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Neo Contra
  opened by paleface at 02:17:17 10/28/04  
  last modified by paleface at 15:01:04 10/28/04  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_4way; loc=NA]
Reference added: 676
  "Neo Contra and Alien Syndrome: two recent-ish top-down shooters."
A hard-rockin' top-down shooter with some old-time harshness, Neo Contra offers pumping action along with a few odd interface choices that you'll just darn well have to get used to.
I meant hard-rockin' both literally and figuratively, as crazy Japanese metal beats rip from your speakers while you run along blasting/chopping everything in sight.
Like the recent Alien Syndrome remake (see entry 676), this top-down shooter offers co-op two-player gameplay and lets you move in one direction while shooting in another. While Alien Syndrome was dual-analog, however, here you have to hold a "Direction Lock" button if you want to dodge while shooting in a single direction, or hold the "Movement Lock" button if you want to shoot in multiple directions while staying in one place. Although some of their weapons, like Jaguar's katana (this unlocks after you've played for a half-hour or so, I think), would require a separate fire button even with dual-analog, I think I'd still prefer that over having to keep track of two Lock buttons.
Come to think of it, since you only ever have three weapons, no matter what character or loadout you pick, and since one is always a lock-on weapon that already has a separate lock/fire button, it seems like they could have had two fire buttons for the remaining weapons, rather than a single fire button and toggling between the two weapons with two Weapon Switch buttons. And while you can select from six or so preconfigured control layouts, none of them let you separate the fire buttons or use dual analog, and even leaving those aside, none let me have quite the configuration that I wanted.
There's also a curious "Evade" button what will give you a moment of invulnerability if you stand in place, or let you dash in whatever direction you press. I haven't used this much yet, mainly because in the first level where I'm still slogging away it seems like evading would waste time better spent shooting.
Also, that window of invulnerability would be hard to judge, particularly since hit boxes in this game are mystifying me a bit. You don't get no health meter here: one it, or touch of a badguy, and you die (kind of a shock after Alien Syndrome!). So you can for instance try to hit a guy with your sword, just miss, then he extends his arm in a taunt animation and touch! you're dead. Bosses in particular love to turn around on the screen and touch you dead. This is somewhat frustrating. Another example: a boss spent about five seconds spraying a bath of yellow puke at me, just missing, and then suddenly right as the spray ended, without having moved, my character died. Why? WHHHYYYYY??!?!?
Still, the pumpin' music, difficulty, and incredibly destructive weapons have kept me coming back for more over and over. That katana of Jaguar's in particular is one nasty tool, it can take down most anything, including some screen-spanning sub-bosses, in just a swipe or two. Kick ass.
Oh but there are a couple other weird interface things that shouldn't have happened the way they did. For one, you have to change characters an Options screen and then save the changes--you can't select characters when starting a new game. What a pain! Also, there's no "return to title" function on the Pause menu, so you have to sit there and let the enemies kill you. Oh, and when you end the game, it always asks you if you want to save, then again if you want to overwrite the current save file. Yes! Frickin' yes! Just do it! Gah.
Weirdest of all, there's a "Training" mode hidden two-deep in the Options menus. Here you can play through any of the first four stages with unlimited lives--it doesn't "train" you in any sense other than letting you keep going. Now, here when you Pause, there is still no "return to title" menu option, and of course you can't end the game by dying since you have unlimited lives. So you're stuck until you reset the PS2. Not so nice there, Konami.
Anyway, I think I'm getting better at the controls, and slowly learning (the hard way) where the nasty hit-detection bits are hidden. I would really like to play this two-player--but I get to be Jaguar, damn it!
  paleface 15:01:04 10/28/04
Although the game has the driving twitch factor and difficulty of a classic shooter, as far as I can see it only tracks a single, anonymous highest score, so if you want to have a high-score contest with your friends you will have to keep track of the scores manually, which is a slight chore.
The game limits your continues, and when continuing you restart either at a rare checkpoint or clear back at the beginning of the level, so you can only quarter-pump the game (and only the first four levels at that--not that I know how many total levels there are) in Training mode. Although maybe if you continue in co-op when the other player is still alive it lets you keep going right there? Anyway, restarting at the beginning of the level is not typical arcade style, so I thought it worth mentioning.
· Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol.14: Alien Syndrome (PS2)

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