Contra: Shattered Soldier is a lot like the Contra of old instead of what I heard about the horrid games that bear its name on the Playstation. This is very much like Strider 2 in how it is presented, this time on the PS2. Many things are the same, but many things have changed as well.
Much like the other Contra games, there is little to no plot in this game. Heck, I did not even get the names of the characters down other than the one guy seems to be the same guy from Contra III: The Alien Wars on the SNES. The other playable character is a girl android. I have no clue what the heck she is doing here other than the fact that the plot includes the other guy, Lance, from Contra III.
This is a straight shoot-em-up, just like the good old NES game. We have a melding of 2D and 3D graphics in this game, much like Strider 2 and Einhander by Square. In fact, I was reminded a lot of Einhander while fighting the soldiers on the missiles and fighting airborne weapons. The game works quite well in its 2D/3D meld. The graphics are pretty nice, made up mostly of sprites. The game moves along very smoothly, although I do notice that the screen seems to be split in two with a noticeable black vertical line right in the middle of the screen. I am sure this has something to do with the design, I just do not know what it is.
The controls are configurable. I personally changed them from the default. I used X as my shoot button, Square as my charge button (charge up the weapon for a special shot) and circle as my jump button. The R1 and L1 keys are used to change between the available weapons (more on that later). Overall the controls are easy to get the hang of and it is very nice that they are configurable.
I said I was going to talk about the weapons, so here it is. Back in the NES days we shot things and got power-up weapons throughout the game. This time around we only have 3 weapons to choose from that have 2 different shots to them. We have the regular machine gun, a grenade launcher and a flamethrower. If you hold down the charge button you can fire off a special shot from each of these weapons. The key about these weapons is you will use each one in specific circumstances. For example, some mid and final stage bosses are not affected by one weapon, so you have to use another one. I miss the power-ups, but this system is easy to get the hang of and you are no longer waiting for that certain power up to come along.
This game is difficult, which is not surprising since Contra was difficult on its own (Contra III was not too difficult if I remember correctly) without the famous Contra trick. Funny thing is they actually give you the 99 continues on the easy level. Also if you make it through to the middle of the stage you can continue from there. The sad thing is that you do not get the proper ending going through the easy level, so you have to go to through the Normal difficulty to get that. Normal limits you to 3 continues. Therefore it is once again time to memorize each move, just like the original Contra. Retro gaming is so fun sometimes, but then again this game can get quite frustrating.
This really is a fun game, but can be extremely irritating at times to the point you want to throw your controller somewhere. There are tons of mid and end bosses in this game. Some of them are huge, but a lot of them seem to revolve around mechanized things. One example is in the 2nd stage where you are being chased by a mech while riding a train. The game moves to a 3D view for a moment, showing the mech touching down and running after the train and then switches back to the 2D view with a 3D feel to it. Just shades of Einhander again, I was just constantly reminded of this game throughout this game. The graphics are really good in this game. They are sprite based, so there really is no depth to the characters or the enemies outside of the mid and end level bosses, which have lots of depth (and grossness) to spare. The only thing that bothered me was the vertical black line in the middle of the screen. I have no idea why it is there. This is where the game takes a nosedive. I noticed one musical track in this game. Either that or it was several that just sounded the same. Sure, the music will get you pumped up, but we need some diversity here. The sound is phenomenal. The explosions sound great and I actually heard a little surround action from my speakers while fighting bosses. The bass is used very well in this game, I just wish the music could have had more depth to it. The controls are easy and they are even configurable. This game is simple to pick up and difficult to put down. That is unless you toss your controller at the screen in frustration. This is and is not the same Contra you played on your NES. This game, at least to me, seems far more difficult than the original did. You must memorize the way things happen and be ready for them. If you make one bad move and have to continue, you may have to start the level all over again. This game is extremely frustrating, but also extremely fun and nostalgic. This game is easy to get into, there is no doubt about that.
There are 5 stages in all in this game, but it took me many hours to even beat the Easy level. This is also a 2-player game, but I did not a get a chance to play it that way. I bet this would be an exciting 2-player game. I rated this a 72 because someone will go through the Easy level and beat the game and then decide to try the Normal level and memorize everything in there. There is value in this game much like there was in Contra. Heck, even I get my NES out of the closet and play Contra every now and then. I will be amazed if someone can beat this game with 3 continues. Good luck to you. This game is retro gaming at its best. It brings to the table everything you loved (and hated without the cheat) about Contra into the next century with pumped up graphics and excitement. This game is excellent, although very frustrating. I only made it past the Easy difficulty, I am not even going to try the Normal difficulty even if the real ending is behind it. A questionable buy as you probably will get frustrated with it.