Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#84 – Super C

This Contra sequel is just as good as the original.

This title screen enters from both sides together, pretty neat!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat 3 loops
My Goal: Finish 3 loops with a no-death first loop
What I Did: Met my goal
Played: 5/11/18 – 5/14/18
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Super C Longplay

Contra is a game that practically needs no introduction. A sequel would seem inevitable, but it may not be the one you expect. Just looking at the NES library, the obvious conclusion would be that Contra Force is the sequel. Contra Force as it turns out wasn’t meant to be a Contra game at all, and Super C is the actual sequel. It annoys me somewhat when connections aren’t always apparent. I can look past that here because Super C is a fun, solid follow up to the original smash hit.

The arcade game Super Contra was released in early 1988. It was developed and published by Konami. A home port of Super Contra came to the Famicom in February 1990, and the NES version was renamed Super C when it released in North America in April 1990. The PAL release in Europe and Australia was delayed until 1992. There it was called Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces, and just like the PAL conversion of Contra to Probotector, the human characters were replaced by robots. Two home computer ports for Super C for the Commodore Amiga and IBM PC released in North America in 1990.

Super C is a side-scrolling action game. The story is a basic one. Bill and Lance, also known as Mad Dog and Scorpion, are taking a relaxing vacation a few months after defeating Red Falcon in the original Contra. Of course, Red Falcon wasn’t completely defeated, and now he has regrouped and is back at it again. You are thrust back into action as Earth’s only hope against evil. Just like last time, your journey will take you through eight stages of shooting action, and if you clear them all you win the game. The arcade version only has five stages, so hey, more bang for your buck in Super C.

Shoot the core!

The controls are identical to Contra. Use the D-pad to move around, press A to jump, and press B to shoot. You curl up during jumps so you have a smaller hitbox, and you are always moving sideways until you land. (I guess this is a Konami thing, since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also does this.) Hold Down to lay out on the ground and shoot. While holding Down, you can press A to jump down through some ledges. All your weapons have unlimited ammo, so you can mash the B button to fire away at everything. You can shoot in all directions, including diagonally, by holding the D-pad in the appropriate direction. You can fire diagonally upward and downward while either walking or airborne.

The powerups are almost exactly like Contra as well, and all of the same powerups are back this time. You shoot flying pods, or sometimes a large wall sensor, to uncover the bird-shaped upgrades. The letter on the item denotes what it does. The M gives you a machine gun that shoots straight ahead, and you can hold down the B button for continuous fire. The L gives you a laser that is one long, powerful shot. You can only have one on screen at a time and firing again removes the old shot if it’s still on screen. The laser beam is wider in Super C than in Contra. S is for the spread shot, which fires a fan of five bullets ahead. The F is the flamethrower. This weapon acts differently here. In Contra, it is a spiraling shot. In Super C, it is a large fireball that spreads out smaller flames when it hits something. You can even charge this one up by holding B, releasing a large fireball when you let go of the button. The R gives you rapid fire on top of whichever weapon you currently use. It makes your bullets faster so that you can fire more quickly. The B is for a barrier shield. This causes you to flash for a few seconds and enemies and their shots can’t hurt you. There is a powerup with no letter on it that destroys all enemies on screen as soon as you touch it. All powerups are lost when you die, sending you back to the fight with your standard gun.

Top-down levels give you a different perspective on the action.

Most stages in the game are played from the side scrolling view. Play usually moves to the right, but some levels are vertical, and some stages scroll in different directions at times. For example, the first stage has you walking to the right, but there are slopes upward and as you walk the view pans upward slightly to follow the path. Speaking of slopes, they are a new addition to this game. Simply walk straight ahead to go up or down them. The grade is somewhere around 30 degrees, and when you fire diagonally while walking on a slope, you will fire parallel to the slope instead of at the normal 45-degree angle. If you need to fire purely diagonally, you have to jump off the slope and shoot in mid-air.

Levels 2 and 6 are played from a top-down view instead of side-scrolling. Here you can walk in all eight directions and fire your normal weapons with the B button. The A button does nothing in this mode. Play proceeds upward for both stages. It’s more straightforward than the bases in Contra, and it is in line with the arcade version that also features these levels.

All levels end in a boss battle. The bosses seem a lot bigger and more dynamic in Super C compared to Contra. I believe this is tied to the game’s use of the MMC3 mapper chip. One of the capabilities of the chip is better handling of performing a screen splitting technique. Take the helicopter boss at the end of the first stage, for example. It is too large to display with sprites, so it is drawn on the background. The helicopter can move around independently of the ground that stays put. The game is programmed in a way where it can scroll the screen for the helicopter, but when it reaches a certain vertical position, it will stop scrolling and leave the ground alone. This is used to great effect for several screen-spanning bosses in the game.

This walking robot isn’t even the boss of this stage.

Super C has some other features. The most notable is the two-player simultaneous play. Player 1 plays as Bill with blue pants, and Player 2 is Lance with red pants. The game has a scoring system. Points appear on the screen between levels, as well as the second player’s score, the high score, and the level number. During gameplay, there are flags in the corner for how many lives you have remaining. It will only display up to four flags even though you may have many more in reserve. You can earn extra lives through scoring points. I could not determine exactly when you get new lives, even after reviewing video, so I just have to guess. You get an extra life for around every 25,000 points scored.

Our heroes are quite fragile, so they die instantly from taking a bullet or colliding with an enemy. You respawn right where you left off without a break in the action. Should you lose all your lives, you can continue from the start of the stage with three new lives. You can only continue twice before needing to restart the entire game.

I have played a lot of Super C and have beaten the game many times before. I wasn’t aware that this was the sequel to Contra for quite some time. I picked the loose cart up sometime in the mid-90s, probably at my local used game shop. I imagine it didn’t take me too long back then to figure the game out and beat it, so it was a game I went back to often. I even played the game recently for the NintendoAge NES contest and performed relatively well. It is a common cart that sells for around $15.

One of the rare games where bubbles are a viable threat.

For games I know quite well, I like to go above and beyond just beating the game. I set two personal goals for Super C. First, I wanted to beat the game without dying, and second, I wanted to complete all three difficulty loops. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble beating the game three straight times since I can comfortably beat the game once with a bunch of extra lives, and that part held true. Beating the game without dying was much harder. Super C is a relatively quick game to play, but death is swift and one mistake means restarting. I needed around 30 tries over a few nights to finally get the no-death run I wanted. Now this only applies to just the first loop of the game. I allowed myself to die in the other two loops, and that occurred more than I would have liked. Those deaths were mostly from mistakes I made. I didn’t find Super C to be much more challenging in the later loops. I could tell that the basic grunt type enemies appeared a little more frequently, but that’s the only increase in difficulty I noticed.

Super C is a must-have NES game. The graphics, gameplay, music, and controls are all top-notch. The game runs with very few if any graphical glitches or slowdown. There are several neat surprises as you play and more interesting level design this time around. I really like the boss battles and the well-used technical effects. The weapons are all helpful and fun to use. The two-player mode makes the game all the more sweeter. It is a challenging game, but it’s also one that many players have already beaten. A 7/10 difficulty rating seems right to me, but I could see the argument for going either direction with it. I think it’s a game that is fun to keep learning and improving on. The only downside I can see is that the game almost feels like a Contra expansion pack. Re-read this review just to see how many times I said Super C is just like Contra in this way or that way. I understand that might be a turn-off to someone looking for something a bit more advanced or expansive. My viewpoint is real simple: “What’s wrong with more of something good?”

#84 – Super C

Posted In: Finished

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