A weapon is any device that can be used with intent to inflict damage or harm. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target. This article covers information about the various types of weapons that have appeared throughout the Contra series.
Most weapons have limitless ammunition and do not suffer any real world mechanical impediments, they are only limited to in-game mechanics.
In most of the classic titles, weapons can be found by shooting Flying Capsules (also known as Power-Up Capsule, Weapon Wings or Flying Item Pod). These are small blimps bearing the Red Falcon insignia which travel from one end of the screen to the other in a wave-like pattern.
Flying Capsules only appear at determined locations on the map and always carry the same power-up within them. Once shot, the weapon contained will spring out from the blimp. Care must be taken when shooting one or the weapon could end up falling inside a pit or land on a section of the map where it could become mandatory to pick it up, forcing the player to change their current weapon.
Pill Box Sensor
Pill Box Sensors are armored hatches embedded on the terrain at determined sections of the map. They open and close periodically, revealing a Red Falcon insignia inside, at which point they become vulnerable and the player can shot them to reveal the weapon they contain.
In most recent games (mainly 3D ones), the appearance of Flying Capsules has been replaced by different playable characters already counting with a specific weaponry repertoire particular to them. In some occasions, Flying Item Pods still appear and their contents are used either to upgrade the weapon the character is currently holding or a specific one within their fixed arsenal.
The Rifle is the default weapon for a majority of the Contra games. It has a semi-automatic rate of fire and deals relatively low damage.
The Machine Gun (M), also known as Heavy Machinegun, is usually the first available power-up in most games. It is similar to the default Rifle in terms of damage, but it is fully automatic and shoots faster, allowing the player to keep the fire button held instead of tapping it.
When fully upgraded, it is the most powerful gun in the arcade version of Super Contra. In Contra 4, it can be upgraded allowing the gun to fire two bullets at a time, which in conjunction to its increased firing speed and ability to fire without stopping makes for one of the most devastating weapons in the game (arguably almost as powerful as a fully upgraded Laser).
In Contra III: The Alien Wars, the Machine Gun replaces the Rifle as the default weapon. This arrangement is carried forward to almost all of the sequels. There are exceptions, however, such as if a character uses a sword as a primary weapon instead.
The Spread Gun (S), also known as Spread, Spread Shot or Spray Gun, is a power-up that enables to shoot in three to five different directions. It is semi automatic, but starting from Contra III it became capable of fully automatic fire (although still slower compared to the Machine Gun) and deals relatively high damage. Up-close firing results in multiple hits in a single shot, a desired quality when handling bosses. When used this way, the Spread Gun may end up dealing as much damage as the Laser; however, hardware limitations in the first games often prevented the Spread Gun from continuously firing up to five rounds on each shot, and would start to fire three rounds if fired too fast.
The Spread Gun is often regarded as the best weapon in most games it appears in due to its wider range of shots and ability to provide better cover and offense perimeter against enemies. It is available in almost every game in the series (the MSX2 port of Contra being a noticeable exception).
Throughout the series, the weapon has also been given some enhancements; for example, Contra: Legacy of War introduced a spread ground torpedo, while C: The Contra Adventure introduced a self-forging grenade which produces shrapnel that bounces along the surface until exploding when coming in contact with an enemy.
The Laser (L), also known as Laser Gun, fires a long laser beam which inflicts high damage upon impact. It is considered to be one of the most powerful weapons in the games it appears in. However, the Laser was not very popular in the first game due to being limited to a slow rate of fire. In addition, if a successive beam was fired, the first one would disappear, making this weapon incapable of shooting consecutively in a rapid manner. In spite of this, a skilled player could make the best of it due to its destructive power. This was revamped in later games, giving its shots a higher rate of fire and a faster speed to the rays, as well as removing the handicap of the first shot disappearing when firing another one.
Laser guns in later games also sport additional properties, such as homing capabilities or shooting in a specific direction. Neo Contra introduced a satellite laser in which the laser is fired from an orbiting satellite.
The Flame Thrower (F), also known as Fire Gun, Fire Ball or simply Flame, as its name implies, is a powerful weapon that either shoots fireballs or a constant stream of flames.
In the original Contra, this weapon shoots slow moving fireballs that trace circles as they travel forward. Due to the uncommon way it operates, this weapon was arguably one of the least popular weapons in that game. In Super C, however, the weapon operates in a completely different way: it fires one large fireball that breaks off into eight smaller fireballs when it strikes a target. Charging the weapon will produce a large fireball that breaks into even more fireballs.
Contra III introduced yet another way this weapon operates; instead of launching fireballs, the weapon now fires a long stream of flames, making it a true "flamethrower" by name. The flame deals continuous damage to any enemy it comes in contact with and is also capable of destroying certain projectiles, acting as a shield if used right. The player is able to freely move the flame around by wiggling the directional pad in any direction, which makes this the only weapon capable of covering certain angles the other weapons cannot. Since then, this behavior of the weapon has been retained in most following titles.
The Homing Gun (H), also known as Homing Shot, Homing Missiles or Hunter, fires rockets that home in on enemies, eliminating the need to aim. It first appeared in Operation C and later in Contra III: The Alien Wars, slowly also becoming a staple in the series. The damage of the projectiles is usually low in order to compensate this weapon's high versatility.
The player is advised not to get overconfident assuming the projectiles will do all the work, though, as in some games they tend to miss their targets frequently or remain occupied seeking other enemies instead of the ones that are currently posing a greater threat to the player. Furthermore, in some games there is a limit of the number of projectiles that can be onscreen at a time, potentially leaving the player vulnerable while all of them are seeking other targets.
Variations of the Homing Gun exist, including a homing chopper in which the projectiles are powered by a propeller.
The Crush Gun (C), also known as Crush or Crash, are blue missiles that deal high damage but suffer from short range, so they are hard to use in levels that include lots of long range engagements. When upgraded in Contra 4, the projectiles travel a longer distance.
Once it hits an object or reaches a certain distance, the missile will detonate and the ensuing explosion will remain in place for a short time, dealing additional damage which in conjunction can potentially amount for a heavily destructive attack.
Besides weapon upgrades, there are also power-ups that either enhance the performance of the current weapon, act as an extra weapon, or give the player a temporary extra ability.
The Rapid Fire (R) power-up, also known as Rapid Bullets, is a special upgrade that increases the rate of fire possible for the current weapon. Its effects can be seen better in the "Base" stages of the original Contra, where the weapon projectiles appear to move faster. However, many people did not know about its effect in the first games, and it was often regarded as "rarely useful". The Laser is not affected by this power-up in any way.
This power-up was removed from Contra III: The Alien Wars, as the default rifle was replaced by a fully automatic Machine Gun; and also from Contra 4, as all weapons in the game are capable of fully automatic fire.
The Barrier (B), also known as Barrier Shield or Force Field, is a special power-up that grants the player temporary invincibility. When picked up, the player character will start flashing red and blue, and any enemies that make contact with them will be destroyed instantly. In the arcade version, the effect is indicated by small mechanical "options" spinning around the player character. When the effect is about to end, the player character will start changing colors more slowly. Care must be taken at this time, as an overconfident player could end up in a tight situation when the effect ends.
The Mega Shell, also known as Mass Destruction, is a special power-up that is unique in the fact that it is not represented by a letter but only by the Red Falcon insignia. When it is picked up, the entire screen will flash and all onscreen enemies and projectiles will be destroyed. However, it is not collectable and is used instantly on pickup, making its usage strictly situational.
The Bomb, also known as Super-Shell or M-80,000 Helio Bomb, is a special weapon introduced in the arcade version of Super Contra, where it only appeared in the top-view levels. When used, it will instantly detonate and deal extreme damage to all enemies onscreen, usually destroying them all and dealing significant damage to bosses, so it is advised to be saved for the toughest situations.
Unlike regular power-ups, it is a collectable item and will remain in the player's inventory until used. The player can only carry one bomb in Super Contra (arcade version only), but in Contra III they are able to carry up to nine. In both cases, if the player dies all bombs in stock will be lost.
This special item received a makeover in Contra III: The Alien Wars, this time being able to be used in the side-view stages as well. When activated, a circular blast will start expanding from the player's position until it reaches the edges of the screen, covering everything within its enormous radius and dealing extreme damage to any enemy or projectile it comes in contact with. However, even if the player is considerably safe while within the explosion, they do not become invincible, and thus they are still vulnerable to other types of damage, such as falling into bottomless pits and other environmental hazards.