Contra: Shattered Soldier
In a world of 3D shooters it may seem a little old fashioned to release a side scrolling shooter. When the game in question is part of the legendary Contra series though it's good news. Fans of the series have always wanted the game to remain as a side scrolling shooter and for the most part the game is played this way and I'm pleased to say it still works well.
The game can either be played as a single player game or as a two player co-operative game. Played as a single player game you control Bill Rizer, whist in the two player mode the second player will control Lucia. Two player mode is all about teamwork and if done correctly, can be easier than the single player game. What might disappoint fans of the Contra series is the lack of weapons. There are only three on offer. A grenade launcher, a flame thrower and a machine gun. In all fairness though you don't really need anything else but it would have been nice to have the extra weapons in order to increase your strategy options when it comes to the boss fights.
The length of the game seems incredibly short, even by today's standards. In all there are 7 levels, 4 of which are accessible to begin with. In fact to play through all 7 levels is only going to take you a couple of hours, once you've learned to master them that is. The difficulty of the levels is what's going to prevent you from waltzing right through the game. The first level begins nice and gently but very soon the difficulty increases and you'll get to appreciate the 99 continues that are on offer. Should you use a continue you're still going to have to backtrack somewhat as you're placed at the beginning of the level or in the middle of one.
I have never seen so many boss fights in a game. Contra seems to have a multitude of them and it's these boss fights which add the difficulty to the game. That's not to say they are impossible though and once you've faced them a few times you'll begin to learn their movements and where it's best to hit them. It's all about timing and familiarity really. We mentioned earlier that to play through from start to finish might only take a couple of hours but learning to defeat all those bosses and then having to put a great performance together in order to beat them all in one sitting is something that's going to take much, much longer. The game offers you two difficulty settings. The easier option allows you 8 lives per credit whilst the more difficult one only allows you 3 lives per credit. There are 99 credits which you can use to continue, which is perhaps a little excessive.
Most of the game is played as a side scroller but there are moments when the camera angle will change slightly in order to suite your current challenge. What's important though is that the action remains gloriously smooth and as there is an option to run the game at 60Hz you can enjoy all the explosive fun at a rock solid 60fps. The graphics look good and suit the style of the game perfectly. Of course there have always been a few problems with a side scroller and unfortunately Contra still has these problems. The most noticeable of these is that sometimes you don't get enough of a chance to view your approaching enemies or missiles because of the nature of the camera movement. This problem is not a frequent one but it can get on your nerves when it happens.
There are no subtitles in Contra but there doesn't need to be. The only sounds of consequence are the weapon fire and explosions. There are no sounds that need to heard such as warning noises etc. All information is presented in text but to be perfectly honest, this is minimal. The game isn't about stealth it's about hardcore blasting action and to a certain degree it's a button basher. Deaf gamers will have no problem with Contra: Shattered Soldier.
If you're looking for some good old fashioned, side scrolling shoot 'em up action on your PlayStation 2 then Contra: Shattered Soldier will fit the bill very nicely. Fans of the series will also be pleased with what's on offer here. However the challenge and indeed relative shortness of the title may come as a big shock to those who are unfamiliar with these kind of games.
Game Rating: 7.8/10