CONTRA III: THE ALIEN WARS
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Native Platform: Arcade (Nintendo Super System)*
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Media/Formats: Arcade Cabinet
Publisher: NTSC-J: Konami
Release: NTSC-J: February 28. 1992
NTSC-U: April 6, 1992
PAL: November 19, 1992
Contra III: The Alien Wars is a major release in the series. It made drastic changes and introduced several conventions that have been used in almost all future Contra games. The first 16-bit home Contra game, it increases the action and difficulty from its Nintendo predecessors and maintains the simultaneous 2 player feature. Contra III contains 6 levels, 4 side-view and 2 overhead-view stages. One of the side-view stages involves using a jet bike and also battling in the air.
Featuring a strong soundtrack, Contra III strays from the catchy, upbeat themes of its predecessors to a more cinematic and apocalyptic score. As the plot outlines that Red Falcon has already inflicted mass destruction on Earth, the music fits the demolished locations.
The player can choose between 3 difficulty settings (easy, normal or hard) and select the starting number of lives (3, 5 or 7). The difficulty determines various gameplay factors, such as the strength and aggressiveness of enemies and the speed of their attacks. The good ending, however, is reached only through the hard mode. Contra III introduced the ability to carry more than 1 weapon (2 in particular), as well as carry smart bombs that can be set off at will. Each time the player is killed, the number of bombs they carry is reset to 1. Additionally, they only lose the upgraded weapon they had equipped when killed.
Following in the tradition of Operation C, the player’s default weapon is an automatic machine gun and all weapons use auto-fire. The arsenal consists of familiar and new guns. The fire weapon is now a flamethrower and the laser is not as awkward to use, launching beams consistently. The spread gun is much less powerful, however. A new weapon, crush missiles (C powerup), is the strongest gun to use, but with limited range.
By holding the L and R shoulder buttons while firing, the player character will jump and fire both guns in a fan-like pattern. In this state, however, the player will lose both guns if they are killed. Other innovations include the ability to hang from walls, ceilings and rails, a gameplay element that is generously used throughout the game. The player can also stand in position and shoot in all 8 cardinal directions, a very useful maneuver.
Contra III takes advantage of the console’s Mode-7 effects, especially for the overhead-view stages. Enemies, as well as background elements, fly towards and away from the screen in a pseudo-3D effect. New to the series is the continue point feature: most stages contain an area after the starting point at which the players will continue after getting a Game Over. While the run-n-gun element of its predecessors is maintained, and quite prominent, Contra III has an increased emphasis on boss battles. This change is especially amplified in its sequels, Contra: Hard Corps and Contra: Shattered Soldier.
In the overhead levels, the player freely roams within the level boundaries, locating and destroying enemy pods (yielding powerups upon destruction) before confronting the boss in a different section. They can strafe or turn, the latter of which rotates the screen. This differs from the overhead-view stages of its 2 direct predecessors, where the player progresses in a linear fashion across the level to confront the boss. 2 player mode in the overhead-view stages can either retain the Mode-7 effect by confining each player into split screen mode or removes the Mode-7 effect, putting both players on the shared screen, the latter being more difficult to navigate.
Note: These stage names are unofficial.
Stage 1: City
Stage 2: Crossroads
Stage 3: Rooftops
Stage 4: Highway
Stage 5: Desert
Stage 6: Alien Cave
In 2636, the alien invaders that were defeated in the previous games make another comeback. This time, their strike causes far greater devastation, decimating large populations. This marks the beginning of the Alien Wars. Once again, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean succeed in putting a stop to the aliens’ reign of terror.
Bill Rizer – protagonist; playable
Lance Bean – protagonist; playable
Red Falcon – antagonist organization
In 2636, Red Falcon returns to Earth and levels the entirety of Neo City in vengeance. Mad Dog and Scorpion are long deceased. Filling in for their duties are their descendents, Jimbo and Sully. This duo of special forces operatives succeed in putting a stop to yet another one of Red Falcon’s reigns of terror.
Jimbo – protagonist; playable
Sully – protagonist; playable
Red Falcon – antagonist; lead alien entity
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•Red Falcon’s Revenge
•Point Of Entry
•Tearing Up The Turnpike
•Neo Kobe Steel Factory
•Nesting In The Sands
•No Man’s Land
•The Final Gauntlet (Part 1)
•The Final Gauntlet (Part 2)
•The Final Gauntlet (Part 3)
•Casualty Of War
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•Contra IV: The Alien Wars (Nintendo Super Famicom)
•Contra III Partial Build (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
•Contra III Lab Loaner (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
•Contra Spirits Demonstration (Nintendo Super Famicom)
•Contra III Near-Final Beta (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
•Super Probotector NTSC-U Sample (Super Nintendo Entertainment
•Probotector 2 Sample (Nintendo Game Boy)
•Contra Advance Review Build (Nintendo Game Boy Advance)
•Final Build Prototypes
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Majesco Variant 1:
Following the North American release, Konami and other developers tasked the company Majesco to produce and distribute additional copies of various games. One such game is Contra III: The Alien Wars. This third-party (licensed) re-release is not immediately distinguishable from the original release, although the differences are noteworthy. Overall, the quality of the game media in the Majesco re-release is significantly lower than Konami’s release.
The cartridge label is cruder, less glossy and states assembly in Mexico. Additionally, the warning information on the back is part of the cartridge mold, as opposed to being on a sticker. The cartridge plastic itself is of lower quality, with a tendency to be damaged more easily.
The manual is in black and white and, like the cartridge label, is of cheaper, printer paper quality.
Majesco Variant 2:
A very small subset of the boxes manufactured for the Majesco re-release contains a misprint on the back side. The gameplay screenshots are placed upside-down.
Plain Label Cartridge:
The exact situation behind these plain-label variants isn’t clear. One possibility is that overstock cartridges had their labels replaced with a generic one such as this.
Demo Only, Not For Resale:
Around the time of their release, various SNES titles were placed in store displays as playable “demos”, a practice that remains today with current generation video games. These SNES kiosk demos in North America are notable for their distinct cartridge labels: various disclaimers, stating that the game is a demo and not for resale, are placed over the original artwork. Contra III is one such SNES game for which a demo cartridge was produced:
Like with the rest of the SNES NFR demos, this demo version of Contra III is identical to the retail release. Ironically, these distinctly labelled cartridges periodically appear on eBay and other such online stores. Furthermore, copies can be purchased at secondhand or thrift stores, or at flea markets. They are also considered collector’s items by some.
Interestingly, some or all of these cartridges had originally been packaged with box and manual that contain the Not for Resale stamp, as did some of the SNES NFR demo carts of other games. There exist 2 NFR demo cart variants of Contra III: one variant has a “Property of Nintendo” stamp on the back of the cartridge, which the other variant lacks.
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