Contra: Evolution, and Ronald Reagan!
I had been playing “Star Wars: Galactic Defense” on my Kindle Fire for a couple of weeks. It was a solid game, and I had been consistently returning to it, being suited to casual game play. Then, the kindle decided that it needed to update the game, and wouldn’t, rendering it unplayable, and soon to be off of my Kindle Fire’s internal memory. Good Star Wars games are hard to find, so I instead searched for “Classic Arcade Games.”
I was stunned when I saw “Contra: Evolution.” Stunned.
I remember Contra from the old pizza places and Student Union buildings. One of the defining “Gun and Run” side scroller games, I remember it being very hard, but always really cool looking. I didn’t remember much more than that, as it was from the late 80’s the same time as the Iran Contra Scandal with the Reagan administration, second term.
Published by Konami and originally released as a coin-operated arcade game on February 20, 1987, Contra was called Gryzor in Europe for reasons that I don’t know or understand. The arcade version of Contra was released a few months after the Iran–Contra affair was made public. While it is unclear whether the game was deliberately named after the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the ending theme of the original game was titled “Sandinista”, after the adversaries of the real-life Contras. The protagonists were clearly modeled after Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the villains of the story modeled after H.R. Giger’s art and the Alien from films that was derived from it. In short, it was the mid 80’s in terms of pop media rolled up into one package.
A home version was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, along with ports for various computer formats. Several Contra sequels were produced following the original game.
In terms of plot, the game was based on this premise: In 2633, the evil Red Falcon Organization have set a base on the Galuga archipelago near New Zealand in a plot to conquer the world. Two commandos, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean of the Contra unit (an elite group of soldiers specializing in guerrilla warfare), are sent to the island to destroy the enemy forces and uncover the true nature of the alien entity controlling them.
Right? Scientifically designed for 80’s goodness. Terrorists, commandos, jungle combat, aliens and science fiction. Mullets and headbands. Lets look at the logo free artwork.
The above got me thinking about Ronald Reagan in comics. He’s been in comics great deal, but not as a superhero per se…but as the president of the United States. Grant Morrison recently returned to his idea of a thinly veiled Obama as Superman in an alternate universe (the Multiversity series) which I liked. A lot. This made me think…in the 80’s, what kind of superhero would Ronal Reagan have been “off the clock.”
Reagan famously after a diplomatic speech, not realizing that the mic was still on, said to someone next to him, “I wish I had a couple of Rambos to just send over there and sort things out.” That really guided my thoughts, as I wasn’t happy with the Cable-esque young Reagan clone I made for the box art.
He would be “Ronbo.” A Rambo/Captain America fusion, with stars, stripes, and overwhelming military force. Headband, low rent Super Soldier status, and an aggressive foreign policy. Soon after re-imagining him that way, the late 80’s idea of “Contra Force” dawned on me, and so…
Right? Captain America on the ladder behind the protagonist, working off the books, and some random other guy behind him. Top corner cover symbol of Captain Hoofmerica, the Winter Pony. I was considering using the Reagan Quote, “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the HEAT.” Real quote. I didn’t like the font sizing though, so I took the one above.
I also considered a banner saying, “The Mute Marine Saga Starts Here!” as a reference to Oliver North…but I think it stands up as is. I like the Sgt. Fury style lettering for Mr. Reagan’s name. This stands up pretty well as random backstory for 80’s Adequacy. I don’t think there need to be too many “lost appearances.
As I continued playing Contra on my kindle, and enjoying it, I felt like something was missing from this post. Something important. Ultimately, my solution was to draw this, with real narrative from the game involved in it.
The Contra game is filled with various shooting based power ups, like missiles that you don’t have to aim, they just find things to hit, a sort of huge laser beam, and a hail of dots. You can also get a force field. What it doesn’t have, is a sub orbital friendship delivery cannon. As of panel two, that’s fixed.
Hoofpool is on it. Or more accurately, IN it. To deliver friendship with extreme efficiency, even to the Red Falcon Organization.
I’ve been enjoying Contra: Evolution. It’s basically the first Contra game, with better graphics. Not too much better, it is firmly based in you wanting to play the old game. Solid work by Konami, and I believe it is currently a free app.
Sadly, I am virtually incapable of saying “Contra” out loud. Some linguistic force compels me to pluralize it, and call the game “Contras.” That creates some confusion with serious Old School Gamers, because there was a sequel called “Contra S.” To be clear…there’s no S.
Also by Konami there was a game called “Bad Dudes.” That game was awesome, because it also had Reagan in it. My friend and I spent so many quarters in it, I sould own part of the company by now. Here’s the plot:
The game starts in Washington D.C., where President Ronnie (based on U.S. President Ronald Reagan) has been abducted by the evil DragonNinja. The game’s intro begins with the following introduction: “Rampant ninja related crimes these days… Whitehouse is not the exception…”. As soon as that occurs, a Secret Service agent asks two street-smart brawlers, the “Bad Dudes” named Blade and Striker: “President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue Ronnie?”. After hearing that, the Bad Dudes pursue the DragonNinja through the New York City streets, a moving big rig truck, a large storm sewer, a forest, a freight train on an old Southern Pacific line, a cave and into an underground factory in order to save President Ronnie.
I can’t beat that. That’s just genius. GENIUS.