(Review archived from August 16, 2018)
Conceptualize with me for a moment if you will. Your dear old mother NESsie used to make a wonderful soup. It was a delicious mix of big tasty set pieces floating in a lively broth and garnished with the utmost in crispy control schemes. She called this soup Contra. Years later you’re in the grocery store and you see an instant soup mix. It’s called Operation C and on the label it says it says that it’s perfect for lovers of Contra. Is it possible that this scaled back version of Contra can ever compare to your dear ol’ Mama’s masterpiece!? You take it home, pop it in the microwave. and … hey … this ain’t half bad at all! Mama NESsie would approve.
Putting aside the half-baked parable above, I had my doubts about whether Operation C could effectively carry on the legacy of its console brethren in a portable format. The general folk wisdom here is that Gameboy conversions and sequels generally require concessions to be made in order to make the source material work. Sometimes this means that the controls feel slightly more herky-jerky (Super Mario Land). Sometimes the graphic conversion is not particularly favorable (Donkey Kong Land). And sometimes the gameplay format is completely altered (Blaster Master Boy). So what does this mean for Operation C? Are there concessions here? Well yes; but I was happy to find that they were exceedingly minor. Against all odds the things you love about Contra have made the transition to handheld more or less unscathed! Movement feels immediately familiar and silky smooth. Despite the monochrome display, the graphics look fantastic and recognizably Contra. I always enjoy Contra games that contain a mix of side scrolling and overhead segments and Operation C succeeds with aplomb in this regard.
So what kind of concessions are present then? Well if you’re looking for much in the way of series progression, you won’t necessarily find that here. The homing weapon is a new twist, although for the most part it’s more a curiosity than it is a fully functional boom stick (spread gun for lyfe!). Also conspicuously absent are the larger than life set piece bosses we’ve become accustomed to in Contra titles. The bosses here are fine for what they are. Particularly towards the end of the game they’ll keep you on your toes, and several of them have been cleverly implemented, but they all lack the jaw dropping bombast you might see from bosses in the console titles. But ultimately I think that’s fine. What you will find here is just an incredibly competent portable version of Contra; nothing more, nothing less. Operation C might skew slightly towards easier difficulty, particularly when compared against the 16 bit (and later) entries in the series, but again I think that’s fine. The difficulty is well tuned for a portable title.
was aware that this game had a great reputation, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. Unless are you simply diametrically opposed to the Contra series altogether, I’d recommend this to 8-bit enthusiasts of all stripes. In the same way that Contra and Super C are some of the best titles for NES, I’d easily say that Operation C is one of the best titles for Gameboy.