Super Probotector

This is a guest review by Paul Havell, he blogs at I Remember Playing That!

The bosses in this game were huge, and with a weak gun, provided an almost impossible challenge
The bosses in this game were huge, and with a weak gun, provided an almost impossible challenge

The good people at Konami sure know how to make a no-holds-barred all action arcade game (Gradius, Salamander, Castlevania, I could go on), but their finest hour has to be the wondrous Super Probotector on the Super Nintendo. Rustic, unforgiving, playable as hell – it may be seventeen years old, but it’s still the epitome of the ‘run and gun’ genre.

Released as Contra Spirits in Japan, and Contra 3 : Alien Wars in the US, Probotector took the Contra licence that had proved a minor hit in for 8-bit machines and turned all available settings up to MAX for this one. Huge weapons? Check. Big, beefy soundtrack? Check. Huge, pant-filling bosses? Check.

As usual, you had to step in and save the world from obliteration single-handedly (or with a chum in the fantastic two-player mode), and the odds were unsurprisingly stacked against you more than ever. The sheer weight of numbers makes it hard to progress with lives intact, but what a rewarding experience success was. The aforementioned end of level bosses especially include some of the all-time greats, just the first two (a massive rabid turtle-cum-robot creature who would appear to be rather highly-strung, and a horrific mecha-skulled monster with piercing eyes and a penchant for breathing fire) for example still make me swallow something hard and jagged when I clap eyes on them again after all this time.

Apart from the sideways scrolling levels, two overhead levels are placed into the game to shake things up a bit. Using the SNES’s Mode7 graphics chip to full effect, the levels swing around right and left as you negotiate your way around mines and holes and make your way to yet another boss you wouldn’t want to meet in a fully lit alleyway, let alone a dark one. These levels are probably the weakest, but still serve their purpose – allowing you to at least take a short breather between the adrenalin-pumping scrolling levels.

In this game, unlike previous games, you could climb solid walls
In this game, unlike previous games, you could climb solid walls

Created superbly, all levels are tricky to navigate, but never to the point where it becomes unfair – miss a jump and fall into the flames or walk straight into a barrage of gunfire and chances are it’s your own fault. The graphics throughout are superb, and were simply jaw-dropping at the time, Konami really went to town on the Mode7 trickery as backgrounds and enemies fly in and out of the proceedings wonderfully. My favourite moment? When the bomber plane arrives from the distance and bombs the screen completely leaving you dangling in the air with raw flames kicking up from underneath you – it’s a set-piece that still leaves me with a smile on my face, even now. Presentation is top-notch, a great deal of care and detail was obviously put into the whole arrangement, for a genre where there are a myriad of games – for Super Probotector to stand out as the king is quite an achievement.

Personally I blame the excellent Super Play magazine for my obsession with the game, I recall them printing some screenshots of the already released Contra Spirits (released months before the UK edition) – one of which showed your character hanging one-handed from a nuclear missile which had just been fired from a very cool looking helicopter. I say one-handed, because of course your other hand was still carrying a massive heat-seeking missile launcher at the time. What man could resist such a heart-warming screen and not pay top-yen to get it imported as soon as possible?

Quite simply, Super Probotector is one of finest of its kind certainly one of the top ten SNES games released. A few well-spent pounds spent on the Wii Virtual Console will either bring back a flood of memories, or let you indulge yourself for the very first time. Either way, you’d better be well advised to leave granny in the spare room. It’s going to get messy, and fast.

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