Retro Review: Operation C

A lot of early Gameboy action games didn’t seem to be made with the limitations of the Gameboy’s screen in mind. Operation C is a rare exception, with detailed graphics that don’t just make everything hard to make out. It’s a solid, though often ignored, entry into the Contra series.

Operation C’s most important legacy has to be the Homing (or is it Hunter?) gun. I imagine it was added to give players a fighting chance on the crappy Gameboy screen, but it would be brought over to Contra III and serve as a useful weapon in many cases. Here, it’s mostly just overpowered. It fires three shots like the Spread gun (though in Operation C you can get a second Spread gun for a normal 5-shot arc), and as the name implies, homes in on enemies. A lot of the challenge of Operation C is just trying to survive with the Homing gun long enough to get it to places it doesn’t normally show up. There isn’t a single opportunity to get a Homing gun in the last two stages, which is a pretty large chunk of a five-stage game!

More so even than Contra and Super C, Operation C is about memorization and figuring out patterns. Any given battle will generally go through your lives very quickly until you figure it out, at which point it becomes a breeze. It can take a while to get there, but it offers a good amount of challenge for such a short game. It may be a little too frustrating in places, with some truly unfair hit boxes on gun emplacements and the like, and unnecessarily difficult horizontal jumps.

The difficulty spikes are my only real issue with Operation C, but they did make me want to throw my Gameboy a few times. It’s easier than Contra but took me longer to be able to get through, if that makes any sense. Otherwise, this is a shockingly solid action game for the Gameboy, which I encourage any Contra series fan to check out if they haven’t already.

Review Score: B−

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