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Contra: Operation Galuga review- A reimagined classic that hits the mark

Sam Cawley

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Contra: Operation Galuga review- A reimagined classic that hits the mark

Featured Image Credit: Konami

Contra: Operation Galuga is a remake of the beloved, tough-as-nails 2D shoot-em-up originally released in 1987.

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The series pioneered the run-and-gun gameplay other franchises have tried to emulate over the years, and while some have done it better and some have done it worse, Contra is still credited as the game that kicked-off the craze in the first place.

Check out Contra: Operation Galuga below

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Contra: Operation Galuga retells the story of the original game, but with a few additions and tweaks you’d expect for a modern release. Make no mistake though, this is still the same game that was released all those years ago, for better or for worse.

The updated visuals are eye-catching and compliment the action-packed gameplay well. Whether it’s the vibrant green of the jungle, the icy mountaintops or the blood-red hue of an alien’s insides, the backdrops set the stage for the explosive mayhem that fills a level.

Explosions reminiscent of those cheesy 80s and 90s action movies are plentiful and pop like colourful fireworks, even more so when you upgrade your arsenal to more advanced weaponry. The glowing crackle of energy that some of the most powerful guns unleash always hits the spot, making blowing away aliens all the more satisfying.

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Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami
Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami

Remade levels are a treat for fans of the original game, with all the key locations returning with a fresh coat of paint. Stand out levels for me were the iconic waterfall climb, as well as the segment inside the alien’s body, where you have to fight off its hideous parasites. While several levels retread familiar territory, others take the story to new locations, all of which are welcome additions to spice up what’s quickly becoming a 40 year old story.

Speaking of story, this remake has one, or at least one that’s better communicated to the player. Gone are the days of scanning through screen text, as this time the story is told through actual voice-acting, and while it’s not winning any awards for the most-compelling narrative in gaming it does the job and is a welcome addition.

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Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami
Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami

Onto the real bread-and-butter of the game though, the gameplay itself. For the most part, Contra: Operation Galuga plays almost exactly the same way its predecessors do. Players either navigate to the right side of the screen or upwards if they’re laying a vertical level, blasting aliens as they run and collecting power-ups along the way. It’s a tried and true formula, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a Contra game though in some ways its reluctance to push the boat out further could lead to its downfall.

That’s not to say there aren’t new elements in play here. One of the defining traits about the Contra series, or at least the first few entries, was their difficulty. The original Contra could be beaten in around an hour if you were good at the game, but for the vast majority it would have taken several hours to learn the layout of the levels, the controls, the weapons and more before eventually mastering the gameplay to see the credits, or use the iconic Konami cheat code.

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In comparison to the original the remake is easier, but can be tweaked to give you that classic do-or-die feeling. You can flip on a setting that makes every shot fatal, an even switch of the 360 aiming in favour of eight directions instead. While I wasn’t brave enough to stick with these classic settings for the majority of my time with the game I was happy to see them included as hardcore Contra fans will certainly get a kick out of them.

Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami
Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami

Something else the remake does differently is four-player mode. Now fans can enjoy the game with three of their friends instead of one, with the extra two players taking on different characters, one of which being Probotector who I was thrilled to see return. While I didn’t get to try this mode out myself, again I’m happy to see it included as the heart and soul of Contra games stems from playing it with your friends.

While it’s good fun to play by yourself, the feeling of shredding through a level with your buddies and watching the chaos two or more streams of bullets can create on screen is a fantastic experience.

Those innovations aside, the gameplay has been largely untouched meaning returning players will free right at home without being overwhelmed by new mechanics and new players won’t have much to learn before they’re tearing through levels themselves. In short, gameplay is simple, classic Contra, so everyone will start on the same footing whether you’re a veteran or a novice.

Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami
Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami

That being said it could be argued the game is a little too simplistic for its own good. As a remake of the first game it’s expected to innovate without shying too far away from the original vision, and for intents and purposes it does exactly that. Unfortunately in the long run it can feel repetitive to blast goons away, and while picking up a new weapon or unlocking an upgrade for one you’re already holding can spice up the gameplay, in the end it does boil down to pointing and shooting. This problem persists with the game’s difficulty, as while it does provide a worthy challenge once you’ve gotten into a rhythm or know what to expect it’s pretty straightforward, even more so when you’re with other players. Of course the difficulty adjustments mentioned earlier can provide more of a challenge, but then I’d argue you’re bouncing from one extreme to another, without a happy medium in-between.

Some levels do spice things up with vehicle segments, though again you’re just aiming around the screen at whatever baddie needs blasting.

Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami
Conta: Operation Galuga- Credit: Konami

Contra: Operation Galuga is a fine retelling of the game that kicked the run-and-gun formula into mainstream gaming. It retains that arcade feeling along with the bells and whistles you’d expect for a console release, and the introduction of more multiplayer slots would make this a great party game, or one to play late at night when you just want to switch your brain off and talk about life. Where it falters is how memorable it is, as when you’ve rolled credits it’s unlikely you’ll be eager for a second playthrough unless you fancy upgrading the challenge with the difficulty settings.

Overall, as a fan of the original game I was satisfied with what it brought to the table and wholeheartedly believe long-time fans of the series will get a kick out of it.

Pros: Lovingly remade visuals and story, classic gameplay revamped, four-player multiplayer is a great addition

Cons: Lacks longevity, gameplay loop could feel repetitive for some

For fans of: Contra, Doom, Cuphead

7/10: Very Good

Contra: Operation Galuga is available for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One PlayStation 5 (version tested) PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. Review was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Topics: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Nintendo, Konami

Sam Cawley
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