After other successful retro releases like Mega Man 9 and Gradius Rebirth, it should come as no surprise that Contra Rebirth’s gameplay is largely the same side-scrolling run-n-gun action that fans came to expect from the series’ 8 and 16-bit incarnations. You’ll blast waves of smaller foes leading to massive boss battles, and to keep things from getting too predictable, there are platforming sections and vertical shooting/obstacle avoiding sections shrewn about to keep you on your toes and remind you that there’s more to the game than just running to the right and firing wildly.
To my amazement, largely because I’ve never played a run-and-gun shooter with it before, this controls wonderfully with the GC pad. The analog stick is perfect and feels comfortable when going for diagonal or circular-style shots and the large A button makes jumping easy while the small B button is perfectly-placed for shooting. In the eight years since it was introduced, there haven’t been a lot of games that I felt made great use of the pad’s design, but this is one of them and it makes me wish that more games like this hit that system.
Despite this being a retro-styled game, I wouldn’t recommend using the GC’s d-pad because of its small size and makes any movement more of a chore than it should be. Wii remote controls are obviously included, but I’m not too fond of them. Holding the remote like the original NES pad is functional, but a bit annoying as this option also includes a bothersome vibration feature whenever a loud explosion happens - so basically every other second, and just doesn’t feel as comfortable to use as the GC pad.
Unfortunately, while Rebirth is a great game, it is also an all-too-brief one with a mere five levels. As a result, it feels more like an expansion pack for Contra III than a full-fledged game. Similar retro-style games like Mega Man 9 gave players yearning for a new entry in a classically-styled series got full games - this doesn’t feel like one and the game suffers as a result. There are also unlimited continues at the player’s disposal - a controversial matter whenever they’re included in a game, but I have no problem with them as they do allow more people to progress through the game easier, and those who don’t wish to make use of them can simply limit their usage of them if they want.
Visually, Rebirth stays true to the SNES classic Contra III with some minor improvements. It’s got about the same level of graphical detail and animation, but is more colorful and features more on-screen action. There also isn’t any slowdown, which keeps the game’s pace frantic from beginning to end and forces you to stay on top of the seemingly endless stream of enemy gunfire. The audio is another throwback to the past and offers up remixed tunes from the original Contra and its 16-bit successors that fit the frantic pace perfectly.
Contra Rebirth is a must-buy for even casual fans of the series such as myself. The gameplay, while a bit stilted due to the lack of levels, is well done in nearly every way, and the controls are a dream. There’s also a bit of replay value in the form of unlockable skins and the desire to either beat the game with as few continues as possible or beat your old scores. Despite some shortcomings, Contra Rebirth is a fantastic download for Wii owners and at just $10, it provides a lot of fun at little cost.