Contra Force is a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System]. The game is a spin-off of Konami's popular Contra series. Unlike the previous two Contra titles for the NES, the game was not an arcade adaptation, but was an original game.
Originally planned as an unrelated Famicom game titled Arc Hound, Konami opted not to release the game in Japan, but instead decided to release the game exclusively in North America and marketed it as a Contra title.
In contrast to the rest of the series, the game is set in a contemporary environment, in which the player controls a counter-terrorist task force known as the Blue Group (the "Untouchables" in the proposed Japanese storyline). The game is not related to the main storyline involving futuristic setting and alien invasions.
Contra Force begins with the player being asked to choose between one of four characters. In addition to Burns, the team's leader, the player can also choose between Iron, a heavy weapons expert; Smith, a sharpshooter; and Beans, an demolitions expert. Each character differ from each other not just in what weapons they wield, but also in their speed and jumping ability.
The game consists of five stages: the odd-numbered stages (1, 3, and 5) are played from the standard side-view perspective, while the even-numbered stages (2 and 4) are played from an overhead perspective (similar to the ones in Super Contra and Operation C). The objective is as simple as fighting as getting to the end of each stage, fighting every enemy who gets in the way, before confronting the boss awaiting at the end.
The controls are similar to previous Contra games. At the side-view stages the player can walk left or right, as well as crouch and jump, whereas in the top-view stages the player can move in eight directions (but cannot jump nor crouch). Shooting is possible at any of the eight directions depending on the context. Instead of the instant power-ups from previous Contra games, the player has a power selection meter similar to the Gradius series which shows what power-ups the player can obtain. The player must pick up briefcase-shaped power-ups, which are hidden within the destroyable environment of each stage, to move the cursor on the indicators one increment. When the cursor is on the power-up the player wants to obtain, the player can confirm their selection with the select button. The items on the indicators includes a standard-issue pistol for every character, two character-specific weapons, a turbo fire power-up that increases the number of bullets on-screen, and a rolling attack that keeps the character invulnerable to enemy fire while in mid-air.
During gameplay, the player can pause the game and go to a sub-menu where they can change their current character. At the sub-menu, the player can assign another character to a second player or call forth a computer-controlled partner. The player can assign from one of six possible strategies to their partner ranging between defensive and offensive. The partner character will then appear for five seconds to assist the player before disappearing. When the partner is gone, the player can summon him again from the sub-menu. Each character has only three lives. If a single player loses all of their lives as one character, the game will end. The player can use the sub-menu to switch to another character that still has extra lives before that happens. In the 2-player mode, if one player loses all of their lives, they can be assigned another character, but the character that lost all of his lives will become unusable. Unlimited chances to continue are provided.
Contra Force was originally announced for Japanese release under the title of Arc Hound, with no ties to the Contra series. Arc Hound was promoted in a brochure that was included in the Family Computer game Crisis Force and covered in Japanese game magazines, but was never released. The game's protagonists were identified in these previews as the "Independent Public Order Task Force Untouchable".The American release of Contra Force was first announced in 1991 and was planned to be the third console installment of the series, which is why the working title of Contra III: The Alien Wars was "Super Contra IV".
Connection to other games
Although Contra Force was not originally planned as a Contra game, it has been referenced in other games in the series. The name of the first stage in Contra III: The Alien Wars, originally known as the "Occupied City" in the Japanese version (Contra Spirits), is listed as the "Streets of Neo City" in the instruction manual of the North American version. "Neo City" is also mentioned by name as the Sound Test title of the Stage 7 theme in the American-developed game Contra 4. The player select theme from Contra Force was also reused in Contra ReBirth.