System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Review written July, 2001
Super C is the sequel to Contra, and is very similar to it. Once again, the alien nemesis Red Falcon is ready to conquer the earth, rifle-toting hero Lance (and maybe Mad Dog in the two player game) sets off to destroy him in a mostly side-scrolling action game, again with powerups such as lasers, machine guns, spread guns, and so on. Anyone who liked Contra will find more of the same here.
If there is a slight difference between the concept of design between Contra and Super C, it is reflected in the shift of emphasis on the sources of the games' challenges. Most of what stood in your way of clearing Contra were specific stage obstacles - how do I get past this beam of flame, how can I hit the tanks fast enough when I'm not powered up, how do I time moving past a certain set of thrown grenades - though between those obstacles were quite a few soldiers who'd randomly run on the screen and shoot at you. In Super C, there are fewer strategies you'll have to figure out and memorize, but more random attacks, more bullets and more dodging.
Enemies and turrets can fire at more angles in Super C than Contra, spreading their attacks wider across the screen, and making it more difficult for you to find a safe spot to fire at them. Perhaps the most noticeable change between the two games is the difference between the games' two stages which aren't side-scrolling. Contra had behind-the-back base levels while Super C has overhead stages. This definitely adds to Super C having a slight edge in intensity - the base stages in Contra are mostly ducking, waiting for a clear shot at an unmoving target. You'll find yourself moving around much more in the overhead levels of Super C, especially as you move between two columns of enemy generators in stage 6, dodging back and forth to avoid and attack wave after wave of enemies that will home in on you. Finally, in general, when there is a batch of bullets on screen, it seems Super C manages to put a couple more bullets on average on at once.
This slight increase in intensity may seem to be a good thing: In an action game, the more action, the better! In reality, though, it just balances out with Contra having a few more stage specific challenges. Once you are practiced enough to start getting far in Super C, you'll have all the skills you need to finish the game, and the game won't throw too many more tricks your way. Also, the stage-specific obstacles in Contra give Contra's stages more variety and make them more memorable. I'm not likely to forget stage 7 in Contra: The moving spikes affected the gameplay, but they also added to the setting of a mechanical and alien factory. However, Super C does have a few sections unique to some stages you'll have to find tricks for passing. A section with falling boulders in stage 5 comes to mind.
The best boss in the game is easily the stage 5 boss. It flies, somewhat lazily, across the screen, occasionally swooping down for closer attacks, as it deposits batches of mines which zoom in after you, and launches a volley of little enemies that run across the screen when they hit the ground. Even with the spread shot, you'll have to be constantly on the move and fire at all angles to hit everything the boss throws at you.
Unfortunately, the worst boss is the game's final boss. When you first fight it, there's a chance you may be overwhelmed by its attack, but there is a simple trick to beating it that requires no skill whatsoever, and you'll likely discover this trick extremely quickly.
Visually, the most important change since Contra is that the bullets in Super C are larger and flash different colors, making them much easier to see.
On the whole, while Super C looks very similar to Contra, more of Super C's stages are exotically alien.
One piece of Super C's music that crystallizes the style of the others is the short tune that plays between stages (a motif which was reprised from Contra, and would later be reprised in Contra 3 and Contra: Hard Corps): The motif begins with a series of percussive notes with a hollow, metal timbre, and is all sharp, precise beats. Most of the rest of the music in the game is very percussive; notes are used more for defining beats or rhythms than making melodies.
I've said several times that Super C feels more intense than Contra. But how much more intense? I said in my review of Contra that Contra is no Mars Matrix. That is true of Super C as well, but in both cases that's such an understatement to be almost meaningless; a comparison to a game that's at least within a powered up spread shot's firing range would be do a lot more to pin down just how intense Super C really is. Super C's enemies do not fire as aggressively, nor do the bullets travel as fast, as those in Contra 3 on hard difficulty. However, Super C does not seem to be noticeably less intense (although it might still be easier) than Contra 3 on the easier difficulty levels.
I've spent much of this review comparing Super C to Contra, but considering their similarity, reviewing Super C in this manner really is appropriate. The two games are roughly equally difficult, and each took me about the same time to finish - I'd say within a day. Super C wasn't an evolution of the game play style that was refreshing when first presented in Contra, but with Contra as short and easy as it was, even an extension would be welcomed. And, even if Super C offered no evolution, it at least made an effort at refinement. If I was asked to name which was the better game, I would say Contra and Super C are almost exactly equally good. Both are games I had fun with while they lasted, but they both left me wanting quite a bit more.