Contra: Operation Galuga review

by on March 11, 2024
Release Date

March 12, 2024.


Once I reached my teenage years and had fully cemented myself as a video game fan for life, I started to look back at the classics I missed when I was a young’un. This was fortunately around the time of the Wii, and thanks to the Virtual Console I was able to play all sorts of legendary games of the past. A cornucopia of wonderful and usually nightmarishly difficult games were recommended to me by the gaming community, but the one that punished me the most was Contra. This famously brutal run and gun series is beloved by those mighty enough to tame it, but I was not one of these elite few. Now redemption is here, and its name is Contra: Operation Galuga.

The aim of any Contra game is simple: run through each of the game’s stages and blast the heck out of any soldier, robot, or alien that stands in your way. There is technically a story about an island housing a terrorist organisation that’s using ancient technology to try and take over the world, but it’s all just an excuse to get two buff dudes shooting bad guys and saving the day.

The gameplay in Contra: Operation Galuga feels just like you’d want it to, whether you’re a series veteran or just fancy trying out something arcade inspired. Your chosen elite super soldier can run, double jump, and perform a dash to avoid any incoming fire, and if you survive the onslaught of bullets you can blast the baddies right back. Every single hit counts in Contra though, so you’d better get used to dodging quick or you’ll be greeted by many a Game Over screen.

Contra: Operation Galuga

Fans of the classic Contra games will feel right at home with Operation Galuga, thanks to familiar stages (including vehicle missions and a waterfall climb) and all your favourite returning guns waiting to be shot across the screen. For those uninitiated in the ways of Contra, the laser shoots through multiple enemies, the flamethrower is a short range powerhouse, and the spread shot is the greatest weapon in gaming history. That’s only a slight exaggeration, too, because there are very few weapons as powerful and satisfying as those screen-filling red balls. You can carry two of these at a time, and switch at will to suit the situation. Maybe a particularly tough boss needs to be dealt with quickly and you want to rely on rockets and fire, or you’re faced with a tricky platforming section and need homing rockets to take over the aiming while you concentrate.

What’s different to the early entries in the series though is that in Contra: Operation Galuga you can upgrade weapons by collecting two of them to create something particularly devastating. A level two laser will bounce between enemies and deal double the damage because of it, whereas the upgraded spread shot adds even more bullets and pretty much ensures the entire screen is covered if you keep hold of the fire button. Excess weapons can also be overloaded, which destroys them in exchange for a massive special attack, which might slow down time, give you a shield that blocks all damage, or fire a huge volley of explosives at a boss. There are so many ways to destroy the mutants, soldiers and robots standing in your way, and you’ll need to master them all.

Contra: Operation Galuga

For a large portion of gamers the difficulty of a game like Contra: Operation Galuga is rather intimidating, which is why the team at WayForward included a selection of difficulty options and settings. The standard easy, normal, and hard are there to choose from, but you can also play in the traditional “one hit kill mode” or opt to have a health bar and give yourself three hits per life. I was able to complete the game on normal difficulty with the health bar active (with plenty of hairy moments) but there are options for both newcomers and veterans to sink their teeth into.

The only way I was able to actually beat my first Contra game though was thanks to the perk shop, where you can spend credits (which you get for beating levels, even if you’re replaying an old one) and unlock new power ups to make life easier as a warrior elite saving the world. You can only equip two of these at once, but being able to make Overload attacks heal you for one chunk of health or start each level with a spread shot will ensure you survive those tougher levels.

Contra: Operation Galuga

The best way to earn credits for the shop isn’t actually by playing the main campaign though, it’s by beating the challenges in challenge mode. These are probably my favourite part of Contra: Operation Galuga, as they force you to play short sections of levels with different rules in places. There are speed runs, pacifist challenges, and boss fights with limited ammo all waiting to test your shooting skills, and their bite size length makes them perfect for playing over and over again.

The eight stages that make up Contra: Operation Galuga will probably only take you a couple of hours to beat, even with a few Game Overs. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of content to dive into though, thanks mainly to the selection of characters you can play through the game as. Although they aren’t massively different, each of them has a specific ability or two that you’ll need to utilise to succeed in your mission. Playing through the game as a hovering robot or with the ability to grapple makes for an interesting twist, and upon completing the game you unlock even more gun warriors to experiment with.

Even with all the modern difficulty options and upgrades, there is no denying that Contra: Operation Galuga is a tough game which won’t appeal to everyone. For those who live for these tests of gaming skill, though, this new Contra game will be right up their alley, with a healthy dose of nostalgia making each death that little bit more bearable.


A hard as nails run and gun experience
Gloriously nostalgic
The challenge mode is a blast
Contains the best gun in gaming


The difficulty will be too much for some

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Contra: Operation Galuga brings back the granddaddy of run and gun with a bang, but don't expect it to be an easy ride.