By Chuck Allen
Contra III was one of the earlier games to come out for the SNES back in 1992. In that respect, it's appropriate that it was one of the earliest titles available for the Wii's Virtual Console. If you've ever played a Contra game before then you know the drill: start with a rifle, pick up new weapons along the way, and shoot anything that that crosses your path. This may sound simple, but as many know, the Contra series has always been known for its robust difficulty. Whether it's timing a difficult jump, dodging a swarm of attacks, or tackling a huge boss, Contra always has had a wide variety of challenges available and III is no different.
For a game released over ten years ago, Contra III has aged gracefully. While the sprite-based graphics are not astonishing by today's standards, everything looks crisp and the sprites don't look too pixelated except for the second stage boss which uses Mode 7 effects way too much. That was the style of the time, though, as the Genesis had blast processing and the SNES had Mode 7. It seems that nothing was lost in the emulation on the Wii as the explosions and weapons all have the same crisp color and effects as they did back on the SNES.
There isn't much to say about the music or sound effects in the game. Compared to some of more recent entries into the Contra series, III's sound effects might seem a bit more muffled or weak, but in the course of the rapid game play, one will hardly notice this. The music sounds as good as it was on the SNES with simple straight to the point tracks that sound like something out of a movie that keeps the action flowing. This works perfectly as you blow through swarms of aliens, machines, robots, and even more aliens.
Konami's games usually have great play control and this title is no different. The controls are responsive and remain stable even when there is slowdown on the screen without too much lag. The setup is simple: run, jump, shoot, switch weapons, and bomb. I played this on the Wii using a GameCube controller. The default set up isn't arranged that well as I found myself wasting a bomb when I was just trying to jump. Get a Classic Controller if you can as it is as close as you can get to the original SNES controller that this game was made for. And as it was on the SNES, the two overhead levels in the game will take some time to get used too. The first few play-throughs of the game saw many deaths resulting from unintentionally falling into pits on these stages due to turning the wrong way at the wrong time.
There are only two negatives for this game that might turn some people off to it. First is the game's length: Contra III is shorter than the more recent edition on the DS with only six stages. There is a higher difficulty you can play on to challenge yourself, but after you beat the six stages that's it, there's nothing else. And after playing through the game a few times, you can easily reach the last level in about 20 minutes. Next is the difficulty. While Contra games are supposed to be difficult, I only have one gripe with this edition: in a few of the later levels, there are areas where you will be hit by attacks that for a while will seem like they have no conceivable way of dodging them. I have dubbed this "HTHAISTDTOCIDS," or "How-in-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-dodge-that-oh-crap-I'm-dead Syndrome." This makes the game a tad bit frustrating at times, but doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the game. As far as the rest of the difficulty of the game is concerned, this is one of the most well balanced games I've ever played in terms of progression. The first level gets your feet wet without too many obstacles and from there each stage gets progressively harder without one stage having a drastic jump in difficulty over its predecessor.
Final Verdict - 8/10
Contra III is a worthwhile entry into the series with its good play control, huge enemies, and hard-hitting action. The game can be challenging, but after a few runs through you only get better at it. I could hardly tell any differences between this and the original SNES version. If the overhead levels were easier to navigate and if some of the more frustrating attacks to dodge were toned down, then I would have bumped the score up a point or two. If you have never played a Contra game before give it a try if you have some Wii points to spare. Just be prepared for some cheap hits and if possible, get a Classic Controller to make things easier on you.