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Contra: Legacy of War is a 3D action game produced by Konami and developed by Appaloosa Interactive that was originally released in 1996 for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. It was the first of two Contra games that were externally developed by Appaloosa, followed by C: The Contra Adventure in 1998. The game marks the series' jump to three-dimensional graphics and controversial changes in gameplay. Legacy of War was released packaged with a pair of 3D anaglyph glasses, which the game supported.

Legacy of War bears the distinction for being the first console game in the series to retain both the "Contra" title and human characters during its release in Europe and Australia (where the console series has been known as "Probotector" from the first NES game until Contra: Hard Corps).

The game was scheduled to be released in Japan as well, but was canceled.

Plot

Colonel Bassad, a dictator of a small Asian country, has managed to buy off a stolen alien embryo and is now using it to breed an army of fierce alien mutants. Moreover, it is rumored that Bassad has allied himself with an unknown alien entity for his bid to world domination. Ray (returning from Contra: Hard Corps) is deployed to thwart Bassad's scheme along with three of the newest members of the Hard Corps team: Tasha, a female mercenary, CD-288, a robot, and Bubba, an alien.

After making their way from a city into a hidden mountain fortress, the Hard Corps subdues Colonel Bassad. It is at this point that the plot takes a bizarre turn, where the team is absorbed into Bassad's brain as a last-ditch effort. Faced with several previously fought enemies, the four soldiers struggle to survive the onslaught of attacks in Bassad's degrading mind.

Overcoming the mind games, the team is inexplicably teleported onto a satellite planet that houses the last of the alien threat, which is subsequently eliminated. The planet then explodes and the heroes are sent drifting in uncertainty on a broken piece of rock from the planet. Behind them, an arthropod alien is revealed to be hanging on the side of the rock.

Gameplay

Each character plays similarly except for the type of weapons they wield and their movement speed. All characters start with a Machine Gun and Flame Thrower, but the remaining two slots are for character specific weaponry. The game plays from an isometric angle. Since the game takes place in three dimensions, enemies come from all angles. Ducking and strafing have been added to the player's abilities, as well as an auto-aiming feature to help attack airborne enemies. Jumping has been slightly changed as the characters no longer do tightly curled somersault jumps (a feature in every previous game since the arcade version of the original Contra). The player's progress can be saved to a memory card.

Development

The game was first unveiled at the 1996 Electronic Entertainment Expo, during which Konami distributed 3-D glasses to attendees so that they could see the 3-D effect. This somewhat backfired, as journalists in attendance at the show reported that the 3-D feature was a "gimmick" and did not improve the game's visuals.

With the game 80% complete, Electronic Gaming Monthly reported that Randy Severin, senior product manager at Konami, was unhappy with the present state of the game, believing that some of the levels were too bright and colorful, and some of the bosses not menacing enough. The following month they received a near complete version which featured numerous adjustments to the color palette, speed, enemy AI, and graphics.

Like most 32-bit action games, Contra: Legacy of War uses environments built of texture-mapped polygons.

Stages

1. Urban Warfare

Minibosses
Boss

2. Jungle Conflict

Minibosses
Boss

3. River of Destruction

Minibosses
Boss

4. Mountain Stronghold

Minibosses
Boss

5. Bad Wavelength

Boss

6. Virtual Zone

Minibosses

7. Planet LP-426

Minibosses
Boss

Reception

Reviews of Legacy of War differed in how they compared the game to previous installments in the series. Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot advised: "for those looking for a real game of Contra, break out the SNES and have at it", and said the game would have been better if it were not saddled with the "Contra" name and the unrealistically high expectations that come with it. GamePro's The Gun Nut said it fails to live up to the standards set by the series, and even to less prestigious action games such as Loaded. However, Major Mike of GamePro said: "Legacy has fast blasting action, the trademark of any Contra game", and a reviewer for Next Generation opined: "While it's no 32-bit breakthrough product, this latest in the series embodies everything that makes a Contra game enjoyable." He elaborated that the game made an appreciable step into the 3D generation, while retaining the same weapons, power-ups, and pacing of past Contra games.

Critics agreed that the graphics are solid with some impressive highlights, though The Gun Nut and Major Mike criticized some of the visual aesthetics. Most reviews made no mention of the optional stereoscopic 3D feature, but Gerstmann specifically commented that it was unimpressive. Next Generation and Gerstmann praised the game's variety of weapons, enemies, and terrain, while Major Mike and The Gun Nut said the imprecise jumps, slowdown, and large numbers of enemies make the game frustratingly difficult.

Jeremy Parish and Sam Kennedy in their Contra retrospective for 1up.com wrote: "the gameplay was clunky and the graphics were drab compared to the crisp visuals of the 16-bit games".