SNK’s crowning achievement.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: June 1989
Contra, we’ve had some good times together. You are, as they say in the biz, a “non-stop action thrill ride.” No small feat, considering most games’ so-called “action” is about as limp as a wet noodle, with all the double entendres that phrase brings with it. Yes, you’re a killer… KIIIIING. Unfortunately, you have been dethroned by a game that, until today, I knew nothing about: Guerrilla War. I’m sorry, Contra. The memories we’ve made will last a lifetime, but let’s face it, I’ve been playing you for twenty years. I’ve memorized your contours, your strengths, and your weak points. I won’t say I’m bored, but, well… it’s time for me to move on to an even crazier, more over-the-top action game than you yourself; one more erratic and spontaneous, with a real zest for life. I… I hope you understand… sheds single tear, drops flower on the ground, and leaves abruptly.
My melodramatic goodbye to Contra notwithstanding, Guerrilla War is like every good Schwarzenegger and Stallone action film rolled into one insane top-down shooter. As the title implies, you are fighting a guerrilla war, but much like Schwarzenegger in “Commando,” it’s all you, baby (unless you decide to double your pleasure in co-op two-player, which I highly recommend). You are the lone guerrilla from your squad who has to take down an entire South American country. Ridiculous and cheesy, but of course. One expects nothing less from SNK, a company who built their very foundation on over-the-top everything (Neo Geo cartridges resemble double-stacked VHS tapes and cost 300 bucks a pop? WHY NOT!). Guerrilla War is most definitely the spiritual predecessor to the much more successful and refined Metal Slug series. How shall I draw the comparisons? One-hit kills, ridiculous amounts of enemies that threaten to suffocate you at every turn, weapon upgrades that pop up from nowhere, machines you can ride in to do extra damage to both landscapes and enemies, and last but not leastly, saving prisoners. Yes, whoever created Metal Slug had a fond space in their heart for Guerrilla War. Another fantastic piece of knowledge: this game is HUGE, as in six-worlds-with-four-levels-a-piece huge; the levels’ sizes are nothing to sneeze at either. Hardcore action snobs may think the game weak for including unlimited continues, but I have no idea how you would beat this game without them, even with a buddy along side you. That being said, if you’re that much of a masochist, you’re more than welcome to see how far you can get without using continues. God speed to you.
Of course I would never actually claim that Guerrilla War is better than Contra. I see both games as NES action classics in their own right. It does confuse me, though, on how much acclaim Contra gets, while Guerrilla War sits in the jungle, waiting for an acknowledgment that never comes. Guerrilla War should rightly sit in the pantheon of classic NES games, even if I’m the only reviewer to think so.