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Contra: Operation Galuga Review (PS5) – Is This Born-Again Contra Worth Waiting 27 Years For?

Contra: Operation Galuga Review (PS5) – Incendiary Rambo frolics are back with another bullet-spewing Contra title in Operation Galuga.

The last entry in the revered and notoriously tough retro shooter series was a controversial flop, but Operation Galuga is here to right its wrongs and return to form with aplomb and reverential bombast.

Can developer Wayforward’s Operation Galuga bring the Contra series back to prominence and good graces, or does it fire blanks and take an awkward step onto a landmine?

Contra: Operation Galuga Review (PS5) – Is This Born-Again Contra Worth Waiting 27 Years For?


Going Back And Making It New

The first thing to note about Operation Galuga, is that it is a remake of the first Contra from 1987, re-imagined and revitalized for a contemporary video game audience.

Sporting a remix and expansion of the original groundbreaking classic, Operation Galuga feels like a spruced up club-goer ready to dance to familiar throwbacks while wearing deely boppers and a leopard print onesie.

Unfortunately, if you were expecting the pizzazz and sparkle of an entirely new Contra, you’ll be left deflated and unfulfilled. Thankfully, the meaty action and teeth-tattering challenge is still here in abundance.

If you’re at all familiar with Contra you know the score. You select a badass from a menu screen, watch and listen to expositional preamble to provide context to your mission, then proceed to run, gun and climb through 2D levels while constantly firing your weapon and jaunting through levels from left-to-right.

The simplicity of Contra goes hand-in-hand with how satisfying it is to play, but also how menacingly tough it can be at times too.

It’s Simply Contra

Enemies swarm in constantly whether they be red-armoured marines, nefarious sentries and turrets, irritable critters or gigantic screen-engulfing bosses.

Most fodder is easily disposed of, but when you find yourself ascending rockfaces and crossing money bars, you’ll find yourself getting swarmed and needing to think fast to get out of dodge with a good bill of health intact.

The momentum constantly ticks forward in Operation Galuga like its decorated predecessors, and will keep you coming back for more courtesy of its one-more-go appeal despite how tenaciously tough it can get.

This time around you don’t need to withstand a cruel and exacting challenge, as a range of tweaks and options make it easier than ever for players to finely tune their experience to their liking.

Three difficulty options exist so you no longer need to endure a mouthful of Glock by Contra’s excessive difficulty forcing you through insurmountable odds.

In addition, vibrant cutscenes and fully-voiced characters inject Contra with a pleasing modernized sheen, although these features are of secondary importance when compared to the explosive onward-trudging ballistic onslaught inherent within Contra’s running and gunning.

Special weapon pick-ups drop from the sky throughout each level, giving you the opportunity to play with fire literally courtesy of a flamethrower that pleasingly spreads fire out in front of you like an open-hearth furnace, and a powerful shotgun-type weapon that shoots spreads red bolts in all directions.

Yet for all the cool firepower, none of the weapons leave a memorable impact, just a contextually useful one.

What this means is that these weapons, as powerful as they can be, aren’t elevated by special abilities that could make them more ferocious or devastating to use.

If you fancy your taste of Contra to be on the raw side, then the game’s Challenge Mode has what you’re looking for.

This array of challenges has you choosing a character and barging through a slew of foes like a regular level, but there are conditions such as not taking a hit or getting the job done before the timer expires that’ll put give you no option but to mow down scourge as quickly as possible to finish the level.

End-level rewards come in the form of credits you can spend at the perk shop, which includes a raft of specialties that can start you out with a desired weapon, or power-ups like health boosts and extra lives that can keep the action rolling along.

They act like auxiliary buffs to give you an accessible edge supposing you require them. These augmentations aren’t particularly empowering, and don’t offer anything outlandish or devastating, but their implementation allows you to tailor the action to your liking somewhat.

Even if the perks are relatively subtle and don’t alter the moment-to-moment gameplay in interesting ways.

Risk-Free Contra

Lamentably, Operation Galuga doesn’t take the kind of risks you may expect despite its wholesale redesign.

Running and firing weapons is all well and good, but Operation Galuga could’ve done with some additional bang for your bucks.

Sure, end-level bosses are memorable and are worth battling through, but there’s no zing or pop to the environments or to your actions, whilst the moment-to-moment gameplay is whittled down to a predictable-if-enticing formula.

Operation Galuga didn’t need to reinvent the hardcore 1980s videogame wheel, but it could’ve done with some extra gore on its blood-soaked cake.

The organic settings do look pleasant and invitingly varied-after all they are set on an archipelago, but they’re merely set-dressings, and could’ve done with some additional sprucing up to give them a more exciting panache.

With that said, they do look refurbished and are a clean and slick improvement over the technicolour hues of the original Contra.

One thing that has made Contra the iconic hardcore videogame it is are the characters and their resemblances to 1980s action movie icons.

It’s so easy to ogle at the muscles and the glory of patriotic Americana when staring longingly at Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, as they do somewhat reflect Arnie and Stallone’s representation of macho machismo.

Other similar games have tried to replicate such Hollywood likenesses such as Free Lives and Devolver Digital’s Broforce, but Contra’s bleeding red, white and blue connotations came first, and this re-creative work Operation Galuga helps to cement Contra’s insurmountable place in history.

New female characters Lucia and Ariana bring some female bad-assery to the fore as showing how evolved and on-trend Operation Galuga is when compared to its dated forbear.

Both women along with another newcomer Stanley Ironside, help to insert newness into this rechristened Contra by granting them abilities like Ironside’s jetpack and Ariana’s slide to bring a smidge more agility and sleekness to the base Contra experience.

Legacy Preservation Over Legacy Elevation

Many pretenders and contenders have attempted to lay claim to Contra’s run-and-gun throne over the years, with some glowingly successful and others failing abysmally, but Contra: Operation Galuga largely preserves its legacy with this faithful recreation of the much-loved 1980s classic.

While Operation Galuga won’t offer fans anything shocking or out of the ordinary, it’s still a pleasing upgrade they’ll be clamouring for.

There’s plenty in here to relish, and it’s not bloated with new features and ideas that could otherwise jeopardize this renewed relic.

Yes, more could’ve been done to reinvent the classic gameplay, but one shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, and so Operation Galuga is a successful if formulaic return for one of gaming’s most hardcore franchises.

Contra: Operation Galuga is now available for PS5 and PS4.

Review code generously provided by publisher.

Score

7

The Final Word

Many pretenders and contenders have attempted to lay claim to Contra’s run-and-gun throne over the years, with some glowingly successful and others failing abysmally, but Contra: Operation Galuga largely preserves its legacy with this faithful recreation of the much-loved 1980s classic. While Operation Galuga won’t offer fans anything shocking or out of the ordinary, it’s still a pleasing upgrade they’ll be clamouring for. There’s plenty in here to relish, and it’s not bloated with new features and ideas that could otherwise jeopardize this renewed relic. Yes, more could’ve been done to reinvent the classic gameplay, but one shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, and so Operation Galuga is a successful if formulaic return for one of gaming’s most hardcore franchises.