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Contra III: The Alien Wars, known in Japan as Contra Spirits (スピリッツ, Kontora Supirittsu) is a 1992 run and gun video game developed and published by Konami for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). It is the third home console entry in the Contra series after Contra (1987) and Super C (1988) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In PAL regions, it was retitled Super Probotector: Alien Rebels and the player characters were replaced with robots. The player is tasked with fighting off an alien invasion of Earth across six stages. Four stages feature side-scrolling action traditional to the series while two are presented from an overhead perspective. It is the first Contra title to have been directed by Nobuya Nakazato who later directed other games in the series. He designed Contra III to feature more comical elements, a more cinematic soundtrack, and tighter stage design than its predecessors.

Contra III received positive reviews, with critics praising its arcade quality derived from its sound and visual design. It has been called one of the best Contra games in retrospective reviews. It was ported to the Game Boy as Contra: The Alien Wars (1994) by Factor 5 where it received positive reviews for its Super Game Boy enhancements. Konami also released a Game Boy Advance port titled Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX (2002) which received more critical reviews for removing features in the original. The SNES version was rereleased several times on Nintendo's online distribution services.

Gameplay Edit

Contra III is a side-scrolling run and gungame akin to the series' predecessors.Players take on the role of commandos Bill Rizer and Lance Bean fighting off an alien invasion on Earth. It can be played in single-player or a two-player cooperative mode. There are six stages in total; four are side-scrolling while two are presented in an overhead perspective using the Super NES's Mode 7 rendering mode. In the side-scrolling stages, the player progresses by running, jumping, and shooting at enemies. In the overhead stages, the player navigates across the stage to find and destroy predetermined targets. The stages each feature unique controls, giving the player the ability to rotate the screen to navigate. All stages have a boss at the end and occasionally a mid-stage boss. The player will lose a life by touching enemies or their bullets, or falling down a pit.

The player is equipped with two machine guns that can be swapped at will and upgraded with power-ups. These power-ups are typically dropped from flying pods and include alternate shot types: homing missiles, torpedoes, a flamethrower, a laser, and a spread shot. Picking up a power-up will replace the shot type of the gun equipped, and losing a life will result in losing the power-up from the gun equipped. Bombs and a temporary barrier shield may also be dropped. The player has limited bombs, and using them will damage all enemies on the screen. The player can also perform a spinning jump, firing both guns in an aerial somersault. However, during this move, both of the player's weapons will be at risk of being lost upon losing a life.

Development Edit

Contra III was developed by Konami with a team led by Nobuya Nakazato. Although this was Nakazato's third year at Konami, Contra III is the first Contragame he worked on, having only previously done informal playtesting for Super C (1990). He believed the original arcade version of Contra (1987) was difficult to play because of its vertical screen, but he did enjoy the Famicom port. Nakazato's team worked in Konami's new offices in Tokyo, seated next to the arcade team that had developed Contra. Nakazato shared progress on Contra IIIwith the arcade team and received positive feedback. In early coverage, the game was known as Contra IVNintendo Power reported the name change to Contra III in its coverage of Winter CES in 1992.

Nakazato believed Contra had a low-budget movie theme. To emphasize this, he asked the sound team to change the music as the stages progressed to give a cinematic style. He also believed the action in earlier Contra games is too realistic, so for Contra III he wanted to include more comical elements. He was concerned the change may upset series fans, but believed it would be more entertaining. One scene added to accomplish this is a sequence where the player hangs from flying missiles. This strains the Super NES's sprite capabilities, so the team used background tiles to draw the helicopter and missiles in the scene. Making the graphics appear to move like sprites in the foreground required clever programming tricks. The Super NES allowed for "raster scrolling", which allowed the programmers to change the graphics for each scanline. The programmers shifted the vertical sync and cut off the sprites at the scanline. The restriction is that graphics can only move horizontally along the scanline to achieve the illusion that they are actually sprites in the foreground.[1]

Nakazato was concerned the traditional pattern of weak enemies followed by a boss fight was becoming mundane and did not want players to feel "in for the long haul" every play session. To combat this, he established a key concept for something interesting to happen every three seconds of screen scrolling. This made the game content feel more dense and gave it a "boss rush" type feel. Nakazato believed Contra III's fast-paced action was going against the trend of home console games shifting to slow-paced strategy and role-playing games, and is good for quick-starting stress relief.

Contra III was released in Japan on February 28, 1992, and North America on March 26. In Europe, the game was retitled Super Probotector: Alien Rebels and released on September 12, 1992. In Super Probotector, the gameplay and story remained mostly the same, but the player characters were changed to robots. Due to technical differences in PAL SNES systems, Super Probotector's gameplay is slightly slower.

Ports and rereleases Edit

Contra III has been rereleased on Nintendo's online distribution services. It was released on the Wii Virtual Console in January 2007 in Japan and North America, and Super Probotector was released on the European Virtual Console the same month. Contra III was released again for the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan and North America in November 2013, and Europe received the unmodified Contra III on the Wii U in January 2014. In May 2016, Contra III was added to the Nintendo 3DS eShop for North America and Europe for exclusive use with the New Nintendo 3DS.

Both Contra III and Super Probotector were included in Contra: Anniversary Collection, a compilation of classic Contra games. It was released in June 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. In addition to the Western version of Contra III, an option to play the Japanese version was added after launch in a free update. Contra III was included in the 2017 Super NES Classic dedicated console.

External linksEdit

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