CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA [PC Game Review]





Contra Operation Galuga

CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA
Developed by WayForward
Publisher by KONAMI
Available on Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch

Months after the Galuga Archipelago off the coast of New Zealand is hit by asteroids, a terrorist faction known as Red Falcon moves in and takes control of the island. Suspecting Red Falcon have been developing some dangerous gravity controlling technology, the military send in GX squad to take down the Red Falcon group but when communications go quiet with the elite squad, they fear the worst. In order to find out what happened, rescue what remains of the GX squad and wipe out Red Falcon, the military call upon Contra commandos Bill Rizer and Lance Bean to take the fight to the guerillas in Galuga.

A modern-gen take on the side-scrolling run ‘n’ gun, most favourably played on the NES console, CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA is every bit of the updated reimagining of the original game you could hope for with eight stages of explosive, gun-toting fun, complete with the weapons upgrades that the game series is known for with a few news ones to boot!

The game is split into three modes – Story Mode, where you play each level of the campaign, one after the other, following the story; Arcade Mode, where you can play the levels of your choice, providing you’ve unlocked them in Campaign mode first; and Challenge Mode – Speed runs and other difficult challenges based on levels you’ve unlocked in Campaign mode, which often result in failure if you get hit just once  – definitely for the seasoned pros then!

Contra Operation Galuga Labs

Each stage or level is introduced with a cutscene with the player then in charge of a character of choice – first Bill or Lance but you have the option to select others as you progress through the levels. The cutscenes bring a narrative to the level which is much welcomed and helps to form the story and give context to the setting and enemies you find yourself against. They won’t always be the Red Falcon soldiers! Midway through each level, there’s often another cut-scene or some sort of mini boss to defeat before the end of the level pits you against its big boss. Each end-level boss is different from the other stages, but most require you to blast them to bits and time your movement in order to dodge their attacks. Each boss usually has a pattern you can study to work out when to evade and jump to avoid getting hit, but their hit box zones can sometimes change so it’s good to keep an eye on the design of the boss to see where their weak spot is.

After defeating the boss, you usually get a cutscene which sets you up for the next stage before you’re greeted with stats for your level completion, such as time it took you to complete. Every time you play, you earn credits when can be spent in the Perks shop to unlock attributes such as temporary invincibility when dodging or start the stage with a specific weapon already equipped. There’s only two slots though to place perks/modifiers at the beginning of a round, so you have to be selective with which you want to start with out of those you’ve purchased. Some perks can only be used with certain characters whilst others can be used whichever character you play.

Watching the scene setting intro of CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA play out in front of me reminded me of the film Predator, where Dutch and his crew are sent into the jungle in Central America following the disappearance of a team of Green Berets who were sent in to eliminate a guerrilla faction and had since gone off radar. That’s not the only similarity to the movie!

Contra Operation Galuga Jungle

Running and jumping through the various levels of the game is lots of fun, especially when you get hold of some decent weapons such as the laser or homing missiles (my personal favourite). There’s machine gun too and flamethrower, as well as spread gun. Some weapons are more suited to certain situations than others so it’s good to switch between them. You have two weapon slots and throughout the game you can shoot the eagle wings hovering throughout the level to unlock weapons upgrades that can be collected. Once you’ve passed a section in this side-scrolling shoot-em-up, you can’t go back, so if you want to collect those weapons upgrades, you have to make sure you scoop them up before passing them. If you really like a gun, you don’t really want to lose, then it’s best to either swap to your other gun slot to swap it out or just avoid picking up the upgrade. If you upgrade your guns to a same type twice or more, you can unleash a special move related to that specific weapon. If it’s the laser, it slows down time which is particularly good for battles with lots of enemies or with a big boss. Each special move is different depending on the weapon, and using it will decrease your weapon’s level down by one.

There’s plenty of variety in CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA as a side-scrolling and vertical platforming game when it comes to getting from A to B. You can double jump, hang from rails, grab and climb side walls and dash, each of which provides some varied ways to navigating the terrain in the game. On Normal difficulty, the game is much harder than it looks, and I swore on quite a few occasions as I died before meeting the checkpoint, but utilising the dash and double jump, and some well-placed shots, will often get you out of a scrape or two.

It’s not all run and gun either. On level two, for instance, you get to ride and gun as you take to a motorcycle and have to face soldiers also on bikes as well as turrets and mechanical enemies. It can get heavy pretty fast but this change in style is much welcomed and adds a bit of variety to the game. The same goes with the environments you find yourself in. With each stage hosted in a different setting in context to the story, you get to navigate new threats and obstacles whilst admiring the design and feel of the level which helps to move the story along. These environments add their own unique feel to each stage rather than playing the same one over and over, which keeps things interesting.

Contra Operation Galuga Base

 

CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA can be played solo but it also has the option for multiplayer. If you’re playing on Steam, you can also play with friends who haven’t got the game using Remote Play Together, or if you’re in company with someone, you can do play local co-op via split screen.

One of the great things about this game is that it’s also Steam Deck Verified. Playing CONTRA – OPERATION GALUGA on the Steam Deck is such a thrilling experience and works like a charm. You can use the thumbsticks or directional pad to operate your character but I found the thumb joysticks the best to use when aiming the gun at enemies throughout the level. The game feels a natural fit for the Deck, but works just as well with an Xbox or Playstation controller hooked up to the desktop. In fact, the devs WayForward recommend playing with a controller. I can’t see it working as well otherwise.

If you’ve never played Contra before, but like other games such as Broforce or Huntdown, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy with this instalment based on the original run ‘n’ gun game. It may be short and sweet, but every moment is a deeply satisfying onslaught of bullets, explosions, colourful and exotic environments, deadly enemies and ass-kickin’ fun – like being in your own little action flick!

Rating: ★★★★½

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About Bat 4417 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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