Contra Force is a run-and-gun action platformer video game released by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992 in North America. It is a spinoff of the Contra series, being the third game in the series released for the NES following the original Contra and Super C, although the game's plot and setting are unrelated to previous entries as the villains in the game are human terrorists instead of an alien menace.
The game was scheduled to be released in Japan under the title of Arc Hound (アークハウンド Āku Haundo?), with no ties to the Contra series, but was canceled.
Unlike most entries in the Contra series, rather than being set in the 27th Century, this installment concentrates on the exploits of an anti-terrorist task force in the year 1992 and is devoid of any science-fiction elements.
In 1992, C-Force —a task force composed of former military professionals— is formed to protect Neo City from terrorism. One day, the team's leader, Burns, receives a phone call from their informant, codenamed "Fox", who tells him the Head of Intelligence is being threatened by a criminal organization known as D.N.M.E. Burns arranges a meeting at the harbor with Fox to learn more about the situation, only to find out Fox's corpse when he arrives at the destination. Now it is up to C-Force to save Neo City from D.N.M.E.
Contra Force begins with the player being asked to choose between one of four characters, each with their own skills, weapons, and unique sprites, as opposed to the traditional palette swaps from previous games. In addition to Burns, the team's leader, the player can also choose between Iron, a heavy weapons expert; Smith, a sharpshooter; and Beans, a demolitions expert. Each character differs from each other, not just in what weapons they wield, but also in their speed and jumping ability. Players can switch between characters at any time, and even assign them to primitive AI for a limited time assist.
The game consists of five stages; the odd-numbered stages (1, 3, and 5) are played from the standard side-view perspective, while the even-numbered stages (2 and 4) are played from an overhead perspective (similar to the ones in Super C and Operation C). The objective is as simple as getting to the end of each stage, fighting every enemy who gets in the way, before confronting the boss awaiting at the end.
Stages in the game are:
The controls are similar to previous Contra games. In the side-view stages the player can walk left or right, as well as crouch and jump, with the exception of characters being unable to aim diagonally down unless jumping. Also, going prone is replaced by crouching for most characters (Beans being the exception). In the top-view stages the player can move in eight directions but cannot jump nor crouch.
Instead of the instant power-ups from previous Contra games, the player has a power selection meter similar to the Gradius series which shows what power-ups the player can activate. The player must pick up briefcase-shaped power-ups, which are hidden within the destroyable environment of each stage, to move the cursor on the indicator by one increment. When the cursor is on the power-up the player wants to activate, the player can confirm their selection with the SELECT button. The items on the indicators includes a standard-issue pistol for every character, two character-specific weapons, a turbo fire power-up that increases the number of bullets onscreen, and a rolling attack that keeps the character invulnerable to enemy fire while in mid-air.
The player can pause the game and go to a sub-menu where they can change their current character. At the sub-menu, the player can assign another character to a second player or call forth a computer-controlled partner. The player can assign from one of six possible strategies to their partner ranging between defensive and offensive. The partner character will then appear for five seconds to assist the player before disappearing. When the partner is gone, the player can summon him again from the sub-menu.
Each character has only three lives. If a single player loses all of their lives as one character, the game will end. The player can use the sub-menu to switch to another character that still has extra lives before that happens. In the 2-Player mode, if one player loses all of their lives, they can be assigned another character, but the character that lost all of his lives will become unusable. Unlimited chances to continue are provided.
The game suffers from constant slow-down, even with only one enemy on the screen.
The team's leader. Equipped with Hand Grenades and Machine Gun, he is able to jump higher than others.
The team's sharpshooter, specialized in long range and sneak attacks. Equipped with a Rifle and Homing Missiles, he can take down practically any opponent visible onscreen.
Heavy weapons expert, uses a Flame Thrower and a Bazooka. The Bazooka has the highest firing rate among all characters' weapons.
The demolition expert of the team. Specialized in close range and splash attack, he uses timed explosives, which can inflict damage all over the visible area. In addition, he is constantly crouching, so pressing ↓ on the Directional Pad actually causes him to go prone, making some enemies completely incapable of hitting him.
|Burns||Hand Grenade||Machine Gun||TI*||RA**|
|Beans||Time Bomb||Time Mine||TI||RA|
* - Increases onscreen bullet limit from two to three.
** - Invincibility while jumping. No effect in top-view stages.
Contra Force was originally planned to be released in Japan under the title of Arc Hound in 1991, originally having no ties to the Contra series. The game was announced in magazines such as Famicom Tsūshin and advertised in official Konami brochures with a scheduled October release, but this early version of the game was canceled.
Despite the cancelation of Arc Hound in Japan, the game was still localized for the North American market as a spinoff of the Contra series. Initially scheduled for a Winter 1991 release, Contra Force was announced as the third console game in the series, being released sometime prior to Contra III: The Alien Wars (known as Contra IV at the time). However, Contra Force was delayed to a late 1992 release, a few months later than Contra III, causing the latter game to be renumbered prior to release.
Contra Force has received mixed reception. AllGame editor, Brett Alan Weiss, criticized the slowdown and flicker the game suffers from, but praised the added strategy of being able to select from different characters each with their own unique skills and weapons.
- In the English localization of Contra III: The Alien Wars, the ruined city of the first stage is identified as "The Streets of Neo City" (originally the city was nameless in the Japanese version); Neo City being where the events of Contra Force take place, making it one of the only links this game has with the rest of the Contra series, possibly being the same city just in a different time period (over six hundred years earlier).
- The Character Select theme in Contra ReBirth is an arrangement of the Player Select theme from Contra Force.