Angry Video Game Nerd Wiki

Contra How I Remember It - Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN)

The Nerd: Lemme ask ya somethin'. You ever heard the legend of the Monkey's Paw? It's a mystical cursed item that appears as a severed hand of a monkey, or an ape. And with each of its fingers, it grants a wish to the person who finds it. It's been used for greed and lust and it always ends in tragedy. Well, long ago, as a kid, I found the Monkey's Paw.

(The Nerd shows footage from his childhood where he discovers the Monkey's Paw. He gasps and makes a shocked face upon seeing it.)

The Nerd: And y'know what I wished for? I wished that... when I grew up, I'd make a living playing video games.

(More footage of the Monkey's Paw, this time bending its index finger towards its thumb.)

The Nerd: And I got that wish. (sighs and shakes his head) Playing shitty games! PLAYING SHITTY GAMES! Oh, the sorrow! Oh, THE DEVASTATION OF THE HUMAN SOUL! (lifts up the Monkey's Paw) Oh, and the worst thing is that the other finger I wished for candy and shit, and then the thumb I found out didn't count, that's a ripoff. But I still have two wishes left. I'm gonna do it. I wish... to play a good game!

(The Monkey's Paw's ring finger bends down, leaving only the middle finger. The Nerd turns the paw around, so that the Monkey's Paw is now flipping him off. He stares at it in shock as giant footsteps are heard from the other side of the room. He looks up at the source and sees a giant ape, with a missing left hand. The ape snarls at the Nerd and punches him, making him drop the Paw. The ape picks it up and twists it back onto its arm, moving its fingers around once it regains full control of its hand, and nods in approval. The Nerd sits back up, dazed, and looks back at the ape, who then takes out the Contra NES box and throws it at his face. He picks the game box up and sees that he has been granted his wish.)

The Nerd: Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! CONTRA!

(Cut to footage of Contra gameplay on various systems.)

The Nerd: This classic run and gun shooter first landed in the arcade. Set in the year 2633 AD, you take control of the Earth Commandos, blasting away extraterrestrial creatures, robots, and brainwashed human armies. The visuals and aesthetics were heavily influenced by the Alien films, as was Metroid, Xenophobe, and probably too many games to count. It found its way into the home on computers such as the MSX 2, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, DOS, but, yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah, we're talkin' NES. Funny that the PAL version was called Probotector, which changed the characters into robots. But I'm talkin' the good old violent flesh and blood human version.

The Nerd: Let me make clear. I will go back to playing bad games. But for this occasion, let's think outside the toilet bowl. It's definitely not the first time. A while ago, I made a Castlevania retrospective, which was also a Konami franchise. But here, I just wanna focus on the first two NES games. This is Contra, how I remember it.


The Nerd: When I first saw that cover, I was blown away. Two Rambo characters with a xenomorph alien head sneaking up on them. Sometimes my dad let me see those type of movies. But I didn't realize at the time, the character on the left was clearly modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. And if the guy on the right with the dark hair and headband is Rambo, then that's one hell of a team. You put the game in, you start it up, and you see that badass title screen slide in. Straight to the point, like, "oh shit, here it comes."

The Nerd: (mimics the start-up music) Dun, dun, dun, dun, pshhhh! DUN-DUUUUN!

The Nerd: Then, no story, no wall of text, you just drop from the sky, and the action begins.

(Footage of the game is shown as the Nerd plays and is seen to be greatly enjoying it.)


The Nerd: So you're just racin' through, blowing through level after level, layin' waste to everything... (record scratch) No, hang on. It was nothing like this playin' it for the first time as a kid. Let me take ya back, to what it was REALLY like.

(More gameplay footage is shown, this time of the Nerd playing very poorly and dying often. The Nerd looks on in distress and eventually gets frustrated.)

The Nerd: FUUUCK!

The Nerd's Mom (offscreen): You watch your language in there, mister!

The Nerd: The difficulty is fair, you're given the freedom to shoot in all directions, making your targets accessible, and when you jump, you curl into a ball, making the hitbox smaller, so you can dodge enemy fire more effectively. With all the freedom you have, whenever you fail, it's all on you. It's not over somethin' ridiculous. You die, you learn, you do better. Never do you feel like you hit a dead end or, don't know what to do. It's just simply about practice, and pure concentration. That's why this game is so addicting. It blocks out all other unhappy thoughts, where your only focus is on the geometry, and split-second reaction time of dodging those projectiles. You go into a Contra trance. And whenever I'm in this trance, this is what I have to say.

(The Nerd is shown playing the game. He is in deep concentration mode and does not say anything.)

The Nerd: Even though you die by one hit, it lets you continue where you left off. It doesn't force you to backtrack. Not unless you lose all your lives. And you know what that's called? Fair. Of course I should mention the famous Konami Code. It was in Nintendo Power, but famously spread through word of mouth. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. It gives you 30 lives, which is plenty. And that... is the pure definition of cheap.

The Nerd: This is a perfect example of a quality game. The hit detection is spot-on. The satisfaction of eliminating targets. The controls respond so instantaneously, it almost feels like it's happening directly from your brain. And the music is excellent.

(Gameplay footage is shown with the music playing in the background.)

The Nerd: Oh - and the bosses are so awesome, you're always excited to see what's coming up next. I'll never forget my first impression of the stage 3 boss.

(The Nerd reaches the stage 3 boss, and ominous music plays as the boss appears from a fiery background. The Nerd looks on in horror.)

The Nerd: Ohhh... SHIIIT! That face snuck into my nightmares. This game... is so good, y'know what? It pisses me off it's so good. Here comes the part where I say bad things about the game. Um... (struggles to think of a complaint) Well, uh... Why do... the characters wear blue and red? What kinda camouflage is that? Um... that's all I got. Come on, game! Gimme somethin'! That's how good it is. Tryin' to shake some shits outta this gem is gonna be tough!

The Nerd: How 'bout this? Why is there no boss music on stage 3? They could've made this moment even more exciting if it wasn't the same music as the level. How 'bout stage 7? They apparently ran outta music and recycled the theme from stage 1. Hey, stage 7 doesn't even really have a boss. I mean - you're basically fighting a door. "I ain't never fought no door before."

The Nerd: But you wanna talk about strange bosses? How 'bout stage 4? It's a bunch of Transformers that transform! (plays the Transform sound effect from the show while the enemies change form) And if you had any doubt, you're also fighting the Autobot logo. And stage 6? What's up with the karate-kicking robot in front of the jukebox? I don't even know how he expects to hit me all the way up there.

The Nerd: As far as pitfalls and hazards go, stage 7 has those annoying spiked walls that pop up outta nowhere. Not that hard to avoid, but you gotta move cautiously. I especially like the ones that are just there already. Like, "Okay. Wow, game. Ya really slowed me down there." I dunno who's ever gotten killed by these things. I guess you can run into them... if you want. This is the flypaper approach. Let's just see if the player runs into it. Then there's the claws that go up and down. Those same claws show up again in Double Dragon 2. What's up with that? Reminds me of those annoying claw games in the arcade. Y'know, the ones where ya pick up the toy? Has anyone ever successfully managed to pick up something with those pieces of shit?

The Nerd: You know what I love? The Spread Gun. That is one of the best weapons in gaming history. Whenever that item drops and you get it, it is such a fulfilling moment, to just spray bullets all over. And when ya lose it... man, does that shed some tears. You ever accidentally pick up a weapon you don't want, like the Laser? It usually happens when it lands in your way. Well, the Laser's a good weapon because it's so powerful. I mean - look at how fast I annihilate the stage 5 boss. But you can only blast one stream at a time. If ya tap it, it has a short range.

The Nerd: Of course, I gotta talk about 2-player mode. Even though the characters have official names, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, my friends and I always called them Blue Pants Guy and Red Pants Guy. If ya merge together, you become Purple Pants Guy. Having two players does not make it any easier, because if you don't carefully plan every move and stay together, you're gonna get fucked. That's what makes this a great co-op challenge.

The Nerd: (talking to the second player) Stay together! Stay together! A-alright, now wait, wait... (Player 2 falls to his death) Ugh! (Player 2 dies again) Ugh, man... stop dying! Alright-alright, go ahead. Take one of my lives. There you go. (Player 2 dies yet again) Oh, come on, again?! Fuck!

(The Nerd glares at the second player at his right, who is revealed to be Shit Pickle.)

Shit Pickle: Shit pickle! Shit pickle shit pickle shit pickle!

The Nerd: You wanna know somethin' really weird about this game? In single player mode, you can actually play with either controller. Yeah. That means if a friend wants to be an asshole, they could grab the second controller and mess you up. But there's a cool little trick I learned from the Classified Information booklet that came inside of Nintendo Power. On those 3-dimensional hallway stages, if you duck on controller 1 while holding Up on controller 2, you can shoot higher. Yeah!

The Nerd: The most coveted moment of any gaming experience, is reaching that final level for your first time. It happened to me, early one morning before the school bus came. I had a little extra time to kill, and I had no idea I would make it that far. I actually felt nervous, and creeped the fuck out.

The Nerd: The ground looks like bloody flesh. There's skeletal aliens piled up, and next thing, these floating shrimp with teeth start comin' at ya. And then - oh, dear! (shows the large red alien head boss) What the hell is that thing? That... is probably one of the most terrifying bosses to come out of the 80s. And after you blow its head off, you can still see a portion of the neck! That's fucking brilliant. I've never seen, in any game before, where the remains of the boss become part of the background!

The Nerd: Then you come to all these mouths. Yeah, mouths on the wall. Could you imagine, just being a mouth on a wall of alien bodies? What would they talk about all day?

(Two alien mouths laying next to each other start talking amongst themselves.)

Mouth 1: Might be gettin' some RAIN!

Mouth 2: Hm. Yeah.

Mouth 1: Blue Pants Guy, Blue Pants Guy! He's back, he's back!

(The player shoots the first mouth, who screams as he dies, and then the second, who also screams.)

The Nerd: So, I heard, the final boss... was... a heart. I had to see it for myself. I was picturing like a... Valentine's heart. But then, I see this thing. (shows the final boss, which is a large alien heart) A realistic, disgusting, pulsating beating heart! With a subtle hint of a distorted face. Holy... horrifying hell! Also, these things are totally the Face Huggers from Alien.

The Nerd: Meanwhile, the school bus was comin' any minute; my mom was callin' me for breakfast, but I HAD to finish the game! I-I-I couldn't pause it! I mean - what was I gonna do? H-how was I gonna pay attention in class, knowing I had a Contra game at home, paused on the final boss? It was now, or never! And just in the nick of time, BOOOOOM!

(The final boss explodes.)

The Nerd: I couldn't believe it. I beat... a Nintendo game! So I ate my breakfast, I got on the bus, I went to school, and then I bragged, "hey, did ya ever beat Contra? Well - I beat Contra before breakfast!" And then, they were like, "so what's the final boss?" And I was like, "Uh... a giant heart. Yeah, sure." And if you wanna get real crazy, after the ending, the game sends ya back to level 1, and with each playthrough, it gets harder and harder. Now that's what you call replay value.

Super C[]

The Nerd: Here's the thing. Contra still would've been remembered as a masterpiece had it been only one game. But it was a two-punch combo. When I opened those pages of Nintendo Power #12, it was like hot damn. Especially when I unfolded that badass poster that came with it. Contra 2 - I mean, Super C. And it did not disappoint. As soon as you drop from that helicopter, it's on.

(A montage of Super C gameplay is shown.)

The Nerd: This is when sequels were sequels. It plays exactly the same and feels just like more levels to the original. Though the top-view stages are new, and a very welcome addition. The control is perfectly fluid, and these stages are among my favorites. (chuckles) Every time I blow up the stage 2 boss, I like to sit in the driver's seat. (moves his player in the driver's seat of the stage 2 boss as it is exploding)

The Nerd: There's little details I enjoy. Just the fact that after you complete stage 1 and pass through the door, you can actually see yourself through the crack. Dude, stage 3, the first time I saw that robot spider stomping toward me, I almost shit my pants. What a great mini-boss. And that style of music kinda reminds me of that synthesizer score from the first Terminator film. (plays music from the boss fight) THAT is the music of a machine comin' to kill you.

The Nerd: But nothing tops the end of stage 6. It's a bunch of horrific faces merged together. Ya blast them away, and watch the fireworks spectacular, which never gets old. Ahh, love those sounds. But wait! It's not over! Ground starts shaking! Here it comes! (A giant alien head appears from the hole that the original faces had been) Awwww, YEEEAH! That face... is amazing! T-there's somethin' funny about it! I don't know what it is. Just look.

The Nerd: Is there anything stupid in this game? Well, near the end of stage 3, there's an earthquake. The ground opens up into pitfalls, but they give you the invincibility item here. It doesn't matter if you're invincible! If you fall in the pits, ya die! So why of all places did they put the item here? Stage 4, ya have to keep stopping to blast away bubbles. Come on, BUBBLES? Why do BUBBLES kill you? No, really! HOW do the bubbles do harm? Maybe, it's because these guys are SO macho, they have such extreme pride in their MASCULINITY, that somethin' like bubbles hurts them so deeply inside, it just flat out kills 'em. The boss of this stage is literally a showerhead shooting lasers. I wonder, what function this thing serves on a normal day? Does some robot take a laser shower in it?

The Nerd: The challenge... is addicting. And this game boils down to instincts, and memorizing patterns. For example, the stage 6 boss, the chrome-colored... blob of skulls. You gotta aim for that target. But you can't, because you gotta watch the ground for these little skulls. But you can't look at the ground 'cause you gotta pay attention to those red things in the air! But you can't do that either because the game's drivin' ya nuts! It's a combination of offensive-defensive strategies, but it becomes part of you. It's in your blood.

The Nerd: Two-player mode is just as hard as ever. You gotta stay together, or else... this kinda shit happens. (Player 2 dies from falling below the screen) Especially on the earthquake part. And any stage where you're going up.

The Nerd: The last two stages get outta hand with the Alien references. I don't know whether to call them... nods or ripoffs. But the creatures that hatch from the eggs are blatantly face huggers. And the xenomorphs... are... exactly that. They are xenomorphs from Ridley Scott's Alien. And if that's not enough, the final boss is the space jockey. The top part at least. Which was the dead alien pilot from the original Alien, and later Prometheus. I think Prometheus should've ripped off Contra, just for good measure. Anyway, the satisfaction of defeating that final boss is just as great as ever, and overall, I love this game just as much, if not more than the first. Like Alien and Aliens, I think of them as a perfect pair.

Operation C[]

The Nerd: To me, the NES will always be the home of Contra. Those first two games released in '87. But if you wanna move over to the Game Boy for a second, there was a third Contra title released in '91, Operation C. This was the first portable Contra game, and surprisingly it retains most of the smooth gameplay that you've come to know. So if you wanted to play Contra on the go, this one did not disappoint.

Contra III: The Alien Wars[]

The Nerd: Now, if you wanna step into 16-bit territory, let's go over to the Super Nintendo. As announced in the Super Nintendo Player's Guide, the next game would be called Super Contra IV. But when it came out in early '92, it was called Contra III: The Alien Wars. And as a successor... holy HELL. This showed you the difference 16 bits made.

(Gameplay montage of Contra III is shown, and the Nerd gets excited while playing)

'The Nerd: WOW! (reaches a boss fight) Oh, my God, it's fuckin' awesome, it's fuckin' awesome, IT'S FUCKIN' AWESOME!

(The Nerd continues playing, and he gets so happy that hearts begin falling from the top of the video screen.)

The Nerd: Wow! Contra just keeps on bein' awesome!

Contra Force[]

The Nerd: But then in late '92 came another NES title, Contra Force.

(The Nerd starts playing Contra Force, but the gameplay is much worse than the other games, and the falling hearts instead turn into shit while fart noises begin playing.)

The Nerd: Oh, it's shit! It's shit! IT'S SHIT! IT'S SHIT! (screams in disgust)

The Nerd: What is up with the control? It's like you're moving underwater! And just to think, this came out after Super C. This is not a Contra game, and I mean that. In Japan, it was originally meant to be called Arc Hound, but was changed into a Contra game last minute, after it was localized for North America.

The Nerd: Contra Force?! More like CAN'T YA FORCE A SHIT OUT YOUR ASS!

Contra Hard Corps[]

The Nerd: In true Konami fashion, when it came to 16-bit, they gave us two different games. While Super Nintendo had Contra III, Sega Genesis had Contra Hard Corps in '94. How awesome was this? Well, just cue the fuckin' montage.

(A montage of Contra Hard Corps gameplay is shown)

The Nerd: This one gave you a selection of characters, including a wolf. A Contra game, where you can play as a motherfucking wolf! It even had branching paths, and six different endings, one where you go back in time and marry a monkey! Otherwise it's the same run and gun action, with great variety, giant bosses, and all the good stuff you could ever ask for.

Contra: Legacy of War[]

The Nerd: And then we move over to the PlayStation and here we have CONTRA: LEGACY OF WAR!

(gameplay footage of Contra: Legacy of War is shown while shits begin falling from the top of the screen again, accompanied by farting noises. The Nerd screams in disgust at how bad the game is.)


C: The Contra Adventure[]


(gameplay footage of C: The Contra Adventure is shown while the shits continue to fall and more farting noises are played.)

The Nerd: Aah, make it stop! Ohh, the shits, I can't take the shits! Aaah, MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOOOP!

Contra IV[]

The Nerd: (sighs in relief) Contra IV on the DS. Now that was a good one. Just like a classic Contra game, but portable.


The Nerd: Of course there's plenty more Contra games and, maybe some other time, I'll go in depth with the bad ones. There could always be a new Contra game coming out, and uh... it might meet my approval, or... might not. But, it seems, even with the best games nowadays, no matter how good... nothing will ever surpass my experience with those first two Contras on NES. And why is that? I don't know. And when compared to all the NES turds I've dissected like Ikari Warriors, Raid 2020, and Rambo, it begs the question. Was Contra the standard? Or, was it so far above standard, so exceptionally magnificent, that it made all the others suck? In that same way... I wonder if the past... set an unreasonable standard for the future. Do we hold our childhoods so dear because, it was better? Or just familiar?

The Nerd: When I think back to Contra, I'm not just remembering the '80s. I'm remembering that time in the 2000s when I was remembering the '80s. It's a memory that's been photocopied countless times. It's been through many filters and distortions. There's even major holes when I forgot about Contra for a bit.

The Nerd: You know what happened to my original cartridge? I sold it. I sold it. Some time after the N64 came out, I took a handful of my games and I brought them over to the local FuncoLand. They offered me 7 bucks for Contra, and I accepted. You know what I did with that 7 bucks? Went over to the deli, and bought a sandwich. To this day, I'll never remember any details of that sandwich. Did it, um, have lettuce? Uh... was it any good? I don't know. Today, if you were to ask me "hey, you remember that sandwich?", I'd say, "I don't know what the fuck you're talkin' about."

The Nerd: But Contra... that sticks with me. And even if I had to part with it for a while, sometimes you have to temporarily forget about something, before you fall in love with it again. And when you come back to it... it's the same as it was. Even though everything else has changed. Life has changed. The world has changed. But sealed in that plastic slab, is a time capsule of your youth, fossilized in ROM data on a circuit board. It's read-only memory, the type that doesn't change.

The Nerd: As soon as you pop that fucker in your NES, you're back. You're back... to an innocent summer day, with no such thing as Internet. Instead, you and your friends are running around with Nerf guns and Super Soakers, pretending you're the guys from Contra. You're standing on a swing, holding on to its chains, like a ladder of a helicopter. Ya jump off, rolling into the grass, the jungle. If it's not that, you're setting up GI Joe figures in the mud, to stage epic battles. That skill you had, of creating a fantasy land out of nothing, that wild imagination and backyard adventure was fueled by those pixelated military dudes blasting away alien creatures and robots. That's what Contra's all about.

The Nerd: And, maybe, you lost touch with those old friends, but when you play that game once more, ya think of them again. And maybe, just maybe, somewhere, in some part of the world... they're remembering it too. Almost as if they're still sitting on the living room floor beside you. And maybe ya had a grandparent, or family member who you lost, and they're still watching ya play.

The Nerd: Even as strangers, we can have a shared connection of talking about old games, and... that is nothing to be angry about. That joy in its simplest form comes down to simply asking someone, "hey, remember Contra?" And the answer... is "fuck yeah!"