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Mr Gilder avatar 2:15 PM on 02.14.2009
Exemplary Openings: Neo Contra - Badass at its Best

In this first edition of Exemplary Openings, I am going to investigate the very definition of badass. If the two main points of a gameís demo movie are to, 1) Grab and hold the users attention, and 2) Show off exactly what the game is all about, then surely no title does this better than Konamiís Neo Contra (NC).


(The cover for Neo Contra, featuring art by celebrated American comic book artist Jim Lee)

NC launched for the Playstation 2 in 2004 to a mixed reception. Although it was considered a direct follow up to 2002ís Contra: Shattered Soldier, it mixed up the traditional Contra gamelay formula quite a bit. NC abandoned the seriesí traditional, horizontal sidescrolling mechanics for an overhead view. This was reminiscent of some of the bonus levels in the earlier Contra titles and, dangerously close to 1996ís very filthy Contra: Legacy of War. That being said, puristsí concerns were largely ill founded. With NC, Konami crafted a tight, challenging, and ultimately fun shooter that easily belongs in the beloved Contra franchise.

The traditional series staple of almost necessary co-op play remains in tact. A new mysterious Samurai partner, Jaguar, for hero Bill Rizer also peppers up the formula by adding a risky but powerful close-combat katana weapon. Overall, NC encompasses everything that the Contra franchise has always been about. Over the top violence, massive, intimidating enemies, and brutal difficulty are all present in full force. The opening sequence for the game shows exactly that:



Images of Jaguar calmly meditating beneath falling water, or preparing his blade in solitude are quickly juxtaposed with Rizer in a room stuffed with ammunition as he loads up his trusty guns. It is a bit like a version of The Odd Couple for a new generation, only I doubt Felix and Oscar ever had to funnel rockets into giant phallic mutants with angry, pulsating baby heads.


(A terrifying boss if ever there was one . . . I still shudder)

The primary strength of this video lies in the way it hints at one of the most important facets of the Contra experience; co-op play. The initial scenes set up each of the lead characters, and showcases their personal styles. Rizer mows down hordes of grunts with a massive autocannon. In my favorite part of the video, Jaguar skillfully battles axe-wielding, mounted warriors in the pouring rain to defend an unconscious young girl. After that, however, the majority of the sequence showcases the two soldiers working together to overcome massive obstacles. Jaguar drives a jeep against heavy resistance so that Bill can take out an enemy weapons train. The two run side by side to escape as fire billows down a corridor. Finally the warriors work in unison to topple a giant robot with rocket launchers. Composing the opening in this way was pretty smart on the part of the developers. Instead of taking the opportunity to simply explain story or atmosphere (which is admittedly minimal in a Contra game), this FMV makes a statement about the titleís actual gameplay.

It would also be foolish of me to ignore how simply stylish and cool all of the action in the movie is. The sequence makes no apologies for what it, or the game that follows, is; pure, unadulterated machismo. Lets compose a list of some of the totally badass things that unfold (in caps lock, of course, as it is all very exciting):

- TWO MEN BLOW UP AN ENTIRE TRAIN + A BRIDGE!
- ONE MAN CUTS AN AIRPLANE IN HALF!
- FIRE!
- BEEFY HANDSHAKE!
- A GIANT ROBOT!
- COMPLETELY HETEROSEXUAL ROCKET RIDING!
- MORE FIRE!
- AT LEAST 2 INSTANCES OF SLOOOOOOOOW MOTION!

All of those treats, and more, are present. Simply put, if this video does not get you pumped to blow stuff up for the next hour or two, then I do not know what will. Of course, itís important to understand that while Bill and Jaguar do not die at all during the movie, you will die a lot in the game. You will die a whole lot.


(Jaguar is simply neat. The end. He cuts planes in half. Can you?)

The last point I want to make is about the music. The opening cinematic (and indeed the entire game) for NCís predecessor, Shattered Soldier, contained some fantastic heavy metal music. NC, however, takes a different route. The opening movie contains an original theme song for the game, complete with vocals. It is cheesy? Heck yeah. Video game themes are rarely anything but. The song is, however, pretty cool nonetheless. The portion that plays during the scene were Jaguar battles in the rain gives me goose pimples every time. I declare that it is a hard-hearted man indeed who does not get just a bit nerd-giddy whenever that woman belts out ďNEO CONTRAAAAAAAAAAA.Ē

In conclusion, the demo movie sequence for Konamiís Neo Contra is action packed and fun. Through this, it does a fantastic job or representing the actual game that sits waiting afterwards. The sequence even hints at the quintessential co-op play that the title offers without showing actual gameplay footage. With its catchy theme, and stylish scenes, Neo Contraís demo movie is definitely an Exemplary Opening.

 
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