Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start.  Anyone else out there remember entering this code?  The Konami Code was first introduced in Gradius but rose to cult status with the release of Contra for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Contra was originally released for the arcades on February 20,1987 and later ported to the NES in 1988.

Gameplay

Contra is a run and gun action game that, while challenging, is good fun.  It provided different types of levels including several 3D styled levels and tradition scrolling levels.  The combination kept each level fresh and unique and challenging in their own way at the same time.

You the player take control of Bill “Mad Dog” Rizer or Lance “Scorpion” Bean as you attempt to destroy the bad guys.  Depending on the version of the game, the bad guys could be a terrorist organization or a group of invading aliens.  To destroy your targets, you can equip yourself with a variety of weapons including a shot gun (my favorite), machine gun, fireball gun and a laser gun.  In addition, there are other powerups to increase the fire rate of your normal rifle and even a Barrier to give you a few moments of invincibility.

Contra’s run and gun style will have you using your reflexes more than almost any other game.  Enemies, giant aliens and even gun turrets will attempt to stop you in your tracks.  If you are shot only once you lose a life which is one of the reasons this game is so difficult making the Konami Code for an extra thirty lives even more important for many to get anywhere in the game.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics were superb for their time.  The gun turrets and weapons look great and the aliens are truly disturbing in many ways.  The 3D levels really showcase what can be done even with the limited hardware of the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

The sound doesn’t disappoint, either.  Konami was well known for their superior music and sound effects in games and Contra was one of the reasons they earned that reputation.  The weapons, while not necessarily accurate, are each unique and effective in conveying the type of weapon.  The explosions and shots add the perfect layer of sound to pull you into the game.  On top of all that, the background music is a real treat and in many ways one of the best soundtracks ever composed for a game for the NES.

Conclusion

Contra was one of the toughest games ever made for the NES but at the same time it was one of the most fun.  The Konami Code was necessary for me to tackle this game when I was a kid.  The gameplay is fun and challenging and the popularity of this game led to the creation of a franchise that has endured even to this day.  So grab the Konami Code and fire up this classic and see how well you do in this very difficult game.