Contact is unique to a fault.
Contact is a GBA turned DS game by the rad dudes at Grasshopper Manufacture. The same guys who gave us the excellent Killer 7 and No More Heroes. It was a mostly overlooked action JRPG that came out in 2006 to little fanfare as critics called it fairly average, not to mention it's poor sales in Japan with the release of Mother 3 around the same time.
In fact it was so overlooked, I had no idea it even existed until I saw it for six bucks at a local game store while hanging out with a friend. Even though I knew little about the game, the cool artstyle and the box's promise of monkeys and cosmic terrorists flipped a switch in my head that pretty much conducted an override on my brain and slamming six dollars on that counter to pick it up.
Let that be a tip to those in business. Put "monkeys and cosmic terrorists" in anything and this guy will buy it without even thinking.
Contact is certainly a unique game, using the dual screens in a way I don't think I've ever seen. The top screen has the professor and his pet cat thing Mochi providing support to the main character, Terry, controlled by you. This support mainly consists of giving hints and tutorials pertaining to the gameplay. The professor also loves puns. Really bad puns. Puns that he'll always be sure to tell you every five minutes. All this cool stuff on the top screen is presented in a nice, minimalist pixel-art package.
The bottom screen, however, is a completely different story. This screen is presented in a really nice detailed pixel-art format with many pre-rendered backgrounds. On this screen, you will control Terry, a boy who was plucked from his hometown when the cosmic terrorists (CosmoNOTs) attacked the professor's ship. Terry fights enemies ranging from plant snakey things to air force pilots that ran out of funds to buy planes so they run around acting like planes instead. I couldn't make that up if I tried. Terry fights these enemies to retrieve five cores for The Professor to get his ship back up and running so they can finally go home.
The contrasting art style between the top and bottom screens is easily one of the best things about this game. It really drives home the feeling that the professor and Terry are from two totally different worlds. It's an excellent design move that really hooked me into the game. I have a hard time imagining how this would work on the GBA though, since that was where this game was originally going to go. I guess we'll never know.
There is a really cool costume system in the game in which you can outfit Terry with different outfits that each have a perk. One such costume is the Chef costume which you can use to convert defeated foes into ingredients for food. Speaking of food, there is a pretty in depth cooking system in which you can combine things like water and tropical fruit to make fruit juice and meat and spices to make kebabs and shit. Cooking's cool.
Although these are all super rad things, they really aren't the meat and potatoes of the whole thing. As per usual, if a game's gameplay isn't very good, the entire game just kinda falls flat.
Unfortunately, this game kinda falls flat.
Contact is an Action-JRPG. So instead of the usual turn based combat, you just go right up to your opponents and start fighting. In Contact, you click in and out of battle stance with the B button after you choose your opponent and you just kinda... watch the battle happen, and you can use Techs to do special moves for extra damage. You can also change the direction of where your strikes hit and walk around a bit, albeit awkwardly. This system sounds pretty alright until you get in a situation where there's multiple enemies ganging up on you. The aiming and hit detection is BALLS
when there's too many dudes hitting you and makes the game needlessly difficult. This wouldn't be too huge of a problem if this only happened a few times, but it happens pretty frequently and just dampens the entire experience for me.
I wanted to absolutely love this game and tell everyone to pick it up, but I just can't recommend it on the graphics and presentation alone, as much as I want to. This game reminded me so much of the Mother series and all the quirks and jokes that go along with games like that, but the difference between Contact and say, Mother 3 is that Mother 3 has a really intuitive, fair, and all-out fun combat system that makes you actually excited to beat up some pigmasks. Contact's combat just feels like a chore.
Let me know how this was! I really thought long and hard about how to handle writing about something I didn't love that much, and hopefully it payed off!