The following was written by Rob Flarida @the_chronicles_of_a_gamer on instagram. Follow him here.
Release Date: February 1987
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Konami
Mode: 2 Players, Co-Operative
Genre: Run and Gun Arcade
Game Difficulty: Tough
Game Rating: Flawless
Contra was one of the first games I’ve ever played. It also uses the most famous cheat that every gamer should know: the Konami code. Press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and Start at the start menu then boom, thirty lives. If you have two players, then hit ‘select’ after the ‘A’ to get thirty lives each. My first memory of Contra is watching my father playing it on the NES. I was about five years old, and I remember watching him curse and get game overs and curse some more. Motherfucker was his favorite word in the entire dictionary－which ever dictionary that is. When I asked him if I can play he said, “in a minute, let me finish this level.” He didn’t finish the stage, instead he fell into a hole.
I began to play Contra with my dad; he told me to take my time and we started slow. We were shooting, jumping and occasionally ducking. I felt that he was happy with my performance in the first level, neither of us had died. He taught me about the spot on one of the ledges where the enemy can’t shoot you on the solidified fortress wall boss. After we beat the boss, it was onto the second level. Level two is a different experience because it’s a push-forward level and not the typical left to right scrolling. I died once fighting the boss and my father told me to jump and run around his flame attacks until we kill him. His advice paid off; we beat the boss and everything was great. My dad was giving me high-fives, he said, “we can beat this together, just stay calm.”
I became confident in my ability to help my father complete the game, but like I said everything was going great, until it wasn’t. The third level had us scaling a waterfall, we had to jump up, up and up. In the two player mode you have to wait for your partner to reach your position before you can make the jumps. It’s easy to accidentally cause your－in my case－father to fall. This level took patience; a lot of it. Five year old kids don’t have patience. I was getting shot at. I was dying a lot. I had to make precision jumps before I got shot or stabbed. While I was jumping up my father would be killed, and as my father jumped up I would be killed.
We had to use our first continue. My father was pissed. His face was as red as his hair. His giant hands were squeezing the shit out of the controller. I asked him what to do, “kid, we gotta try this again and you gotta wait till I am on the same platform as you. You need to be patient,” he answered. I understood, or so I had thought. We blew our last two continues on the level, and that was it. The title screen came up. The fake-looking Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone appeared on the screen.
My father gave me an unusual lesson on patience that day. He brought me and a Reader’s Digest into the bathroom. He took down his pants, sat on the toilet and made the smelliest shit a human could make. I was crying to get out. He told me to be patient and that I had to wait until he finished his article. I didn’t know what an article was; I didn’t know how long they last. All I knew was that he was turning page after page while I stood in a gas chamber. After what seemed like an hour he finally finished. He cleaned himself and told me, “see kid, that’s patience. You waited for me.”
Round two of Contra was about to begin. My father was refreshed and I felt woozy. He pushed the power button and nothing, only a black screen. He was pissed again. He pulled out the game and blew into the cartridge, there was definitely dust in there and now there was spit. He turned on the console and all was well. We destroyed the first and second levels, neither of us lost a life and we both had the ‘S’ (spread) ammo upgrade. I learned my hard lesson on patience and because of it we made it to the fifth level before getting a game over. We tried to finish the game many times that night, but we couldn’t make it past the fifth stage.
I practiced Contra constantly the next day while my father was at work. I was obsessed. My mom had to vacuum around me. I got frustrated; I would tantrum and I would quit. No matter what I did I could not beat the third level. I kept trying, but I knew I needed my dad to come home. He did and after supper he said, “kid, lets play Contra again.” I was super excited and it looked like he was too. He told me to not touch my controller as he grabbed a piece of paper from his pocket. The paper has some arrows and letters written on it. He fiddled with the controller while looking at the paper, his thumbs were moving incredibly fast, but nothing happened.
After a tense moment we heard a weird sound come from the TV. I looked at the screen and saw that we had thirty lives. “Whoa,” was all I could say. I had just been introduced to the Konami code. My father and I ran through the game with ease and we were able to beat it. I asked him where he got the code; he said, “from some motherfucker at work”. I don’t think anyone in my father’s work crew played video games, yet somehow he had the code. It still is and will always be a mystery. I was really happy to have beaten Contra with my father. We would go on to complete many more games together.
When I was five years old Contra was tough, but now I can beat the game without the code, without dying and in about fifteen minutes. I’m giving it a ten out of ten. It’s a great game and an excellent port of an arcade machine. Contra is a title that anyone can pick up and play, either alone or with a friend. The levels are well designed, the music is catchy and gives the game an added sense of excitement. The characters are iconic, and the boss battles are both challenging and fun. Contra is a true Nintendo classic.