Operation C (Game Boy)

For me, the best Contra game is not the original, nor is it Super C, or even The Alien Wars.  Despite my reluctance in the past to acknowledge hand held games as memorable ones (even though, I know full well that some definitely are), Operation C is without a doubt not only my favourite Contra game, but probably my favourite hand held game of all time!

1991 - Game Boy (Ultra)

I didn’t own any games in the series, so when I kept seeing previews and ads for Operation C in gaming magazines, it was only natural for me to get excited about it.  Not that my parents wouldn’t let me buy the NES games because they were violent – after all, I don’t know how many times they allowed me to rent both of them.  I guess I just had my fill after a few days!

On cross-border shopping trips to Bangor, ME, I was always excited to go to Toys R’ Us.  Of course, my sisters and parents had other places to shop, and Toys R’ Us wasn’t really up there on their give-a-hoot list.  Canada didn’t have a whole lot of those stores, back in the day, never mind little old Fredericton, New Brunswick!  I was willing to sit through a few hours of grocery shopping to get my toy fix.

There was something fascinating about walking into their video game section, and how they had it laid out.  A full wall could be dedicated to one console’s games, and instead of having the boxes themselves on a shelf, the wall was lined with laminated flaps that had video game box art in them.  If you wanted, you could raise the flap to check out the screenshots on the back of the box.  When it came time to buy the game, you grabbed a piece of paper in an envelope behind it, then brought it to the counter where the customer service rep would fish it out of their warehouse area.

There was something so special, so important, so Fort-Knoxey about it.  Behind that door the clerk just walked through, I could picture a vast warehouse of games, not unlike what I had seen at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I'd like to think a warehouse of games like this exists, somewhere.

So with a bit of convincing (I don’t think it really took all that much), my mom obliged, and we walked out with Operation C.  The minute I plopped my butt in the car, I started the always satisfying video game unboxing process.  I quickly read through the manual and other things, and it was time to play.

In reality, it was time for Shop and Save…  or Stop and Shop…  or Wal-Mart…  I don’t quite remember, but having just bought a brand new game, there was no way I was going in.  I didn’t care if they’d take a while, because I had my Game Boy, and I’d take Operation C for a ride while they shopped!

Well, they agreed to lock the doors and leave me in the car (it was early spring, so there was no chance of freezing or dying of heat), and I played…  and played…  and played…  it was amazing.  The minute I picked up the Homing Gun, I was hooked.  Homing weapons are common in games now, but it was new to Contra then.  It blew my mind that I could just hold the B button, focus on avoiding obstacles, and let the shooting do its thing.

It was like any other Contra game, but the awesomeness had been Game Boy-ified!!  If you think the music was awesome on the NES, it was even more spectacular coming from those tiny speakers!!

Finally, I ended up having my fill – or, I might have gotten “Game Over”.  Either way, I was done playing.  I looked out the window, and contemplated walking to the grocery store to find everyone and join up with them.  The only problem was, it seemed so far away!  Could they have parked any further away from the doors??  I certainly didn’t think so.  I was in the USA, dammit, and there was no way I was walking out there, alone, in a “foreign land” with a chance of getting lost.

I had this image of the United States being an unimaginably massive place, where if you got lost, you were done for.  To any Canadian who has ever crossed the border, the U.S. definitely doesn’t feel like home.  It’s always busy, bustling with people, every building seeming plopped on top of one another…  to the 8 year-old me, it was a bit intimidating.

I stayed put, played Tetris, and waited.

Like other 8-bit games, the boss entrances and defeats are probably the most theatrical moments it has to offer.  What was fun about this game were the little sequences with Lance (or is that Bill??) running across a tiny portion of the level.  It gave you a bit of a taste of what the level was, which I always thought was pretty neat-o.

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