Neo Contra Hands-On Impressions

The newest Contra may not be a side-scroller, but it packs the same hardcore action as the old games.

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We went hands-on with Neo Contra at Konami's E3 booth today, and though we were previously a little skeptical that it would maintain the frenetic action of the original Contra titles (seriously--one of the playable characters wields a sword in the CG trailer), after we played the game our minds were changed. Neo Contra is played from a three-quarter overhead perspective and you can't jump, but otherwise there's a lot of what you'd want from a Contra game here.

Before we go any further, we can assure you that there isn't any swordplay in Neo Contra--just lots of flying bullets. At the beginning of the game you'll select from an assortment of weapons loadouts. These are preconfigured--you can't mix and match--so we chose a set that included the venerable spread gun and a lightning gun of sorts. Two of your weapons will be used to fight ground enemies, and the third will lock onto and take down aerial attackers. In lieu of jumping, you can do a dashing dodge move in any direction to get out of the way quickly. If you hit the dodge button without pushing the control in any direction, your character will simply spin around and dodge any oncoming bullets for just a second.

Neo Contra rightfully maintains the brutal mechanics of the old-school gaming--things like limited lives and continues, and no saving or checkpoints. You start a new game, you're going through to the end, or you'll die trying. In fact, you only get two continues on which to finish the whole game, so Neo Contra ought to provide a pretty stiff challenge for anyone into this sort of game. We died quite a few times just on the first level, since your character in the game is a one-hit wonder (but then, our gaming skills are questionable).

The game looks pretty nice too, with a decent number of enemies on the screen, and big, gnarly boss characters that are bristling with weaponry. If you're curious, the game is being created by the same team that brought you the mercilessly difficult Contra: Shattered Soldier, so consider that fact fair warning. Neo Contra is slated for release in November of this year, and we're looking forward to wearing out our button thumbs on it. Look for more on the game soon.

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