Contra: Shattered Soldier
By: Matt C. on November 11, 2002
When a classic franchise from the late '80s or early '90s is remade for next generation consoles like the PlayStation 2, many developers ditch the oldschool gameplay and toss in new gameplay elements and 3D graphics. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but it's good to see that Konami has decided to preserve many of Contra's trademarks features that made the original game such a success.
Much like the Contra that appeared in North American arcades in 1987, Shattered Solider is played from a 2D side-scrolling perspective. However, Contra on the PS2 tosses 3D visuals into the mix with enemies that move from the background into the foreground and so on. Also, many of the objects you interact with (such as a train) are in full 3D. Needless to say, fans of the series and genre will feel right at home with Contra: Shattered Solider's visual look. Of course, that doesn't mean that newcomers to Contra won't like this game's appearance.
While moving through Contra's levels, you will have access to three weapons -- a heavy machine-gun with a nice long range, a flame thrower (aka Fire Whip) that can go through barriers, and a grenade launcher (called a Diver Mine) that is good for killing hard to reach foes. In addition, the three weapons mentioned above have a secondary firing mode that needs to be charged up to use. For instance, the Diver Mine's charged firing mode is a series of tiny homing missiles.
The controls in Shattered Soldier are dead-on. There aren't all that many buttons to memorize and as a result, the game is super easy to pick up and play. Moving your character is responsive and you'll never blame the game's controls for losing a life.
To keep things from becoming a predictable action game, Shattered Soldier requires the player to use some strategy to defeat the game's more difficult enemies and bosses. For example, when combating foes that are made of flesh, it is best to use the Fire Whip or machine-gun. Machines and robots are best dealt with using the Diver Mine. Also, boss battles require you to memorize a series of patterns in the bosses' attacks. For those of you who don't know, this was VERY popular back in the days before the PlayStation.
As I mentioned above, Shattered Soldier beautifully blends together 2D/3D gameplay for quite a nice visual experience. Some of the 3D objects aren't as detailed as I had hoped, but many of the major enemies and bosses look great. The animations for such enemies are also very well done and they look very convincing. I simply loved the bosses that took up nearly the entire screen. I seriously felt like I was playing an old NES or arcade game again. Nostalgia hit me like a brick wall. As for the explosions, they look good too.
To complete the package, Shattered Solider features some really awesome music. Many of the songs are composed of heavy metal and it fits the game's gameplay perfectly!
The biggest flaw that players will notice about Contra: Shattered Solider is the very steep learning curve. Right from the beginning, Contra on the PS2 is a very, very frustrating game. Even when the difficult is set to "easy", the game is still quite tough. Simply put, Shattered Solider is not for people who are not experienced with this type of games. However, the beauty about Shattered Solider is that the game becomes A LOT easier if you have the patience to practice. Rarely do I find a game that I am not good at, but after some practice, I can now finish Contra in a reasonable amount of time. Trust me, if you stick with the game for a while, it should become much more enjoyable. I love games that provide challenges like this.
In the end, Contra: Shattered Solider boils down to a very worthy sequel to the original Contra. There is no doubt in my mind that fans and newcomers alike will truly enjoy this game. And to keep people playing, Shattered Solider offers multiple endings, hidden levels, and a super additive cooperative 2-player simultaneous mode. If you're looking for a game that has easy to pick up and play controls with nonstop action, you HAVE to check Contra: Shattered Solider out.