Contra: Evolution debuted for iPhone and iPad a short time ago before Konami mysteriously yanked it from the App Store. Now the game returns and appears to be here permanently, but will players care? That all depends on how much you love the original and pay-to-win.
First, this is a revamp of the 1987 arcade and NES classic that stars series' heroes Bill and Lance as they stick it to Red Falcon, an army of soldiers and aliens running amok. As such, familiar Contra staples return, including multiple bullet types like the spread shot and laser, along with the excellent soundtrack that'll no doubt pump up longtime fans the moment they begin the iconic jungle stage.
Konami made tweaks of course, starting with the graphics. Whether or not you feel this "visual upgrade" is for the best is a matter of personal taste. Environments look more vibrant than before, but the characters are these pseudo 3D models that look strange to begin with, and even weirder as they run forward in Contra's behind-the-back stages.
There's also a new Mission mode that gives the game welcome heft. You're able to plow through levels on easy, medium and hard difficulties to earn Eagle Medals, partly to unlock one of two new female characters with unique specializations that amount to double guns for Ricci Erica and shurikens for Sally Inohara.
Other additions are subtle, like being able to continue from where you left off in Arcade mode, toggling on/off auto fire and earning virtual currency during play to call random bullet types from the sky. You can even revive upon death using diamonds that are generally difficult to come by, and that's where in-app purchasing enters the equation. Low on coins and diamonds? If so, Konami will sell you more for different amounts.
That doesn't necessarily bother us, and hardcore purists will dismiss these features in favor of beating the game sans the famous Konami code; noticeably absent. Where the game falters is with the English translation. The developers do a horrible job communicating the reason for leveling up and general tips, especially with "If you are still using cartridges loaded in the slots, then bullets gained during battle won't be able to replace them until they are empty." What?
Not only that, but the iPad HD version costs $2.99 compared to $0.99 on the iPhone. We've said this before and it begs repeating: releasing two separate versions in 2013 is both greedy and asinine.
Here's the good news: You can still ignore this nonsense and enjoy old school Contra with three decently implemented control types. We expected more from Konami given the weight of the franchise, but for now, this'll do.
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