Review: Against all odds, Contra Operation Galuga is in fact a shockingly good game

contra operation galuga

It’s hard to imagine a worse representative of such an iconic videogame franchise than Contra Rogue Corps, something that should have never seen the light of day. And considering today’s Konami, it’s surprising that they were willing to give it another shot and a true miracle that it has turned out as well as Contra Operation Galuga did.

Developed by WayForward, one of my favorite 2D action developers, this is the latest entry in one of Konami’s most celebrated series, one that has graced just about every retro console that there has been since the original Nintendo, with various degrees of success. It’s true that Contra had already hit some snags along the way, especially on the PlayStation 2, so I couldn’t help being worried about Operation Galuga.

Luckily, it’s a pretty decent entry, one that I can safely call “good”. Is it revolutionary? No. Does it change up the formula in any meaningful ways? Most certainly not. But as it is, it’s a fun Contra experience that does bring little improvements to the core gameplay, like a number of power-ups you can buy using points earned by playing, which you can then activate at the start of every level.

Those come in a variety of shapes and prices, some require a bit of grinding, while others are cheap as they come and quickly become mainstays for whatever character you decide to play as. Series’ veterans Bill Rizer and Lance Bean are back at it, and along with them come others that are equally as fun to play as, including even the Probotectors, stars of the Contra reskins released in the 1980s over in Europe.

contra operation galuga
Uncontrolled mayhem is always more fun with friends.

Contra Operation Galuga opens with a neat little cinema scene showing the peaceful archipelago of Galuga being hit with a meteor shower; six months later, the duo is sent to investigate, following the invasion of Red Falcon and the army that’s gone to fight them becoming incommunicado. What follows are a series of run ‘n gun levels of the utmost quality, a whole bunch of them being weirdly familiar to the original’s.

There are changes here and there, such as the inclusion of some cleverly designed circular stages that change movement direction on a dime, as well as new boss fights thrown in for good measure, but everything else really does make it seem like Operation Galuga is sorta remake of the first Contra in almost everything but name. Still, for what it does differently, it manages to tick every box, and most importantly, it’s fun and challenging.

You can play through this either in story mode, where characters are introduced and become playable as the story progresses, as well as the cutscenes, or in arcade, where you can start with anyone and focus on what the game does best: the action. I’m not saying that the story bits in this are bad, but come on, who wants to sit and listen to dialogue explaining everything when you can just go and blow shit up, am I right?

As I mentioned, the difficulty in this is just right. I felt challenged and the sense of accomplishment for finishing levels is almost up there with previous entries, for someone like me who is just plain bad at these games. For those who are after an even harder time, they are welcome to activate the one-hit mode, where your health is directly tied to lives, old-school style. As for me, I stuck to the four-hit health bar and never looked back. It’s definitely not as demanding as WayForward’s DS darling Contra 4, mind you. Plus, if you’re having trouble, you can always bring a friend or three for the ride. Four times the chaos!

contra operation galuga
Hey, do you even have a permit for that thing?!

Contra Operation Galuga isn’t particularly long, but in comparison to the older games, it is one of the more involved entries, clocking in at around two to three hours casually. There’s a trophy/achievement for finishing it in less than an hour, too. Other challenges come in the form of an actual mode where a number of them are available for you to partake in and more are unlocked as you progress in the main modes.

It’s been reported that out of the gate performance for this has been less than ideal on some platforms like the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Having tested Operation Galuga on PS5, I can attest that it can run quite well and that it doesn’t look like a game that should get any amount of slowdown regardless of where you’re playing it, so here’s hope that a patch is indeed in the works in order to correct any issues in regards to how it performs.

As it is, this is a decent looking game. Character models are simple but get the job done, and destruction effects are on par with the usual arcade-style shooter, especially the ones from the Xbox Arcade era. It’s clear that the budget for this game didn’t come close to a AAA’s, but it works for what it is. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Steve ‘freaking’ Blum voices Bill – how cool is getting one of the gruffest performers in the industry behind the manly man that is half of Contra’s serving of tough dudes?!

I’m positively surprised at just how well Contra Operation Galuga turned out. After their previous game in the series, I was worried that Konami would just phone it in and have this be just another cash-in for nostalgia’s sake: it is in fact a shockingly good entry. It won’t blow you away or anything, but what it does it does well and there’s a decent amount of different ways to play and keep you busy for a little while. Don’t pass this up. Fight aggressively!

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