The Contra saga started nearly ten years ago in the arcades. With two-player simultaneous action, multiple weapons, and extremely hectic gameplay, it rocketed to the top of everyone's wish list when it was translated to the 8-bit NES. Contra quickly became a legend, spawning sequels all the way up to Contra 3: The Alien Wars on the SNES.
Now Contra enters the 32-bit age with Legacy of War. It drops the side-scrolling motif completely, and instead favors a top-down perspective. The game also features a silly 3-D mode, which requires the super-flimsy red/blue 3-D glasses packaged with the game. If a second player wants to experience 3-D action, however, you'll have to dig up a spare pair of 3-D specs because the game only comes with one set. Not surprisingly, the game's 3-D effects aren't that good, and will probably make your head hurt after a few hours, so sticking with the normal mode is the best bet in the long run.
Players select among four characters, each with different weapons. These range from old-school Contra favorites, such as the spread weapon, to all-new additions that include a flamethrower and homing rounds. The game provides six levels of play, from jungles to rivers. The third level in particular is a standout, where players get to steer a boat around a lake, shooting scuba divers while avoiding mines.
The graphics in Legacy of War are pretty standard. The game sports a few good-looking explosions, and in 3-D mode a lot of explosions result in chunks of metal flying towards the screen. It's a nice touch, but nothing spectacular. The music is also standard military fare, but it sits in the background nicely and doesn't become an annoyance.
Legacy of War is a competent game, but Contra games have never been merely competent. Perhaps this offering would have been better were it not burdened with the Contra name, and the explosive expectations that accompany it. For those looking for a good shooting game with some new twists on gameplay, this title may fit the bill. But for those looking for a real game of Contra, break out the SNES and have at it.