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The Falcon Symbol,[4] or simply Falcon, also known as Hawk and informally as Power-up Symbol, is a recurring item featured in the Contra series. It is an emblem in the shape of a falcon that contains a weapon power-up for the player to collect. Falcon Symbols are generally found by shooting Power-up Capsules and Sensors.

There are also many other recurring assets featured throughout the series that bear the falcon motif, including emblems and insignias of some of the primary conflicting factions, whether they are some of the heroic earthling forces, but most prominently, the antagonistic alien army known as Red Falcon, from which the symbol is likely shaped after.

Origins and speculations[]

U.S

United States Marine Corps insignia.

The Falcon Symbol's general appearances seem to based on the Falcon decoration used by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps,[5] two groups Lance Bean is said to be associated with.[6] The Hard Corps task force (a branch division of the Contra organization) uses a falcon as their insignia as well; while this emblem is golden in Contra: Hard Corps, it is silver with additional red details in Contra Returns. The Falcon itself is supposedly a Crested Eagle or Bald Eagle, reflecting its real-world counterpart as part of the Marine Corp's official seal.

Reichsadler - 01

Reichsadler of Nazi Germany.

The design of the Falcon Symbol's usage by villainous forces is possibly inspired by the Reichsadler, a heraldic eagle derived from the Roman eagle standard, mostly known today for its use by the Nazi party in Germany from 1933 to its fall in 1945. Further supporting this theory, several antagonistic entities fought throughout the many titles that comprise the Contra series are analogues to the Nazi dictatorship. Examples include the Blood Falcon army heavily inspired by Nazi military assets and customs in Contra: Shattered Soldier, and Chief Salamander designed after Adolf Hitler in the Japanese version of Contra ReBirth, to name a few. One of Colonel Bahamut's bases is adorned with a blacked-out Falcon behind a red banner, likely his own personalized style of the Falcon Symbol, representing his faction led against the Earth Government during his coup d'état.

Tank Battalion - 01

Tank Battalion
(Namco, 1980)

Another possible origin is the iconic eagle symbol that appears in the game Tank Battalion and its sequels (which could in turn be designed after the Reichsadler). Further supporting this theory, a Tank Battalion clone minigame can be played on an arcade machine in Contra: Legacy of War (although this particular minigame doesn't feature the eagle symbol anywhere).

Red Falcon was the first known group to adopt the Falcon Symbol for its army. This is likely due to Red Falcon's conquering of the Galuga Archipelago, the group's first known assault on Earth, and their takeover of the Earth military base stationed on the island. It is thus possible the Falcon Symbol could initially have been a standard earthling military emblem, like that of the Navy or the Marine Corps, but which was repurposed after the military was infiltrated by the aliens and turned into a terrorist group. This could also explain why weapon power-ups for the heroes come in the form of the antagonistic Red Falcon insignia, as they could actually be supplies sent to be used by the enemy, but which the heroes intercept to use for themselves.

Weapon power-ups generally come in the form of the Falcon Symbol, encased in either a flying capsule or a Pill-box sensor (the latter usually seen housed near the Galuga Island military base). Despite this, some enemies (Red Falcon or otherwise) have been shown to be in possession of these power-ups, with a rare few using identical weaponry for themselves against the Contra Unit.

Digging further into this mystery, "Red Falcon" could already have been the name of the Galuga military before being controlled by the aliens, or they could have adopted this name after the infestation and becoming a terrorist group. During the Operation Galuga incident, it was stated that the alien invaders took control of all militaristic forces on the island, which likely would have led to adopting the Falcon Symbol established on the bases for their own. It would be unlikely that the Moirai, an ancient extraterrestrial race existing long before the dawn of humankind, would name their guardians after a then still non-existent earthling bird, or that these would have come up with this name by themselves.

Supporting the theory that the Galuga military adopted the name "Red Falcon" after being controlled and becoming terrorists, is that a similar case took place in Contra: Shattered Soldier, where ex-Contra commando, Lance Bean, named his military group "Blood Falcon" after rebelling against the Government, so a similar case could have applied to Red Falcon on Earth.

A variation of the Falcon Symbol is also used to represent the Commonwealth empire, a group that once controlled many countries of the world before their leader Tiberius was overthrown, happening a few years prior to the Galuga Archipelago incident. This use of the falcon insignia appears to be based on the Roman Empire, a group the Commonwealth was modeled after and which also inspired the names of the Triumvirate, who may have been involved in the Uprising coup d'état.

Description[]

Falcon Symbols are one of the most iconic assets in the Contra series. It is an emblem in the shape of the Red Falcon insignia that generally has a letter on it, which represents either a weapon or another power-up the player can make use of. When the Falcon Symbol is picked up, the player is instantly granted the weapon or other power-up that was represented by that letter.

Falcon Symbols generally can be found by shooting Power-up Capsules and Sensors, although there are certain enemies in some games that also drop them when defeated, or just release them for the player to collect. Likewise, a few bosses in some games have an attack where they toss out several Falcon Symbols with random weapons along with other harmful objects, luring the player to risk their lives in attempting to snatch one of these power-ups amidst all the other raining hazards.

Game specific information[]

Contra[]

First appearance of the Falcon Symbol in the series, where it appears as the insignia of the Red Falcon terrorist group.

In the arcade version, most weapons appear as Falcon Symbols (only the Machine Gun and the Laser appear as the guns themselves). Besides the Weapon Wings and Sensors, a Falcon Symbol can be seen on the floor of Garmakilma's room, as well as on the wall of the base in front of Gromaides.

In the Famicom port, a golden falcon insignia is displayed during the introductory cutscene with an accompanying description of the recent actions taken by Red Falcon (most cutscenes and other assets were removed from the export versions of the game).

Super Contra[]

The original arcade version of Super Contra is distinctive in that it doesn't feature any Falcon Symbols, and instead, weapons appear on the field as the guns themselves, without a letter to identify them other than their shape (some players find it harder to identify weapons this way).

Contra: Hard Corps[]

In this game, Falcon Symbols only come labeled by the letters A, B, C or D. When one of these letters is collected, it will enable that character's weapon on its respective letter inventory slot from their personal fixed arsenal. By default, the player will instantly switch to a new weapon when picking up a letter Falcon Symbol the first time. Once in their inventory, the player can switch between their collected weapons by the use of the Switch button. If the player dies, they'll lose the weapon they were holding at the time of their demise; and on their next life, they'll have to find another same letter Falcon Symbol to reacquire that weapon, with the process repeating of switching instantly to it on first pickup. The sprite for these Falcon Symbols appears identical to the Falcon Symbols seen in Contra III: The Alien Wars (besides the letter change), but with the center head piece removed, making the former's variant of the item appear more like wings with a leg stand.

If a player already has the weapon associated with a Falcon Symbol's letter and they obtain a duplicate letter, they are awarded 573 points. Konami is often represented by the goroawase (wordplay) number "573". In the Japanese language, "five" is translated to "go", changed from the voiceless form "ko". "Nana" is "seven" in Japanese and is referred to "na" for short. "Three" translates to "mi", the shortened word for "mittsu". Correspondingly, mixing "ko", "na" and "mi" together spells out the company's name.

A Falcon Symbol insignia is shown during one of the endings. Based on the situation of the stage this insignia appears in, it is considered a medal of honor, given to the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world.

A rotating Falcon Symbol is also seen as a menu select cursor at the start of the game and menus. The Probotectors also use identical Falcon Symbols in the exact same manner in Probotector (MD).

Contra 4[]

Falcon Symbols appear identical to their previous incarnations from Contra (NES) and Contra III: The Alien Wars, including Falcon Symbols obtained from Pillbox Sensors. In Stage 2, a Falcon Symbol can be see on the center door of the enemy base located at the top of the waterfall.

Contra: Legacy of War[]

Being a direct sequel to Contra: Hard Corps (although not being part of the main canon), Falcons play the exact same role as they did in that game, by enabling a determined weapon of each character's fixed arsenal, depending on its type. The main difference is that instead of letters, Falcons are now color coded:

  • Slot 1 holds the standard issue Machine Gun and all players already start with it.
  • Yellow Falcon: Gives weapon in Slot 2, which is a Flame Thrower type of weapon for all characters.
  • Blue Falcon: Gives weapon in Slot 3, which varies between weapons with spreading capabilities or lasers, depending on the character.
  • Red Falcon: Gives weapon in Slot 4, which is a form of weapon with homing capabilities for all characters.

Unlike previous games, where Falcons could be found by shooting Power-up Capsules and Sensors, in Legacy of War, they are found either lying on the field, or will descend from the sky for the player to collect after defeating a powerful enemy or miniboss.

Contra ReBirth[]

A Falcon Symbol flag is seen as backdrop during the Galactic President's transmissions to the heroes, and a big Falcon Symbol decoration can be seen at the beginning of the first stage. Other than those, the Falcon Symbol's only other appearances are from the usual Weapon Wings and game icon, as well as a medal on Doyle's uniform.

Hard Corps: Uprising[]

The Falcon Symbol appears as the item power-up for an Extra Life, as well as an insignia. The Weapon capsules are no longer modeled after the Falcon motif and are instead shaped like a bullet filled with a colorful energy inside. The energy color and inside letter of will depend on the weapon they are assigned to:

  • M = green
  • S = red
  • H = orange
  • C = yellow
  • L = blue
  • R = cyan

If any of these weapons are upgraded to Level 2, a silver Falcon Symbol will appear behind the obtained gun's letter, resembling the classic weapon wings. Each end of the bullet icon will also visually acquire silver plating. Upgrading a weapon to level three will turn the silver Falcon Symbol and tip plating to gold.

Contra: Operation Galuga[]

The Falcon Symbol received a major overhaul in this reimagining of the original Contra. The insignia now appears as a shield with wings. As for the power-up weapons themselves, each weapon has a specific color to represent its power-up:

  • M = green
  • S = red
  • F = orange
  • H = yellow
  • C = violet
  • L = blue

Gallery[]

Screenshots[]

Sprites[]

Artworks[]

Other[]

Trivia[]

  • In most Contra titles, the Falcon Symbol is also used as a cursor icon when making menu choices.
  • Contra Force is the only Contra game to lack any sort of Falcon Symbols whatsoever.

See also[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Contra: Legacy of War PlayStation instruction booklet, pages 8 and 9. (SLUS-00288)
  2. Super C instruction booklet, page 5. (NES-UE-USA)
  3. Operation C instruction booklet, page 7. (DMG-CN-USA)
  4. Contra instruction booklet, page 9. (NES-CT-USA)
  5. United States Navy Military Decorations at Military-Ranks.org.
  6. Lance Bean's dog tag in the opening of Contra: Shattered Soldier reads "UN NAVY", while his opening ID in Contra reads "Earth Marine Corps".
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