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In my book, this is truly one of the greatest video games ever made.

Quite simply, Contra III has it all. It is endlessly playable, wickedly addictive, and brutally difficult. Compared to some other monsterpieces - like the infamous Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts or U.N. Squadron - it is maybe not quite so hard, but by most modern standards it is an enormous challenge. Contra III is a relic: it is 2-dimensional, there is no saving, and you have unlimited ammunition. The design principles and standards by which it was created are long forgotten by many.

Nonetheless, Contra III has aged oh-so gracefully. Nowadays many gamers are pining for the glory days of 8 and 16-bit gaming - see recent revivals of games like Shinobi, Rygar and Contra itself for more. Of all the games of the golden age of Super Nintendo, I feel Contra III is the one that aged the best (although you cannot deny Super Metroid, and a place in my heart is reserved for Super Castlevania IV). The graphics are dated, but still excellent. The action is not dated at all, and is still frantic and explosive.

Contra III is a shooter. This type of game is an all-but extinct genre (save a few exceptions like the recent Contra: Shattered Soldier, or the space-based, vertical-scrolling Ikaruga - God bless you Treasure), but Contra III is, in my opinion, its pinnacle. It has an arsenal that is simple but remains a benchmark: the standard rapid-fire machine gun, the glorious spread gun, the charge gun (or grenade launcher), the flamethrower, the beautiful homing gun, and the devestatingly powerful laser gun. Additionally, there is a useful Barrier (force field) and the super bombs, often a staple of such games. Each weapon is useful in the right situation, and proper management (as you can only carry two at a time - wait a minute, what was the deal with that Halo game again?) is a necessary skill for a Contra III master.

What makes Contra III so excellent is its razor-sharp gameplay. It is the perfection of the Contra formula: one hit and you're dead, keep playing 'til you get it right. With Contra III you are the central cog in a well-oiled and deadly machine, and with practice and focus you can become an expert. It is this kind of intuitive, zen-like gameplay that makes a video game legendary. The awkward forward-moving levels are replaced with overhead view battles, which are still awkward but not as much, and the other levels are pure excellence. The bosses - oh God, the bosses.

From the first level's infamous mutant turtle to the enormous Snatcher-esque fire-breathing robot of level 3, all the way to the wickedly hard Red Falcon himself in the final battle, Contra III's bosses are amazing. They are huge, intimidating, and jaw-dropping. Yet, they are also totally conquerable. With practice and mastery of their patterns, you will be able to obliterate these alien monsters every time. It is immensely satisfying.

Since it was released and I was just a wee lad, I have played through Contra III countless times. I feel my skills are highly respectable, but there is always room to improve. And the game just never gets old. It is simply enormous fun to play. And that's what keeps me coming back.

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