Playing action-packed co-op games is not an idea of the past. In fact, in my humble opinion, it’s some of the best forms of electronic entertainment. Sitting down with one or more friends and blowing sh*t up, it's quality bonding time.
Needless to say, I was pumped to play Contra: Shattered Soldier, and usually I don't read anyone's opinions on games until I review them. This time, I slipped up. My wandering eyes caught a glance and I was tainted. Ok, maybe not tainted, but I knew what someone else thought about the game before I made a judgment call. “Too many boss battles” people complained, “the graphics aren't that clean”, said another. Still, I played the game with an open mind and let the Contra goodness seep in and begin the rotting process in my brain, and I feel fantastic.
I really enjoyed Shattered Soldier and I highly recommend that you grab a best friend and tear through this game some Friday night. Here's another suggestion: don't think that you're a manly man and rip into this game on normal mode -- unless, of course, you are back in your Nintendo prime when you could beat Life Force on three lives -- cause this game is hard, make no mistake about it. Sure, there is a lot of what I call “dyin' and retryin'”, but it didn't sway me from having a good time with this title. Easy mode gives you plenty of lives (nine) and tons-o-continues (ninety-nine), which is great because it helps you enjoy your experience by learning the patterns of the bosses.
And forget about a lot of old school platforming. Don't you know that these days, all soldiers fight are f*cked up bosses? I swear, I about barfed up something fierce when I saw some of the bosses in this game. I know that Konami is going with the whole alien theme but my God, some of those bosses aren't just nasty. Gross as they may be, the design and innovativeness of the bosses was spared to no expense. I enjoyed fighting each and every one of them, and I would rather fight crazy looking bosses than doing annoying platforming.
The weapon scheme I found to be very intriguing, since there are no power-ups. You heard right, no floating pills that jazz up your rifle, you have all the power already. You can switch between weapons on the fly, including a machine gun, flamethrower, and grenades accessible on the first step. You could say that you are ready for some booty kickin'. Oh, but wait! I forgot to tell you that each weapon has a charged shot, making it basically two weapons in one. And if you are fretting that the game will be lame and make it so that one weapon is all you will need, never fear. Konami did a fantastic job at balancing the game out so that you will have to switch often and keep the game flowing.
For any of you that have played the game Alien 3 for SNES, you can understand the double take I did at the look of the graphics. Call me crazy, but the graphics and feel are just reminiscent of that game. With smooth animation, clear view of bullets and missiles, and crisp visuals, Shattered Soldier gets the job done with ease and comfort. Especially for the side-scroller action shoot'em-up that they are gunnin' for.
The controls in Shattered Soldier are as tight as the past games. Sticking with the retro mindset, you may be reminded of old bosses and parts of stages from previous Contra games, which is kind of cliché among sequels, but Konami did not beat a dead horse in the least (one that is included is one of my favorite parts of stage three from Alien Wars; awesome!).
I couldn't help but do a little rockin' out air guitar to some of the music in Shattered Soldier. Those crazy Japanese metal guitars do some pretty phat lixx on their six strings. It's not only catchy, but it's also appropriate for what's going on on-screen; rock ‘n roll in the free world baby!
The level designs have many variations that keep you guessing where you are going to end up next. One minute you will be flying through the air on a missile shooting at a gun toting mech, the next snowboarding and fighting a burrowing worm trying in vain to bite your head off. Definitely a good game for those of us who can't keep still for five minutes straight without seeing something shiny to keep our attention entertained.
So here's the plan: Rent a copy of Contra: Shattered Soldier and get a buddy, some pizza and coke, because you will be able to whip through this game with ease over a weekend. Sure, there are secret levels to be unlocked by your hit rate percentage (there are certain key enemies in a level that give you points on your “hit rate” meter), but the replay value would be best enjoyed if you just rented the game when you want to play it (that way you save about 40 bucks). By all means, play this action packed game and figure out each bosses patterns and cover your buddy as he goes in for the kill. Give 'em hell kid, because that's what's going to rain down on you.