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Contra is an arcade game developed by Konami in 1987. Konami produced their own home version of Contra for the NES, which was released in February 1988 in Japan and North America. The PAL version, titled Probotector, was released in December 28, 1990.
The NES version of Contra differs from the arcade game in a few ways. All ten stages from the arcade version are present, although the "core" segments are no longer individual stages but boss battles that occur at the end of each base stage, reducing the total number of stages to eight. The base stages themselves were also made into linear levels instead of their original maze-like structure (resulting in the removal of the map display) and the time limit was removed as well. The rest of the game's stages were also modified with the addition of more traps (such as surfacing spiked walls, mortar launchers, and bottomless pits). The design of the Area 3 boss (originally Area 4 in the arcade version) was changed as well.
All six power-ups from the arcade version are present, with the Machine Gun and the Laser Rifle now represented by letter-based Falcon icons (an "M" and an "L" respectively) like the other four power-ups. A seventh power-up is also introduced called the "Special", which destroys all on-screen enemies once picked up. It is represented by an unmarked Falcon icon. Unlike the arcade version, the flying capsules appear regardless of which weapon the player is using.
The NES version of Contra was one of the earliest games to use the Konami Code, which originated with the NES version of Gradius. Inputting the code on the title screen before starting the game will grant each player thirty lives each time they start (both when a game begins and each time the game is continued).
The Famicom version of Contra, which was released in Japan at the same time as the American NES version, makes use of a custom-made Multi-Memory Controller that Konami produced called the VRC2 instead of the UNROM chip used by the NES version, allowing for additional graphical effects not featured in its NES counterpart. The Famicom version features cut-scenes shown before each stage, a map display of the Galuga archipelago displaying the player's current location before each stage, additional background animations such as moving palm trees in Area 1 and falling snowflakes Area 5. The Famicom version also features additional cheat codes such as a Stage Select code and a sound test, as well as a hidden post-credits scene by holding the Select and Start buttons during the ending credits sequence.
In Europe and Oceania, the NES version of Contra was retitled Probotector, and the player characters, as well as some of the enemy soldiers, were replaced with robotic counterparts. This was done to circumvent censorship laws in Germany, which prohibit sales of violent video games to minors. Subsequent Contra games for the NES, Game Boy, Super NES, and Mega Drive followed suit, all being released in the PAL region under the Probotector title and featuring similar modifications. The Contra series would later retain the Contra title and characters in Europe beginning with Contra: Legacy of War.
Story from the Contra manual (translated from Japanese version):
- It's the year 2633 A.D. Technology has reached a level so advanced that nature and science now exist in harmony and peace reigns throughout the world.
- .... but beneath the calmness something beyond all imagination is discovered that threatens the existence of mankind. While conducting a top secret investigation, the Earth Federation Marine Corps discover that a group of alien invaders are plotting to wipe out the human race.
- Private First Class Bill Rizer and Lance Bean of the Marine Corps, are informed of this terrifying fact and are given the mission to neutralize these alien invaders.
- The Contras' mission is to go to the alien's fortress in the Galuga Islands and see that they are exterminated.
Story from the Contra manual (US version):
- In 1957 a large object from outer space crashed into Earth's Amazon basin, near the ruins of a lost Mayan civilization. Scientists worldwide heralded the incident as a trivial cosmic occurrence, and thus the collision was soon forgotten. Now thirty years later, rumors of an evil force have swept into the Pentagon's front office and tales from frightened villagers of a hideous being with an army of alien henchmen are sending chills down the spines of top military brass. Unwilling to upset current political stability, an all-out assault on the region has been overruled and instead, two of America's most cunning, courageous and ruthless soldiers from the Special Forces elite commando squad have been selected to seek out and destroy these alien intruders.
- Congratulations, pal, you're one of the chosen. But before you take pride in being the best, be warned. You’re about to come face to face against Red Falcon, the cruelest life-form in the galaxy. He arrived on Earth thirty years ago (that is six months time in an alien's life) to establish a foothold from which he will attempt to conquer our world and then use it as a stepping stone toward his ultimate fiendish goal: domination of the universe. Needless to say, playing hero won't be easy. But you have no choice - you must be a hero. Because if you fail, life as we know it will cease to exist, and the vile Red Falcon will rule forever. If you succeed, well...it doesn't matter, because I doubt you will...