Contra: Operation Galuga – The First Preview
5 mins read

Contra: Operation Galuga – The First Preview

Contra: Operation Galuga is more than just another remake of the original Contra. It’s a reimagining of the story of aliens using an island off the coast of New Zealand as a staging ground of world ending apocalypse, and a highlight reel of the series’ best mechanics and levels upgraded for modern sensibilities. In the hands-on time we played through three stages, and now we’re convinced that Contra is so, so back.

The story of Contra, centering around the alien possessed paramilitary Red Falcon developing weapons to kill all humans on Earth and the muscley men of the special marine unit fated to destroy them, still absolutely doesn’t matter. But it is fully and competently voice acted in the way a lot of the more recent entries in the series are, and it’s even occasionally witty. It can be a bit long-winded though, and in at least one instance so far in the second mission, it can be a bit of a bummer to have to sit through as a full on conversation halts the running and gunning to a crawl, especially if you’re playing through the section again because you died previously.

In this section, while speeding through the well defended Red Falcon base on a hoverbike to find its leader, you encounter a deserter attempting to escape because the flavor of war crime the group is looking to commit is a little too spicy for him. Even though it’s distracting, it also felt in line with some of the biggest innovations to the series brought by Contra 3, where things go down mid mission instead of always at the end in order to keep the action feeling dynamic and unpredictable. A much better version of this inspiration comes later in this stage when a mini boss catches up to you in a tricked out war buggy hoping to cut you off before you get to the fortress’s data center. The focused change up was a very welcome break from the bullet hell before and after, though it’s just as much of a challenge as everything else.

Arguably the best addition, though, are overloads. By sacrificing a weapon, you can unleash a powerful attack that varies based on what gun you’re packing.

Another great returning Contra 3 feature is being able to keep and switch between two different weapon pickups, meaning you can tuck a favorite go to weapon while picking a secondary one that might be more appropriate for the task at hand. With how dangerous and varied enemies become as you progress through stages, having more than one kind of weapon is key for survival. A new feature in Operation Galuga lets you to stack a pair of the same weapon to upgrade it. These upgraded machine guns shoot faster, upgraded lasers ricochet off of enemies and find new targets, etc. Arguably the best addition, though, are overloads. By sacrificing a weapon, you can unleash a powerful attack that varies based on what gun you’re packing. If you like the spread shot for its ability to cover large areas (and we know you do), then you’ll love its screen-filling overdrive attack, which is perfect for screens with lots of enemies, or bosses with lots of shootable targets.

The first three missions will be familiar for fans of early Contra series entries. Much of the first is a spitting image of the original first mission’s jungle assault, complete with the watery ground and precarious bridges that explode under your feet. The latter half of the third mission’s cliff climb to a base perched atop a plateau – and the waiting claws of a mantis monster – is very reminiscent of the first as well. Where the second mission’s speed gunning bike chase felt most like Contra 3 or Hardcore’s more energetic missions. The differences in designs compared to their older references didn’t stand out much, but the vibrant and colorful makeover demands attention. The characters and stages are visually the perfect mix of new shiny fidelity and old-school simplicity.

Another thing Operation Galuga has in common with the original ones is that it’s tough. With only three lives and three hits per life, you’ll be restarting at somewhat wonky checkpoints pretty regularly. Fast-twitch responses and some good old fashioned level memory were key to high level Contra play in the past, and it seems like that remains true now. Luckily, there are multiple difficulty options in case you want a less intense alien shooting experience.

If you’ve been craving a new Contra with older Contra sensibilities, look no further than Contra: Operation Galuga. Whether you played the original when it made its jump from arcades to home consoles, dropped in on some of the more experimental sequels, or have never had the pleasure of jogging into certain death with your bros, this game looks to be the best way to get the purest Contra experience without having to dust off your NES.

Contra: Operation Galuga will be released on March 12, and a playable demo is available now.

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