra “back in the day”. I’d played Probotector on the SNES, and Hard Corps: Uprising (without knowing the series’ connections), but never the directly famous Konami title. However, I am an indirect fan enough to respect it, and what it did for the run-and-gun genre. So, I thought I thought I’d jump into this remake, Contra: Operation Galuga.

Essentially a reimagining of the first game, Operation Galuga brings the classic gameplay kicking and shooting into 2.5D territory. Retaining that classic 2D shooter gameplay, this reimagining is a full bells and whistles upgrade from the classic 8bit title many grew up with. With a fleshed out story, alongside a faithful arcade mode, this is Konami showing the world why Contra is king.

Is it enough to spark the nostalgia in the retro gamers, as well as bring in those that missed it the first time around, or is time for Bill Rizer and company to hang up their alien-stomping ways? Let’s find out.

Contra review

What Is A “Galuga”, Anyway?

Whilst I may not have played the original Contra, I’m vaguely aware of the plot… I think. There’s invading forces, robots, a giant wall that fires lasers and then some. It was of a time when games were made to be big and macho, and sci-fi alongside the Operation: Wolf’s and whatnot. When it’s eating coins to keep kids hooked, we’re not looking and Metal Gear-esque exposition dumps.

Fortunately, and in moving with the times, Operation Galuga does have a Story Mode to bring us up to speed. In this fleshed out, cutscene-plenty mode, we discover that the Red Falcon Army has set up base on the fictional Galuga archipelago. We, the Contra unit’s finest in Bill Rizer and Lance Bean (yeah, really) are sent in to discover what they’re up to.

But it doesn’t like to Spinal Tap things up to eleven, with alien forces getting involved, with portals and whatnot. I make it sound generic, but it’s actually quite entertaining in a Saturday morning cartoon kind of way. Veteran voice actor Steve Blum leading the way as Rizer adds some familiarity, and the vibe reminds me of Far Cry: Blood Dragon. Except these guys are super serious and not parodying the whole thing.

Contra review

Keep To The Right

If you are unfamiliar with Contra, or any other run-and-gun game, then here’s a summary of what it involves: go right. As simple a formula as it back in the 80’s, the pattern is the same here. Players start on the left-most side of the level, and will proceed to the right. Some levels introduce a little verticality, the occasional climb, with most ended in a boss battle.

Levels start of easy enough, all lush introductory jungles and the like. A few platforms here, some ledges there, all easily within reach to get players used to multi-level classic Contra platforming. Things then begin to ramp up, like the hover-motorbike sessions above. These play more on rails, but the principle tenet still applies.

On occasion, there might be a mini-boss about halfway through the level. The screenshot above is a prime example: an armoured car with an enthusiastic driver at the helm, just to shake things up. Then, as mentioned a few paragraphs ago, a boss fight. The first level is a giant wall, all the way up to alien hearts and such.

Contra review

Playing With Firepower

One of the main components to a run and gun game being fun is the arsenal that comes with it. Running through levels with one type of gun would get stale (unless you’re fond of specific challenges), so having a variety livens things up somewhat. Of course, Contra is no stranger to variety, with machine guns, homing rockets, lasers and shotguns being available across levels. These are obtained through icon-fonted cubes, either lying about or shot out of passing drones. Two can equipped at any time, with the ability to switch to either whenever the player deems fit.

But that’s not all, with Operation Galuga adding some neat tricks. Firstly, each weapon can be upgraded to a second tier, and this is as simple as just picking up the same block as the one you have equipped. This means more homing rockets, a bigger shotgun spread and the like, but that’s still not all. A weapon can be overcharged, which at the cost of sacrificing it will activate a unique attack. Screens filled with rockets, a temporary shield and whatnot.

Fortunately, there’s no real “strategy” here, or any specific weapon is best. Certainly, the wall boss at the start is slightly easier with homing rockets, but that doesn’t mean the others are less effective. There’s also no need to be precious about storing them, as weapon drops are extremely frequent.

Kicking It Old School

Like most remakes, or reimaginings, players are often expecting more content in line with the times. In that case, they may be sorely disappointed with what Contra: Operation Galuga has to offer. It’s not entirely bare-bones, but don’t expect to see lengthy DLC story campaign additions in the near future.

As mentioned, there’s the Story Mode, spanning across eight stages with some lengthy storytelling interspersed throughout. Outside of that, there’s the Arcade Mode, which is… well, the same thing without the cutscenes. Literally as it was intended back in the 80’s: you (and up to three friends) play through the stages, no waffle, all action.

Then there’s Challenge Mode. As the name suggests, it’s players plonked into certain stages, with specific requirements or restrictions placed on them. Y’know, like a challenge, if you will. There’s various trophies/achievements linked to these, ranging from easy enough to “Why didn’t I hone my skills on this 30 years ago?” levels of hard.

And that’s pretty much it, as well as the standard bevvy of unlockable artworks, music tracks and galleries. Bit wasted on me, really, but I’m sure the old Contra-heads will get nostalgic about it.

Once More Into The Fray

In short, like this review, it’s… Contra. If you’re aware of the series, this is more of the same with a lick of paint. If you’re not familiar, but like your runner-gunners, this would be a good entry point. It’s got all of the retro sensibilities, but at a player-controlled level of difficulty. One can cruise through it on Easy, or ramp the challenge up for that old school masochism.

Personally, I enjoyed it. I’ve played a few over the years, and can definitely respect the heritage that Contra offers. However, these aren’t my forte, so I don’t see me trying to 100% the whole thing. But, at such a small install size, I’m sure I”ll keep it on my PS5 for the odd dabble. Might even get some friends involved.

At the end of the day, it’s the same old Contra, with some fleshed out story and razzle dazzle to make it enjoyable. It’s not reinventing the wheel, yet nor is it trying to.

Contra is back, all jazzed up and offering absolutely nothing new in what it pioneered almost forty years ago. But then, it doesn’t need to, as it’s still a blast for old and new fans alike. Adding four player couch co-op is a nice touch, all the while keeping its retro sensibilities.

Contra: Operation Galuga is available now on PlayStation 4 & 5 (reviewed on latter), Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

Developer: WayForward Games
Publisher: Konami

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels –TwitterFacebookTwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.