If you’ve read ANESthetized (and if you have, thank you), you know that I love the video game Contra. I don’t know that it was my favorite game, but it clearly was and is one of my most beloved games, a game that was and is very important and influential to me.

What I call Contra, though, is really just one version that game: the Konami NES port version. There were many others. For example, there was the Contra arcade game. I never saw nor played this game in arcades. I didn’t even know it existed. I did not know Contra was a port of an earlier arcade version or that there was an arcade version. I didn’t find out about it until later (much later, in fact). And that’s probably a good thing because it was very different from my beloved NES version. The graphics are different; I’m not sure if they’re better, but they’re definitely different. The sprites are bigger and jump in much looser somersaults. The characters are named Bill and Lance on the title screen. And, perhaps most off-putting, the color palette is significantly different (and definitely not better). I probably would have liked this if I had found it in the arcade at the time (I kind of liked Super C), but I don’t like it as much as I do the NES version today.

There was also the MSX home computer version of Contra. This version not only has widely different graphics from both the NES and the arcade versions, but is also not scrolling. You do not move your sprite across a scrolling terrain but instead move from screen-sized board to screen-sized board. This greatly affects game play as you can easily avoid dangers, especially on vertical levels; you can just jump or drop to the next board and out of harm’s way. There are different names for some of the levels (Asphalt Jungle?) and completely new levels (a cavern, a volcano). There is also a health bar, the ability to save and switch between weapons, completely different bosses, and no two-player option (single player only!). It’s like Bizarro Contra; it kind of looks and plays the same but is definitely not the same.

And then, perhaps weirdest of all, was the European version of the NES port. It was called not Contra but Probotector. And the changes didn’t stop there. The human and/or humanoid sprites of the game were all replaced by robots. Bill and Lance are robots in this version (pretty cool robots, actually), and so are all their enemies. Apparently, this was the result of some sort of censorship issue; I guess the European governments didn’t like human-on-humanoid violence but were fine with robot-on-robot violence. Other than that, it is the same game: same levels, same graphics, same music, same feel.

So Contra didn’t stop with Contra. It went on to arcade Contra and MSX Contra and European Contra. Now I won’t be trading in my NES version any time soon; it’s the best version in my opinion as well as my version, the version I grew up with. But I can’t say I hate the other versions, either. They are more Contra, and that’s never a bad thing.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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