Codex Gamicus

Contra (Gryzor in Japan) is an arcade game released by Konami. The game was later ported to home computers, the Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System, Xbox Live Arcade, and as an unlockable in Contra 4. A censored version was released in Europe, under the title of Probotector. The game featured robots, instead of human characters, to censor violence.


In Contra, the player controls one of two armed military commandos named Bill and Lance who are sent on a mission to neutralize a terrorist organization called Red Falcon that is secretly planning an alien invasion on Earth. Details of the game's setting varies between supplementary materials: the Japanese version establishes the game to be set in the fictional Oceania archipelago of Galuga in the futuristic year of 2633, whereas the manual for the American NES version sets the game during the present in an unnamed South American island.


The main character is equipped with a rifle with an unlimited amount of ammunition. The player can also jump, move and fire in eight directions, as well as move or jump simultaneously while firing. A single hit from any enemy, bullet, or other hazard will instantly kill the player character, and also discard the current weapon from the player's disposal. There are a total of four weapons the player can retrieve from flying weapon capsules or pill-box sensors: a Machine Gun, a Laser Gun, a Fire Gun, and a Spread Gun. There also two additional supplemental power-ups: a Rapid Fire power-up which increases the player's firing speed, as well as a Barrier that will grant the player temporary invincibility for a few seconds. All the power-ups in the arcade version are represented by Eagle-shaped letter icons with the exception of the Machine Gun and Laser.

There are a total of ten areas in the game. There are two types of stages in Contra. In addition to the standard side view stages, Contra also features stages in which the player character is seen from behind and must move towards the background in order to proceed. Each of these "3D maze" stages are set inside the corridor of an enemy base in which the player must fight through the base's defenses in order to reach the core of the base. During the 3D maze stages, the upper screen will display a map of the base along with a time limit. Each maze stage is followed by a "3D fixed" stage set at the core of the base where the player must destroy a series of flashing sensors to expose an even larger sensor and destroy it.

Contra also features a two-player cooperative mode. Both players occupy the same screen and must coordinate their actions. One player lagging behind can cause problems for his partner, as the screen will not scroll onward, and a slow player can be fatal to his partner. The European release, Gryzor, does not feature a simultaneous 2-Player mode. Instead, the 2-players takes turn: whenever one player dies, the other will get their turn.

Home versions[]

Home computers[]

Under license from Konami, Ocean Software produced ports of Contra under the title of Gryzor for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC, which were released in Europe in 1988. An IBM PC version was also released in Germany. Ocean's ports were patterned after the original arcade version of the game. The Commodore 64 and IBM versions were released in North America under the Contra title.

Nintendo Entertainment System[]

Konami produced their own home version of Contra for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was released on February 1988 in Japan and North America. The PAL version, titled Probotector, was released on December 1990.

The NES version of Contra differs from the arcade game in a few ways. All ten stages from the arcade version are present, although the "core" segments are no longer individual stages but boss battles that occur at the end of each base stage, reducing the total number of stages to eight. The base stages themselves were also made into linear levels instead of their original maze-like structure (resulting in the removal of the map display) and the time limit was removed as well. The rest of the game's stages are also expanded, featuring longer levels, more traps and enemies, and different bosses.

All six power-ups from the arcade version are present, with the Machine Gun and the Laser Rifle now represented by letter-based Falcon icons (an "M" and an "L" respectively) like the other four power-ups. A seventh power-up is also introduced called the "Special", which destroys all on-screen enemies once picked up. It is represented by a letter-less Falcon icon.

The NES version of Contra was one of the earliest games to use the Konami Code, which originated with the NES version of Gradius. Inputting the code on the title screen before starting the game will grant each player thirty lives when they begin.

Regional differences[]

The Japanese Family Computer version of Contra makes use of a custom-made Multi-Memory Controller that Konami produced called the VRC2 instead of a standard chip, allowing for additional graphical effects that were cut out from the American NES version. The Famicom version features cut-scenes shown before each stage, along with a map of the Galuga archipelago displaying the player's current position, as well as additional background animations such as moving palm trees in the first stage and snowfalls in stage 5. The Famicom version also features additional cheat codes such as a stage select code and a sound test, as well as a hidden post-credits scene by holding select and start before and during the entire end credits.

In Europe and Oceania, the NES version of Contra was retitled Probotector, where the original main characters, as well as some of the enemy characters, were replaced with robotic counterparts. This was done to circumvent the BPjM's censorship laws in Germany, which prohibits the sales of violent video games to minors. Subsequent Contra games for the NES, Game Boy, Super NES, and Mega Drive followed suit, which were all released in the PAL region under the Probotector title as well and featured similar modifications. The Contra games would begin retaining the Contra title and characters in Europe beginning with Contra: Legacy of War and later Contra: Shattered Soldier.


An MSX2 version of Contra was released by Konami exclusively in Japan on May 26, 1989. The MSX2 version included Super C and the three Castlevania games released for the NES. Both, Contra and Super C, are included in the Nintendo DS game Contra 4 as hidden bonusesn of Contra greatly differs from the arcade and NES versions. Due to hardware limitations of the MSX2, the game doesn't scroll but instead uses flip-screens like Konami's other MSX2 games such as the original Metal Gear and Vampire Killer. The player is given a life gauge, allowing their character sustain more than one shot before losing a life. There are two main power-ups in the MSX2 version, a Falcon-shaped power-up that increases the player's walking and shooting speed, as well as a gun-shaped power-up which allows the player to change their current weapon. After picking up the weapon power-up, the player can choose between the default Normal Gun or four other weapons. The Spread Gun is not featured in this version, replaced by Rear Gun similar to the tailgun in certain Gradius games, which fires at two directions at the same time. The MSX2 Contra is composed of 19 stages. The first nine stages are based on the arcade version (which excludes the Hangar stage), while the final ten stages are new to this version. Unlike the arcade and NES versions, the MSX2 version is single-player only.

The MSX2 version of Contra was released for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on February 2, 2010.

Later re-releases[]

A PlayStation 2 port of the arcade version of Contra was released in Japan on May 25, 2006 as part of a series of retro game ports by Hamster. A second rerelease was made for the Xbox Live Arcade on November 6 of the same year, with Digital Eclipse handling the conversion. The arcade version was also included in Konami's retro game compilation Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits for the Nintendo DS.

The NES version of Contra was also included in the 2002 video game compilation Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra for Microsoft Windows in North America, which also .


Much of the game's popularity came from its two-player simultaneous gameplay, which was an uncommon feature in video games at the time of Contra's release. While successful in the arcades, the game became and remained widely popular and remembered when it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. Contra was voted #1 by gaming website as being the "Toughest Game to Beat". Nintendo Power ranked it the seventh best Nintendo Entertainment System video game, calling it one of the best multiplayer NES games. ScrewAttack named it the fifth-best NES game of all time.


The arcade version was followed by a single sequel titled Super Contra in 1988. An NES version of Super Contra was released in the 1990, under the shortened title of Super C in North America. The NES versions of Contra and Super C were the first in a series of Contra games for home platforms. Konami would follow their releases with Operation C for the Game Boy in 1991, Contra III: The Alien Wars for the Super NES and Contra Force for the NES both in 1992, and Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis in 1994. During the late 1990's, Konami externally contracted Appaloosa Interactive for the development of two sequels for the PlayStation: Contra: Legacy of War (also released for the Sega Saturn) in 1996, and C: The Contra Adventure in 1998. In the early 2000's, Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo developed two Contra games for the PlayStation 2, Contra: Shattered Soldier in 2002 and Neo Contra in 2004. In 2007, Contra 4 was released for the Nintendo DS, a co-production between Konami of America and WayForward Technologies. Contra ReBirth, developed by M2, was released for the Wii as a Wiiware title in 2009.

The music from the arcade version of Contra is one of the soundtracks included in the video game album Konami Game Music Vol.4: A-Jax, which was released by Alfa Records on May 10, 1988 in CD (catalog no. 28XA-201), cassette (ALC-22922), and vinyl (ALR-22922).


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