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Contra: Operation Galuga PS5 Review – Pure Nostalgia

Contra: Operation Galuga is a reimagining of the 80’s classic, developed by WayForward and published by KONAMI, and launched on March 12, 2024. This isn’t just a simple port of the beloved NES classic, rather it steps up and offers some welcome modern touches for the PlayStation 5 with revitalised 2.5D graphics, alternate control mechanisms and different difficulty options. In addition, Operation Galuga expands the Contra universe with a new story that complements the original. Familiar stages are brought to life in lush jungles, neon-lit cities, and sprawling alien landscapes that pop with vibrant colors and detailed backgrounds.

When the Red Falcon terrorist group takes over the Galuga Islands off the coast of New Zealand, elite Contra commandos Bill Rizer and Lance Bean spring into action, initiating an all-out war in which the fate of mankind hangs in the balance! Contra: Operation Galuga is pure run-and-gun action with some classic one-liners that got a chuckle out of me and some cool gameplay sequences that uses shifts in camera angles and kept you on your toes. Playing as either Bill or Lance in singleplayer or 2-player in the story mode, you will blast your way through side-scrolling levels filled with enemy soldiers, alien monstrosities, and giant bosses. You can also play 4-player in arena mode. The camera moves with your character, and you cannot backtrack, so if you miss a powerup, it’s gone. This too means that you don’t have to kill every enemy you see and can jump over some that are laying prone and tricky to hit.

The iconic weapons like the spread shot, crush bombs, and laser rifle are back and after you’ve earned some credits to unlock perks, can become much more powerful. You can even use a new power to overload weapons for even more offensive and defensive options. The game features a new control option that lets you choose between the oldschool 8-directional aiming, or a more modern 360-degree aiming mode which gives you more precision control over your shots. However, aiming is single-stick and attached to your movement, so I struggled in levels that had gaps to jump over while also trying to aim at bad guys. I found I often had to shoot from a stationary position, but this opened me up to oncoming shots, and I found myself dying a lot by falling. I miss the twin-stick nature of more modern games in this respect.

I was constantly reminded of the difficulty of arcade games like this from that era. You are given a choice between having a health bar which slowly depletes as you are hit, or the classic “one-hit-and-you’re-toast” mode. This caters to both newcomers seeking a more forgiving experience and veterans who crave that pure, adrenaline-pumping difficulty challenge. The soundtrack is a fantastic mix of remixed classic Contra tunes and new, pulse-pounding tracks that perfectly set the mood for blasting your way through enemy hordes, even when you’re repeating sections from dying too much (or maybe that’s just me).

During your runs in Contra: Operation Galuga, even if you run out of lives early, you’ll still be earning credits for your efforts. You earn more for completing levels obviously but even if you suck initially like I did, you’re still building credits. These credits can be used in the perk store where you can buy all kinds of perks. I especially liked the menu having an ‘affordable’ section that shows only what you can buy with the credits you have. Early on I paid 2000 credits to have weapons be level 2 when picked up which helped a lot, but from then on it was a bit of a grind to build up credits. Other perks are worth 200/500/1000 credits, so you’ll want to work out which ones to prioritise early.

While the core campaign might feel a bit short to experts, I found it a good length given I was repeating many sections many times due to my lack of skills. For those that blitz these types of games, there’s still plenty on offer beyond the story campaign. There is an arcade mode that lets you experience the original game’s levels with a timer and limited lives, perfect for a quick nostalgia fix. There’s also challenge mode which throws you some curveballs with unique objectives, like completing a level without firing a shot or tackling platforming sections with limited jumps. These challenges add great replayability and test your skills in new ways.

Overall, Contra: Operation Galuga captures the spirit of the classics while offering modern refinements and fresh challenges. The punishing difficulty and tight controls were an initial frustration but once it clicks, it’s a fantastic oldschool run-and-gun experience. If you’re looking for a challenging and exhilarating action game on the PS5 mixed with some 80’s one-liners, this is an easy recommend.

This review utilised a PS5 key provided by Five Star Games and Contra: Operation Galuga is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Steam.


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