Super Probotector Alien Rebels, known as Contra 3 in the US or Contra Spirits in Japan, is my personal favourite in the Probotector series and this one resides on the rather brilliant Super Nintendo.
When the game starts you are presented with great graphics and a superb soundtrack. The opening cinematic shows an alien ship slowly descending over a city before decimating it. So now it’s time for revenge.
The Red Falcon are back, and this time they don’t want to rule the world, they want to destroy it! RD008 and RC011 return for one last climatic showdown as they fight their way to the heart of the enemy.
The game provides three difficulty settings, Easy, Normal and Hard which is a first for a Probotector game. The settings allow for more lives, but at a penalty. Set it to ‘Easy’ and half way through the game it will interrupt your game and request you to change the setting to Normal – and start you from the beginning of the game.
Easy therefore only serves as an introduction and tutorial, and it feels somewhat cruel to have no inclination of that initially.
Super Probotector serves up six stages, instead of the eight that the series is known for, but this shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing as level design is well executed and packed with a variety of enemies with perfect pacing. Sub bosses mid level offering a further challenge to your progression.
Each stage presents a unique look and atmosphere ranging from the city ruins to a factory. For the first time in the franchise there are the inclusion of vehicles where you will drive a tank and a speed bike at certain points of the game. One moment you’ll find yourself racing along highways on the speed bike, not long before soaring at altitude clambering of a helicopter hopping from missile to missile.
It’s this kind of pacing and imagination to the levels that keep you hooked.
Two ariel view levels, switch up again, controls altered to suit with shoulder buttons rotating your character.
Weapons are now fully automatic giving you freedom from the excessive thumb pedaling, making short work of enemy encounters and blasting through wreckage in seconds. You can tell the SNES was put through its paces with the amount going onscreen.
The quality of the sound is brilliant. Guns sound extremely powerful and other elements such as explosions and vehicles sound clear and sharp. The soundtrack during each stage keeps up with the pace with memorable motifs and themes – the end boss music really building the tension.
Bosses look menacing and you’ll soon learn you have to adapt to their attack patterns if you want to succeed and have enough lives later on.
In the final stages of the game it really pushes your skills, ending with SIX bosses. Most of which resurrected from the earlier games, a nice nostalgic twist for fans of the series.
The amount of enemy types is dizzying, each with their own distinct look and attack patterns forcing you to keep changing tactics. Guns from previous installments return and have been modified. The laser and flamethrower are now essential during your play-through, new weapons enter the fray as well. The crusher and homing missiles and the M-80.000 bomb, which is welcome and essential to clear the scene when you become overrun.
This time your character can swap out weapons without losing them, this is limited to two and adds a further strategy. A small change that makes all the difference where you won’t have to continuously avoid power-ups after shooting them down. Previously it was in fear of losing your favored weapon.
Co-op once again makes a return and it’s never felt so good to run and gun with a friend, everything feels smooth with next to no slow-down.
However, there is a problem in where you can jump up a stage too fast, causing the screen to vertically scroll and kill the other player – so sync’d timing is essential.
The controls are tight as ever now with the inclusion of the right shoulder button being used to stand your character in place and fire in all directions with ease. The controls for the vehicles are well realised as it’s much the same as moving your character.
This game is really enjoyable and fun to play and as iconic as it is, it is impossible not to recommend. If you have never experienced this gem, you are in for the fight of your life.
A masterpiece in the run-and-gun genre and definitely one of the crown jewels of the SNES library.
Super Probotector Alien Rebels rating breakdown explained here
Super Probotector Alien Rebels review by James Steele @JX2001
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