Friday, 10 February 2017

Norrin_Radd Plays - Contra (NES 1987)

I want to start getting some more videos out there, so I lobbed myself an easy one. Another game I know front to back.

Contra is a game that I used to speedrun before I knew there was such a thing. I used to compete against people on the GameFaqs forum to see who could beat individual levels faster, and to see who could beat the games the most amount of times in a row on the original continue (beating the game takes you back to level 1). We used to beat the levels then post our times on the forum. It was the wild west of major League Gaming. based entirely on the honor system, haha.

Contra, for me, is the game I wish society thought of when they heard the term "8bit Nintendo". I can confidently say that the vast majority of people associate 8bit games with Mario and more happy cartoony kind of gaming experience.

Contra was nothing like that. Contra was savage. The name itself is conflict! The first sentence on the back of the box reads,

"The universe teeters on the brink of total annihilation at the hands of the vile alien war monger, Red Falcon"

A far cry from the pleasant cartoonish imagery of Mario and Zelda. This was a game that blatantly took the Predator, Rambo and Alien franchises and mashed them in to one Zeitgeist of the time that was clearly not meant for small children. The kicker? Small children everywhere played the hell out of this game!

That's kind of what video games were for a lot of us. Though the pixels forced games to have a cartoonish look, any number of mature themes were interpreted through them, in a language that children who really only understood cartoons would get. It was a gate way drug in to bad ass shit!

Further to that point, I would be remiss if I did not also point out the music was no exception. Mario, again, has such elegant bouncy and playful tunes. Stuff that everyone and their grandmother can now hum. But Contra seemed to say, "While we are already creating the pixelized version of bad ass shit, why don't we also create the chiptune version of it as well?"

And with that, Contra proceeds to create one of the most anthem-like heroic bad ass soundtracks ever to grace the system. It was for many a gate way drug in to heavy metal and prog concepts, once again seen through this language that the children of the time could resonate with. For many of us, the NES was the first exposure to difference genres of music and song writing concepts. How fitting that is is also our first exposure to these kind of melodies and rhythms and time signatures. I know that this game, as well as the Ninja Gaiden and Double Dragon games, all had a profound impact on the exact notes I hear in my head when I am writing music.

Anyway, I could go on for a really long time, but I'll cut it short now. Let's just say that I feel Contra was a dramatic turning point for the possibility of what games could be, in relationship to the gamer.

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