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Contra: Operation Galuga Review

Contra: Operation Galuga

Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 12, 2024
Price: $39.99 USD – Available Here


The Contra series used to be one of Konami’s familiar workhorses that the publisher could trot out to excite fans with some new stylistic take on the run-and-gun formula that made it so popular since the late 1980s but that hasn’t been the case in quite a few years. Following a strange choice made back in 2019’s Contra: Rogue Corps, the series has remained dormant with Konami finally turning to a familiar developer to work on an entirely new reimagining of the original game. WayForward isn’t entirely new to the series, as they produced Contra 4 back in 2007 and offered a few unique takes on the formula despite the DS’ limitations, so now that they have a full console to work with and seemingly free reign to take Contra wherever they feel like, how has Contra: Operation Galuga turned out?


Six months after a meteor shower strikes the Galuga islands Bill Rizer and Lance Bean have been tasked as members of Contra to investigate the terrorist group called Red Falcon that has begun making strange movements on the isolated island, movements that coincide with world-threatening gravity readings. After blasting away at countless enemy soldiers with a few strange events along the way, the pair encounter a surviving native from the island named Ariana who warns the group that the Red Falcons are not seemingly in control anymore and that a far more dangerous force seems to be leading the once human terrorist organization. Soon, this threat becomes reality as the Contra forces begin to face off against an alien threat mixed with some human soldiers still in the mix, only to learn that their true objective lies deep within the heart of the Galuga islands.

When it comes to storytelling, Contra games tend to be on the thin to non-existent side of things so it is nice to see that WayForward was given wriggle room to work with here as Contra: Operation Galuga basically reworks the entire beginning of the franchise as a whole while introducing a couple of new characters along the way and even establishing the origins of a few other characters at the same time that ended up appearing in later entries in the franchise, including Hard Corps. Now the only place this story is told at all is during the story mode gameplay as arcade mode simply removes all dialogue with players running straight through levels and fighting bosses right away, while the story often features pauses in gameplay that see the characters talking to either their allies at HQ, the enemy boss they are about to fight, or even each other while trying to expand on the lore of the series, or establish some at all.

It is nice to note that players are given a bit of incentive to replay through the story mode, or at least certain stages, besides simply obtaining points which we will go over a bit later. That is because playing through story mode is the only way to unlock additional playable characters outside of Bill and Lance for the game’s other mode, as Arcade initially only offers the pair and their easter egg replacements in overseas versions, the red and blue Probotectors. Playing through the storyline eventually unlocks Ariana, the familiar Lucia who features an entirely new role this time, and even an armored fighter named Ironsides. Playing through levels in story mode as some of these new unlockable characters does provide new unique dialogue from some boss encounters and character interactions which is a nice touch. It is also worth noting that anyone that is a fan of Contra’s long history of games and spin-offs will adore what the game does with some of the characters that have already been established in older games, making us wonder just where Wayforward and Konami can go from here with these developments especially since this entry is fairly short, clocking in at under an hour and a half with all cutscenes and some extra failures here and there.


Players will be presented with three different game modes when starting Contra: Operation Galuga with these modes being the aforementioned Story Mode alongside Arcade mode and Challenge mode. Arcade Mode will be where players who want to make the most out of the co-op function go as that allows for up to four players to run-and-gun alongside each other while story mode limits things to only two players. Strangely enough, there is no online co-op of any kind, not even with friends. The only way to play co-op is through local play which is a nice offering, but feels strangely lacking. Challenge Mode features a wide array of objectives to complete within certain limits, such as never firing your gun, only using one type of weapon, speed running a stage, never getting hit, etc. and rewards extra points and unlocks additional Challenges when completed.

Now, Contra is the game that started the famous “Konami Code” (which still works) in an effort to make things easier for players in the original game and players can heavily customize their challenge level here as well. In both Story and Arcade modes players can select from three difficulty levels and even choose to play the classic 1-hit kill mode or the more modern HP bar system that allows for players to take a few extra hits before losing a life. To add to this level of customization, each player can also equip up to two perks to their chosen character at the selection screen. These perks can be purchased using points earned simply by playing the game, with bonuses coming for completing a full run or multiple stages in a row without restarting, and can include things such as extra overall lives, bonus HP, starting with certain weapons, etc. Players can choose to simply not do any of these things and make things as hard as they want to or load up the perks to make things a bit simpler.

Contra: Operation Galuga still plays in a way that many fans of the franchise are familiar with, enemies will shoot at the player character’s and fill the screen with bullets while the player does the same, all while trying to avoid incoming fire and progressing through a stage and taking on a boss at the end. Along the way players will pick up power-ups that include all of the classics such as Laser, Flamer, Homing, Spread, etc. but a few tweaks have been made to the formula besides the aforementioned difficulty options. Players can choose to have the ability to aim in any direction or be limited to classic style in options and can still stand still to aim as they please with a press of the trigger but what is perhaps the most unique element here comes from the fact that each character now has two weapon upgrade slots and can swap between them on the fly. This also includes the ability to power-up a weapon by picking up an extra version of itself, such as increasing the amount of homing rockets or range of the flamer. Along these same lines, players can now make use of a special power attack unique to each weapon by sacrificing it through Overload. This ability varies depending on the weapon but often triggers a massive barrage, a shield, or even moments of invulnerability. This is highly useful since, upon death, players will lose their current weapon anyways.

Some classic levels still feel the same as always while others have been given complete overhauls to work better with new systems and the newly established characters and lore. It is worth noting that both Bill and Lance control the same way with the ability to double-jump and even dash a little to avoid incoming fire but the other playable characters do have unique abilities of their very own, including variations of certain weapons. Ariana has the ability to slide and dive during jumps and one variation of her weaponry involves throwing grenades instead while Lucia cannot double jump at all but can make use of her grappling hook to reach climbable surfaces and has a chargeable spread shot variant. This lends some new playability to trying out each character and seeing who fits best for the player, but it also does mean that some simply play a bit better than others depending on the stage.

Now as mentioned before, it is worth noting that there is a Perk Shop in the game. As players advance through either Story or Arcade Mode they will gain points and can use them to purchase perks, many of which are mentioned earlier. The thing is, some of the most unique perks happen to involve either extra BGM from classic Konami series, a speed-running mode, and additional characters that are nearly the most expensive unlock available. While players will be able to obtain points at a fairly quick pace, especially when they get the hang of the stages and use perks to help them out, unlocking some of these bonuses is a bit of a slog, especially given the game’s lack of online multiplayer options.

Audio & Visuals

Contra: Operation Galuga offers a solid amount of variety between its eight different stages with players being able to quickly traverse locations should they please or annihilate everything in their path, though a few occasions do call for expedience. The 3D models of the characters and enemies on the 2D stages look decent enough, especially on faster moving stages where a lot is happening at once, unfortunately the actual character models are a bit too simplistic looking most of the time. Sure, everyone expects the Contra characters to be buff muscular guys but even the newcomers and easter egg characters could be more impressively designed. It is nice to note that, playing on the Xbox Series X, saw no slowdown in any way even when absolutely filling the screen with as much firepower as possible during the largest boss battles, so this level of smoothness is appreciated.

The game features some solid voice work for the game’s story mode with the voice actors handling their characters decently, though it is worth noting that a lot of these characters also happen to only ever appear in story scenes that are unfortunately a bit cheap in production. Some are full blown CGI looking scenes while others are comic book style and a few are barely above a standard visual novel presentation of dialogue. As for the soundtrack it is nice to say that the game features a wonderful collection of background music both new and old as well as the option to purchase a wide-array of classic tracks from other Konami properties in the Perk store.


WayForward and Konami have come together to create a Contra game that literally seems like a perfect “way forward” for the series to continue from this point on. By establishing a solid albeit short storyline filled with easter eggs for longtime fans and hinting at more developments in the future, Contra: Operation Galuga’s wonderfully refined run-and-gun gameplay is as enjoyable as ever with players having a wide-array of customization options that can make the game as punishing as they wish while leaving the door open for those simply looking to dip their toes into the series and look to get better for what will hopefully be more Contra games in the future, though hopefully these will feature some form of online multiplayer.

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Contra: Operation Galuga is a reimagining with fresh touches to gameplay and story to breathe new life into a series that fans have been dying for, yet brevity and limited co-op hold it back.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Contra: Operation Galuga</i> is a reimagining with fresh touches to gameplay and story to breathe new life into a series that fans have been dying for, yet brevity and limited co-op hold it back.Contra: Operation Galuga Review