I feel Contra Rebirth is not faithful to its own title. The title “Rebirth” should imply a series reboot. However, Contra Rebirth feels more like a rehash. In addition, this game does not provide the challenge other Contra games had with a balanced and rewarding difficulty.
There is not really much to say about its game play. If you played Contra III before, you know what to expect. The game has the usual 2-Player co-op mode. The player(s) can carry and switch between two weapons at a time provided they have two of different types. The game does not offer much motion controls as expected but player can switch between weapons by shaking the Wii-mote, which I think is a nice touch to the game play. There are three different weapons aside from the default weapon. The spread gun shoots a spray of bullets. It comes very handy to against large groups of enemies. The laser can shoot through enemies. It is useful when enemies are blocking your path from the target enemy, especially enemy spawning blockades. The homing missiles are great for swift and hard to reach enemies.
The graphics of the game are fantastic. The game is vibrant and colorful which is difficult to say about most games today. The boss design I felt were uninspiring. The first boss is giant worm-like creature. Ordinarily, I would not criticize the first boss of any game because I would expect the good stuff of the game to come later. However, the game is really short and there is not much mind-blowing further into the game. Even the final boss is not all that great All it is some meteorite-like blob throwing several cliché attacks at the player. If the game is to be going to short game, it should deliver in creativity. Yes, I know I should not spoil the game, but you are not missing much.
The soundtrack is not bad, but it lacks originality. While I do not mind homage to the original Contra games, but there does not seem to be any original compositions. I really find to this to be rather lazy than being a throwback to the old games. Compare the game soundtrack to Super Castlevania IV; the game uses three tracks from the NES games of the Castlevania series but as well as original music. Contra Rebirth on the other hand uses nothing but tracks from past Contra games. While I am aware most video games series do use reoccurring themes, but often times, they also compensate with original music to add to the series music library. Contra Rebirth offers no new auditory themes.
Unlike most games today, the score system served a purpose in the Contra series, which was used to gain extra lives. Using such system actually balances the series difficulty. These games did not leave the player hanging with only a few lives. However, in Contra Rebirth, there is no kind way to gain extra lives. There is score system but it serves no purpose. Instead, you are given the option to start with a stock up to seven lives. On top of that, Contra Rebirth also has an infinite supply of continue. Yes, it is true Contra III also offered some these feature, but still kept the score system. As a Contra fan, I do not like these features because unlike in the original series, Contra Rebirth offers no sense of accomplishment.
What is more disappointing is that the game is only five levels long. The stages aren’t that particularly long either. This would not be so much of a big deal if the game stuck with the default difficulty format from the series. Since Konami didn't, the least they of done is make Contra Rebirth a lengthy game to make up for it. There are also only three collectable weapons in the game, unlike in Contra III, which there were five. It feels like Contra Rebirth was intended for a mobile phone. Sure, it is on Wiiware, but if game as brilliant as Cave Story can make its way to Wiiware, there is no excuse to treat the service as something lower. Contra III even made its way to the Virtual Console if that is any indication.
I still recommend this game, but be aware that Contra Rebirth does not live up to its own title as it should. It also maybe a great place to start if you are just getting into the series, but to a long time Contra fan, Contra Rebirth falls short. If your Contra fan, only download Contra Rebirth after you played many of the Contra games before this one.