Lost in Time: Contra (NES)

Nintendo recently announced the new Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition. It’s a plug and play unit with 30 classic games on it, and the game selection is really very smart. At first glance some choices seem odd, but of course you go with Mega Man 2 instead of 1 or 3 because it’s the more popular game, and naturally you go with Double Dragon II: The Revenge instead of Double Dragon because the NES version of Double Dragon didn’t have co-op. But the game choice that sticks out like the sorest of thumbs is Super C instead of Contra. And the more you look, Konami’s been making this decision for years. The original Contra for NES is almost nowhere to be found. No really, go look for it. It’s not there. If you were a kid who grew up with an NES, chances are you’ve played Contra before. It’s where we all learned the Konami code. It was one of the best local multiplayer games around. And unfortunately, it’s currently lost in time.

Contra for the NES was released in 1988, and for most people it was the only Contra there was. In reality, Contra for NES was based on an arcade game by the same name, but the popularity of the NES version, especially here in America, positively dwarfed the arcade version, to the extent that the majority of players didn’t even know it existed. If by some chance you don’t already know, Contra is a game about 2 dudes in brightly colored pants running around shooting aliens and robots with impossibly cool guns. It’s tough as nails, it’s a ton of fun, and it’s just a brilliant NES game. It’s also by far the most well-known game to be featured on Lost in Time, so I won’t go into too much detail on the game itself. No, the purpose of this article is to shine a spotlight on the absurdity of the fact that THE ORIGINAL CONTRA IS NOT READILY AVAILABLE ON MODERN CONSOLES. And that’s completely insane. 

The Wii Virtual Console, the Nintendo 3DS eShop, the Wii U eShop, the PlayStation Store, the Xbox Marketplace, Steam, and every other current platform is completely lacking in NES Contra. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 got ports of Contra, but it was the arcade version. There was a game called Komani Clasics Series: Arcade Hits on Nintendo DS, but again, it only had the arcade version, and even the MSX2 version of Contra hit the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console services in Japan. But here in America, including the new NES plug and play, the most readily available version of classic Contra is Super C. Now Super C is arguably a superior game, but the fact of the matter is that Contra is the game we all have the fond memories of. We want to jump over those exploding bridges. We want to kill our friends on the waterfall stage. We want to get 30 lives from the Konami code. Super C is an amazing game, but it doesn’t have those moments.

So where can you actually get Contra nowadays? Well, the NES version was rereleased twice, in a manner of speaking. First, there’s a Windows PC compilation called Konami Collector’s Series: Castlevania & Contra which contains a port of the NES game on it, but it’s not exactly the easiest thing to come by. Then there’s the incredibly awesome Contra 4 for Nintendo DS. This is a bit easier to find, and it’s playable on 3DS, but the NES port of Contra has to be unlocked, so there’s some work involved. As far as the original cart itself, it’s not exactly high-tier expensive, but it’s not cheap either. As of this writing, a loose cart fetches between $30-40. That’s a little steep.

It’s strange that whatever is left of Konami seems unwilling to port one of the most popular NES games of all time to anything, but sadly that’s the way it is. That said, if you’ve never played the original Contra, and you know someone who has it, it’s definitely well worth your time. 

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