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From 8-Bit to HD: Does the New CONTRA Capture the Magic of the Original

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Tim Beisiegel
| June 25, 2024
hello world!

I am a child of the 80s and 90s… I am Gen X. I remember when Nintendo released the NES home video game system. It was a game-changer. We wanted to play all these games and could do it in our homes. 

Dragon Warrior, Double Dragon, Skate or Die II, Super Tecmo Bowl, Super Mario Brothers, and CONTRA were the games that not only filled my childhood but also shaped my gaming experience. I vividly remember visiting the local video store, Sights and Sounds, to rent them from the friendly store owner, Tom, as often as I could talk my mom into driving me down there. These games, especially CONTRA, hold a special place in my heart, and I’m sure many of you can relate. 

So when it gets announced that one of these games that I loved as a kid is coming back, but for the next-gen consoles that we have now, I am excited. Goodbye to the 8-bit graphics and MIDI music, and hello to the HD graphics and actual sound! 

The most recent game to attempt to make this leap is CONTRA. I was graciously given a keycode for this game from Keymailer and Konami to try out CONTRA: Operation Galuga and let you, our Couch Soup readers, know what I thought about it. 

This review will be based on the graphics and sound, whether it looks and feels like CONTRA, and my overall thoughts. We will take it step by step. 

But first, here is the release trailer for your viewing pleasure! 

Graphics and Sounds 

The best part of this game is the graphics and sounds. There is no comparison between the graphics of an 8-bit game and the HD graphics of today. When CONTRA first came out, we didn’t realize that graphics could be better than what we were playing. Those 8-bits were phenomenal, but to bring a game into the modern zeitgeist, you have to make improvements, and kudos to the game’s producers for doing that. 

Nintendo NES Contra

Edges and surroundings are no longer boxed or blurred because, well, they are no longer 8-bit graphics. Vivid colors and clear images have replaced the limitations of the CONTRA games I played as a kid. 

One of the best examples of this is the characters themselves. I mentioned boxed and blurry before because that’s what everything was. But it was amazing for its time, so we didn’t know it could be better back in the days of the original CONTRA on the Nintendo NES. But that’s exactly what we see here. Our main characters have shapes and definitions. Our bad guys aren’t just colored blobs running at us or lying in a color puddle with a gun. We now have clear images. Clearly defined body shapes and faces. These characters have faces in something other than a still-shot cut scene! Who knew? 

Contra: Operation Galuga

But is it CONTRA? 

I think that’s the question we always have to ask when getting a game that has rebooted or refreshed for play in the modern era. The game wouldn’t have returned if it hadn’t been at least somewhat popular when it was originally released, no matter what system it was released for. 

Operation Galuga Mission Screen

Sometimes, when things are remade, something gets lost in translation. Either the people making the new version didn’t understand the media or its importance to the audience they are producing it for. And although it may have all the bells and whistles, lights, and sounds of the original namesake, the soul of the media is empty, a lifeless shell. 

And that’s where the waters get murky here. It looks like CONTRA. It feels like CONTRA. But something is missing. By all rights, the game should be amazing and fun to play for hours and hours. But it just….. Isn’t. 

After the initial excitement of CONTRA and the happiness of how cool it looked and sounded, nothing in the gameplay made me want to stick around and continue to play. After a few runs in the main story, which looks and feels like the arcade mode, by the way, I was ready to play something different. I was ready to abandon ship and go AWOL on my CONTRA crew. 

The gameplay was smooth, and there were no major issues to report. But all the same, I found that I was forcing myself to sit down and play this game so that I could, in good conscience, provide an opinion on it. 

Sadly, my experience with CONTRA: Operation Galuga was bland and boring. 

What went wrong, my thoughts 

Was the issue with the game? Or was it that I was expecting something else based on my own memories of yesteryear? Perhaps a bit of both, if I am being honest. 

I was hoping that it wouldn’t be the same old side scroller where you run and CONTRA jump onto things and shoot guns that don’t exist in real life and random baddies running at you. I hoped the game would be brought somewhat into the 2020s with more than updated colors, graphics, and sound. I hoped the arcade mode was the side-scrolling adventure I remember so well, not the main story mode as well. 

And really, I think that’s where I tapped out. If I was going to play the side-scrolling missions I played in 1989, I wanted it to be with a Nintendo NES and squared-off controller with only A and B buttons and the D-Pad to direct the game. 

I wasn’t looking for this game to be just another version of Call of Duty or Battlefield, but it needed more than…. THIS. After 20 minutes, you’ve seen what the game has to offer, and it’s just not enough.  

Contra: Operation Galuga Gameplay Capture

I know that many other reviewers gave much different reviews on this game. No offense to them, but the ones I read seemed to be from people who had never played the original and didn’t have the frame of reference I do. That frame of reference heavily colors my opinion. 

The thing is, I hate being negative. I hate writing a negative review. I have wrestled with this review for weeks. But the truth of this review is this – 

After the bright colors and lights faded away and the excitement of CONTRA coming back subsided, the reality was that I just didn’t like it. Hopefully, your experience will be different. 

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Dan Morris
23 days ago

I tried the demo for this and walked away with a similar feeling of “yup, it’s contra” but nothing made me think Oh I have to get this and play this to completion.

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