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The Barrier (B), also known as Barrier Shield, is a recurring item featured in the Contra series. It is a special power-up that grants the player temporary invincibility.

General description[]

The Barrier is a special and often rare power-up that grants the player temporary invincibility. When picked up, some form of protective barrier will appear around the player. The form of this shield can change from game to game, whether it is a protective aura, the player character rapidly changing colors (giving them with this a glowing visual effect), or even a number of drones moving around the player character to protect them. Once encompassed within this protective shield, the player will become invincible for a short period of time. Furthermore, any enemies that make contact with them will be instantly destroyed, effectively turning the player into a lethal weapon against the enemy forces.

When the effect is about to end, there'll usually be a visual hint to indicate this, whether it is the colors of the player changing more slowly, the aura around them changing color, etc. Care must be taken at this time, as an overconfident player could end up in a tight situation when the effect ends.

Game specific information[]

Contra[]

Arcade

First appearance of the Barrier power-up in the series. When picked up, three "option" drones will start spinning around the player character, protecting them from any harm and turning them harmful to the touch to enemies. After a determined period of time, the drones will scatter and fly away.

The Barrier power-up is especially rare to find in the original arcade version of Contra and it isn't uncommon to play a complete game without finding it, as certain conditions are required for it to appear. It can only be found at the beginning of Stage 3, Waterfall, or halfway through Stage 7, Hangar Zone, but only if the player is equipped with the standard Rifle,[3] likely to give them a helping hand as apparently they're having a difficult time through the game. This is further supported because the Barrier's active time in this game is considerably long, almost to the point of allowing the player to finish the stage it was found in before its effect wears off.

NES

When picking up the Barrier power-up in the NES port, instead of drones like in the arcade version, the player will start rapidly changing colors between red and blue (only red in Probotector). During this time the player will become invincible and will also automatically defeat any enemies they come in contact with, as well as disintegrate any projectiles they touch. When the effect is about to end, the player will start changing colors more slowly, hinting them to quickly find a safe spot in order to continue playing normally once the effect ends.

Amstrad CPC

The Barrier in the Amstrad CPC version actually displays a countdown timer indicating its duration of effect, lasting 40 seconds.

PC DOS

DOS Contra is the only home version, besides the RIM platform based mobile (Blackberry) version, where the visual effect of the Barrier resembles its arcade counterpart. However, the 'B' in this conversion acts as a weapon upgrade replacement, instead of an independent power-up. This, consequently, means that any power-up gun the player may have will be lost, reverting to the default gun.

Commodore 64

The Barrier in the Commodore 64 version of Contra/Gryzor is unique in that the state of the Barrier is permanently displayed on the heads up display, with the default message "Barrier off". When the player picks up the Barrier power-up, the message will lighten up and change to "Barrier on", signifying they have gained temporary invincibility; however, no other visual indicator will appear around the player character like in all other versions of the game, so the player must be attentive when the message turns back to "Barrier off", lest they end up in a dire situation when this finally happens.

Contra III: The Alien Wars[]

When picking up the Barrier Shield in this game, the player will get surrounded by a circular protective aura. Apart from this, the effects are the same as other iterations of this power-up (that is, invincibility and harmful to enemies). The aura the player is surrounded with in the side-view levels glows with blue and cyan colors, and when it's about to end, it turns red. In the top-view stages, the aura changes through three colors instead: blue when it's fully charged, yellow when it's starting to run out, and red when it's about to end.

The Barrier Shield is actually the very first power-up the player can get their hands on in the game. Right at the beginning of the game, in the Occupied City Street, the first Weapon Wings will carry a Barrier Shield power-up.

It's worth mentioning that the duration of the Barrier Shield is notably shorter in this game (and its ports) compared with other titles from the series, lasting only about eight seconds. On the other hand, and maybe to compensate for this, Barrier Shield power-ups aren't as rare as in other games, and it's not uncommon for the player to find this power-up more than once within the same level (more so, since certain enemies can drop random power-ups).

In Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX, a Grenade Thrower's bombs will bounce off an active Barrier Shield.

In Contra: The Alien Wars, the character blinks between itself and a round circle with four edges. This circle is also used as an explosion animation on many occasions. Unlike other Contra titles, a player can eliminate many weak enemies using physical contact without the need of a Barrier. This is primarily due to the invincibility time when respawning.

C: the Contra Adventure[]

Named the invulnerability, the shield power-up does just that, granting the player invulnerability for a brief time. When obtained, the payer character will flash multiple colors similar to the Barrier's NES application in Contra.

Contra: Operation Galuga[]

Although the Barrier power-up is no longer present in this reimaging of the original game, using an Overload on a Machine Gun power-up will produce a Barrier with identical effects as previous incarnations for a limited time. The Barrier is visually made up of swirling Machine Gun bullets, the very weapon used in the Barrier's activation.

Gallery[]

Screenshots[]

Icons[]

Trivia[]

  • The NES version of the Barrier bears a strong resemblance to the invincibility special effect from the Super Mario series (which also debuted on the NES).
  • In the instruction booklet for Contra III: The Alien Wars, the image for the Barrier Shield shows a yellow coloration on a character in a side-view perspective, although this isn't possible during side-view gameplay. It's possible this was scrapped from the final release for unknown reasons.
  • In Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX, if the Konan Cannon is hacked as a usable weapon, and a special weapon is obtained afterward, the weapon drop the Konan Cannon leaves behind is a Barrier Shield. This is likely due to the Konan Cannon not being intentionally usable as a weapon, so the item slot it occupies next in the special weapons list would be the Barrier Shield, which is not a gun.

References[]

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