I played Contra Rebirth on the Wii today and died. And died. And died. And died, died, died. Then: died, died, died. Could I have been halfway through the game's first level?
What Is It? Contra Rebirth brings side-scrolling Contra back to a Nintendo home console in the form of an all-new Contra that sports the 16-bit graphics, gameplay formula and murderous difficulty of the the classic older games in the series.
What We Saw A pair of Wiis at Nintendo's Penny Arcade Expo booth were running a quartet of upcoming WiiWare games. Contra Rebirth was on them. This is a Contra that begins in "Contra Year 2633." But! Chief Salamander's Neo Salamander force journeys to 1973 to attack Earth and occupy ruins on the Yucatan peninsula. Contra hero Lance Bean is sent to fight him and goes missing. The player gets to play as the super soldiers Bill Rizer or Yagyu instead. (If anyone understands what I wrote, feel free to explain it to me in the comments.)
How Far Along Is It? The game is coming out next week. I bet it's done.
What Needs Improvement? Difficult For Mere Mortals: Mega Man 9 and Contra Rebirth are the ironic twists to the Wii revolution, hard games on a console that was designed to make anyone be able to have fun at a game. Contra Rebirth doesn't need to be dumbed down, but in the WiiWare land of no demo-downloads, it's a lot to ask players to pay blindly for a game that might crush them. (Side note: Google finds me this reviewer who says the game is too easy. What do I know? One-shot kills and three lives a level ain't easy for me.)
What Should Stay The Same? Time-Warp: Commander Salamander might have warped himself back to 1973 AD, but you can get in a warp of your own with this game. This new one is pretty much a SNES game in terms of graphics. It is indistinguishable from my memories of the Contra I played on that system — except that my adventure here started in a space station, featured purple aliens running at me and a space worm flying outside against the starry depths.I thought we were supposed to be on the Yucatan peninsula. Maybe I would have been able to determine what was going on had I reached the end of level one, but even the Nintendo rep showing me the game, who had been playing since yesterday, couldn't. If you want nostalgia, then, this'll do, I think. You get the spread shot in the first 10 seconds. That part's right.
Classic Controls: There's no Wii re-invention here. The game is played with the Wii Remote held like an NES controller. D-pad runs. Face buttons jump and shoot.
Final Thoughts I can't tell you a whole lot about a game that I was terrible at. Except that it was awfully tough and felt like the oldest of old-school Contras. Konami's fact-sheet indicates that the game has two-player local co-op. A second soldier might help make things easier.
Check the game out yourself when it's out on WiiWare next week. But, buyer beware: There are no refunds if the game proves to be too hard.