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The Contra series is notable for its simple, yet highly inconsistent plot. Until Contra III: The Alien Wars, the Japanese and North American home versions followed a different timeline and had different plot elements. The Japanese timeline has been set in the future since the start of the series and features Bill Rizer and Lance Bean.
The following information pertains to the home versions of the Contra games. For the most part, the original arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra maintain consistency in plot between release regions, following the missions of Bill Rizer and Lance Bean.
The North American timeline begins in the 20th century; as a consequence, different sets of characters have been used for the early North American games. Up until and including Operation C, the protagonists had been Bill “Mad Dog” and/or Lance “Scorpion”. Note: In the North American localization of NES Super Contra, Bill is referred to as Sgt. Bill Ko, while Lance is referred to as Corporal Lance.
Since the date of Contra III’s events in the North American canon follow the Japanese canon, new characters were introduced: Jimbo and Sully, who are the descendents of Mad Dog and Scorpion.
The events of Contra Force are not intended to be in the same universe as the rest of the series. However, it had been made, or implied, canon by a few games in the series: the North American localization of Contra III, Contra: Legacy of War and Contra 4.
The plot of the PAL localizations, Probotector, follow the Japanese timeline, but replace the main human characters with robots (side note: the titles of the PAL region games disregard naming continuity, as multiple titles share the Probotector name).
Contra: Shattered Soldier attempted to fix all discrepancies, applying the Japanese continuity, for the most part, for all 3 regions. It also discounts the events of the PS1 titles.
Later, Contra 4 presented more discontinuities. For example, Mad Dog and Scorpion were made into separate characters from Bill and Lance, as the heroes from the events of Operation C. In addition, Black Viper is reverted to being an alien entity instead of maintaining the Japanese continuity, where the enemies of Operation C are an unnamed nation. The Japanese version, Contra: Dual Spirits, accepts most of these changes into the series timeline, with the exception of Mad Dog and Scorpion’s role in the events of Operation C.
The PS1 titles focus on Ray Poward’s missions following the events of Contra: Hard Corps. Although officially discarded, these events can be placed without conflict into the main timeline.
Contra ReBirth appears to take place in an alternate timeline, as Bill and Jaguar work together around the events of the first Contra.
Hard Corps: Uprising apparently recounts the backstory of Bahamut, the primary antagonist of Contra: Hard Corps. However, the placement of its plot in the series is uncertain.
The Gryzor continuity is limited to the first game in the series, as no follow-up titles were developed. In this alternate universe, Lance Gryzor is the lone protagonist and he stops an alien race, the Durrs, from using weather manipulation to conquer Earth. Bill is mentioned once, in the Amstrad CPC version; however, he is irrelevant to the plot and simply serves as a name for the second player.
The following is a timeline that summarizes the most accepted order of events, based on the Japanese canon.
2634: Super Contra
2635: Operation C
2636: Contra III: The Alien Wars
2638: Contra 4
2641: Contra: Hard Corps
2647: Contra: Shattered Soldier
4444: Neo Contra
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