Monday 13 May 2024

Contra: Operation Galuga Review (Switch)

It’s been a very long time since we’ve had a decent Contra game on any system. Contra 4 on the DS was ok but had its issues and before that you are looking at Contra: Shattered Soldier on the PS2 which was solid enough. However, because of the awesome Konami Contra collection already available on multiple formats any new game in the series really has its work cut out. Operation Galuga at least gives it an honourable try.

It’s important to note we are reviewing Contra after it has received a few key updates. We’ve noted reviews saying the framerate is choppy and highlighting a number of other performance issues. In our experience these seem to have been ironed out. Even playing in handheld mode we didn’t notice any juddering, slowdown or framerate drops. Everything in terms of performance now seems to be absolutely fine.

The game follows the standard Contra template of side scrolling blaster action. Most of the levels see you starting at the left of the level and charging through, continually blasting everything in your path. You’ll ascend and descend as well and occasionally ride bikes or other vehicles but basically you run, blast, and jump and try not to die.

There are a few difficult settings to help with staying alive with players able to turn the series trademark one hit kill system into a more forgiving life bar. Even with players able to take more than one hit the game is crushingly difficult. Further help can be gained by using credits gathered in game to add extra lives and abilities but expect death to be a common occurrence. Just make sure to keep an eye out of weapon pick ups along the way as your standard blaster is basically useless. 

The biggest problem with any Contra game outside of the 16-bit eras has been the level design and it’s fair to say that Operation Galuga starts slowly. Indeed, we were a bit bored over the first few levels but then things really begin to kick in. An excellent level set on a moving train, followed by a level where the player is under constant harassment while trying to hang from platforms, begins to conjure memories of the glory days of Super Contra and Hard Cops, in moments at least.

The game has various modes of play with a story mode backed up by an arcade and a challenge mode. The story is pretty much nonsense and the plot made little impact on us but it acts a fun way to unlock new characters which can then be used in the other modes. Each of the characters also have a special move such as a dash or grappling hook, as well as using weapons in slightly different ways so there is a point to playing through and unlocking things as it's far more than just a change in character skin.

While Contra: Operation Galuga, is certainly the best Contra game since the classic period it still can’t really hold a candle either the Super Nintendo or Mega Drive versions of game. That of course would be fine, except that both of those games are available on the Switch in the Konami collection. There’s also Blazing Chrome to consider which plays off the nostalgic elements of the series almost perfectly, and arguably better than this.

If you’ve played and blasted through the collection, then this certainly warms up into a decent blaster of a game. It’s great fun in parts and some of the levels are really well designed, it's just not a classic. Fans shouldn’t be disappointed though once they get through the early stages.

Overall 8/10

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