David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-09-09 23:22:55
Contra ReBirth (WiiWare) - Rank B
As I write this review, I'm surprised at how difficult it is to describe Contra. This franchise is a benchmark, a template for all 2-D run and gun games. I'd typically measure any release in this genre by stating, "This horrid wretch is definitely no Contra," or "As Contra clones go, this one's a winner." Well, THIS Contra lives up to its heritage, but falls short of bringing about an actual ReBirth.
If you've somehow never played any Contra game, it's a side scroller in which you shoot and jump your way through hectic onslaughts of enemy fire - contact with any enemy bullet results in a one-hit death. You combat this with unlimited ammunition that you're able to fire in all eight cardinal and ordinal directions, as well as the ability to go prone. Weapon pickups satisfyingly upgrade your arsenal (oh spreadshot, how I love thee).
It all amounts to non-stop thrilling action against absurd enemy dispositions, such as foes swinging from incoming missiles as you dodge and shoot back from the top of a moving cargo truck. Oh, and toss in some robot llamas. Once you negotiate these overwhelming odds, a brutal boss fight is your reward at the end of each stage. Old school pattern memorization and nimble reflexes are required to progress through this difficult gauntlet.
Ameliorating this are unlimited continues and responsive controls. You can employ alternate controllers, but the default Wiimote on its side works well. In addition to the d-pad and buttons, a quick shake of the Wiimote also switches between weapons. This adds a bit of tactical depth, as you only lose the weapon you have equipped when you die. The other can be nursed along until you really need it.
ReBirth's graphics are smooth and cleanly designed, but harken back to the era of early '90s arcades. The visuals of Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS were more advanced. If this game were entitled Contra 5, I probably wouldn't mention it and chalk it up to retro nostalgia, but anything named ReBirth ought to have been overhauled like Bionic Commando Rearmed. The awesome remixed music helps somewhat.
Contra shines brightest when played cooperatively, and ReBirth is no exception. Unfortunately, there is no online option. This is a gross oversight. It's also overpriced at $10 for five fairly short stages. YouTube speed runs are clocking in under 20 minutes by acclimated players. The lack of online functionality and the high cost to content ratio are the primary reasons I didn't score this game higher.
The name Contra ReBirth is misleading. It's not a triumphant return to console greatness, but a rehashed continuation of well tread ground. Even still, the classic gameplay holds up well. Particularly if you have a buddy handy to local coop with or if you possess the hardcore intent to subjugate the higher difficulty levels, Contra ReBirth offers enough fun to forgive it's inflated price tag.