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Contra: Operation Galuga Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, & PC)

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Contra: Operation Galuga Review

Old folks will remember Contra from way back in the ‘90s. Back then, the Contra series was a staple at the arcade. It garnered quite a considerable movement of gamers whom the developers tried to retain via arcade-to-console adaptation. You could enjoy the series from your home and even go back-to-back, teaming up with friends to eliminate the alien foes wreaking havoc on Earth. Unfortunately, the series didn’t do much to innovate its arcade gameplay, maintaining, more or less, the same story and level design. It makes sense, then, that Contra: Operation Galuga would come out this year. 

This isn’t a brand new game at all, but rather a reimagining of the original entry. It pretty much splashes a fresh coat of paint on the old-level design and revamps the graphics for the modern age. You get relatively similar gameplay, too, albeit with additions spanning the games that came after Contra (1987). So, the question here is, does Contra: Operation Galuga do enough to satisfy both newcomers' and veterans’ expectations? Should you play the game, whether clueless about any of the previous Contra games or a diehard fan of all 19th- to 20th-century iterations? Let’s find out in our Contra: Operation Galuga review. 

Memory Boot

Contra: Operation Galuga

After booting the game up, you’ll be asked to choose between the story, arcade, and challenge modes. A fourth speedrun mode unlocks much later after beating the story mode and hoarding 15,000 credits. Now, the difference between the story mode and the others is essentially the plot, cutscenes, and all. With the story mode, you’re given a recap of why the guerilla task force, Contra, exists and why you’ll be spending most of your time blasting off alien invaders until their kingdom comes. 

In the other modes, however, you jump straight into the action, no questions asked. Naturally, you want to explore the story mode, given that the Contra series’ booming rise at the arcade hasn’t always paved the way for plot points. Granted, at a $40 price tag, I’m not expecting a cinematic exploration of the Contra universe and its inhabitants. Yet, with the story beats we get, they suffice enough to fuel the reasons for going on an all-out war for the rest of the game. 

Why You Do What You Do

galuga archipelago Contra: Operation Galuga Review

You return to the Galuga Archipelago, where most of the story takes place. These will nearly instantly spring to memory from the NES/arcade designs. They’re primarily the same-level designs and environments. However, notable updates to the graphics and details are present. From the tree foliage to the shimmering waters, you enjoy a stunning backdrop, breathing new life into the series.

The story, as well, remains essentially the same. You meet fan-favorite elite Contra commandos Bill Rizer and Lance “Mean” Bean. However, you’ll progressively unlock more playable characters, including Ariana, Lucia, and the robots, some of whom you may have seen in various Contra games. They merge forces to exterminate the otherworldly Red Falcon terrorist group, using ancient technology to destroy mankind. 

It’s nothing over the top, but sufficient enough to get the job done. The story essentially retells what we already know. So, if they feel too bland, especially for veteran players, you can always skip the story scenes altogether.

Meat on Bone

brad fang

The story mode plays out across eight levels. Arcade, on the other hand, uses those same levels, excluding the story beats. Now, the challenge mode is arguably the most fun. It features 30 challenges that put your run-and-gun skills to the test. Meanwhile, Speedrun wants you to get through the levels without firing a shot.

Contra: Operation Galuga is indeed a run-and-gun game, much like its predecessors. It features vertical and horizontal platformer-level designs crawling with all kinds of foes and obstacles to overcome. You’ll fight everything from grunt-like humans to grotesque creatures, with different attack patterns keeping you on high alert at all times. 

Bullets fly in all sorts of directions. Machines and a helicopter explode in the background, adding to the kinetic and eccentric personality of Contra. It’s the same cherished game we adored back in the day, albeit with better visuals and quality-of-life improvements.

You can run, jump, and dash across stages. The dash can be used both on the ground and in mid-air. You can also double-jump by default. More movement options unlock with time, including a grappling hook option and hovering from above. The idea is to avoid pitfalls, shoot down hostile aliens, and overcome assorted hazards. 

Overall, the controls feel fluid and responsive. Very minor glitches come up, and the precision is snappy and impressive. As for the weapons, you get the iconic laser gun, spread shot, crush missile, and homing shot. Combined, they induce glorious nostalgia as you interplay between movement and action.

Pump Up the Action

lance bean, probotecotr,lucia,billrizer

As you progress, the difficulty spikes. Fortunately, you unlock new abilities and weapons that give you a fighting chance. Notably, you can now equip two weapons simultaneously, switching between them on the fly. If you happen to pick up a weapon you don’t particularly fancy, you can lose it by maxing it out. It’s a kind of special skill that can do fun stuff like spray bullets in all directions or put up a temporary shield, but in turn, sacrifice the weapon from your inventory. 

Usually, you hardly use the ‘special skill’ for such a short-term perk. It doesn’t hurt to have the option available, though. If you get hit, it also downgrades your weapon, and if you die, you lose it permanently. These nifty improvements do a lot to smooth over gameplay, as in previous games, you’d find yourself stuck with a weapon you didn’t like. 

Furthermore, it’s no secret how nightmarish Contra games can be. You’d die from a single hit in previous games. But now, you can unlock perks that give you an advantage in battle. They can be health boosts, weapon durability, an increased invulnerability period, or weapon retention post-dying. These perks are bought using credits earned from completing levels, so there are no microtransactions. You also use in-game currency to unlock more playable characters and even soundtracks from games like Gradius or Castlevania.

Incentives Rock

Bill Rizer

It’s worth mentioning that characters have distinct playstyles, weapons, and perks. At their basic level, they all run and gun. However, you can feel differences between them, further adding to the incentive for repeated playthroughs. Lance and Bill remain the most fun. However, Lucia brings on the grappling hook and Ariana a slide kick. Since you also get two slots for perks and weapons, you take the time to strategize and tweak your loadout to pay off in the long run. 

I have to mention the bosses, who are also the epitome of the levels in my book. They’re neat touch-ups from the bosses you may have fought in Contra games, albeit with more tricks up their sleeve. Towering bosses put up a good challenge, enough to draw genuine satisfaction from defeating them. 

Finally, levels do vary, with sections where you’re firing bullets on a hoverbike and manoeuvring through dense jungles. There’s been an outroar about the game, mainly the 3D polygon visuals, odd lighting, and weird shifting of camera angles. But it feels like a delicate balance, reimagining the original game just enough to feel modern while retaining the game’s classic charm and identity.

Thanks to a couch co-op option,  you can turn the fun up with friends. You can also play with three friends in arcade mode. Unfortunately, online multiplayer is missing. A local co-op is better than nothing, I guess. 


Ariana, Lucia Bill Rizer and Lance “Mean” Bean in Contra: Operation Galuga

Contra: Operation Galuga nails action best. It’s what’s always been a blast since then. So, having the run-and-gun sections of the game eccentric and snappy feels like enough to take it for a spin. Of course, newcomers may be torn between playing a classic and opting for more competent modern bullet hells. The story, for one, is lacking, with only the bare minimum to keep it going. Visuals, although revamped and more vibrant than before, could have been better with next-gen hardware.

At the very least, Contra: Operation Galuga runs smoothly without major glitches that would hamper your experience. The controls are fluid and responsive, with options for 360-degree aiming or the old-school eight-way directional aim. One thing is for sure. If you’re looking for a challenge, Contra: Operation Galuga has it in good measure. It caters to all, from relatively easier difficulty with perks to smoothing over your playthrough. Alternatively, you can explore challenges and speed runs with amped-up objectives like one-hit kills for all enemies.

While Contra: Operation Galuga plays it safe, faithfully reimagining the original game to a T, it feels like a lost opportunity to innovate beyond nostalgia. Old-school gamers will have a blast, that’s for sure, with breathless levels designed to push your run-and-gun skills to the limits. Newcomers, though, may want to tread cautiously, perhaps to tone down expectations for a classic entry ruthlessly authentic to its roots.

Contra: Operation Galuga Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, & PC)

Old School Contra, But Modernized

It’s always neat to re-experience old-school charm on modern consoles. With Contra: Operation Galuga, you can travel back in time to the original 1987 run-and-gun Contra. Experience the same kinetic action with chaotic bullet storms and exploding machines in the background. The Red Falcon is wreaking havoc on futuristic Earth. It’s up to you to save mankind yet again. At a $40 price tag, Contra: Operation Galuga gets the job done. It curates fun and challenging level designs to get through solo or with friends in tow.


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.