Super Contra – “What Is This Place?” (arr. Naoto Shibata)April 22, 2010
Red Falcon has invaded the Earth again, this time brainwashing the military. It’s just another day at the office then for Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, who rock ‘n’ load a second time to fight the evil alien menace in Super Contra (1988). With Naoto Shibata at lead guitar, you gotta crank the speakers. The original was composed by Kazuki Muraoka (Metal Gear series) and Motoaki Furukawa (Gradius II, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood), who made that classic Konami arcade sound. This mix appears only on Konami Battle the Best (1996), a compilation and remastering of some of Shibata’s best work, along with a couple original tracks from Super Contra.
“What Is This Place?” is perfect 80s rock. It’s got everything that’s right about America, from freedom and muscle cars to pre-steroids baseball and big guns. Trust me, it’s all here in this song, which I think may be the best Konami Battle mix Naoto Shibata did. The long notes punctuated by percussion explosions make this particularly memorable, and also follow the drudge of ‘back to the battlefield’ for a virtuous videogame war that seems endless (which keeps our thumbs and brains happy). All the instruments have excellent recording here, especially the drums and cymbal crashing (there’s some nice drums at 1:12). Shibata adds a kickass guitar solo at 1:25 that lasts about a minute before smoothly transitioning back into the main theme.
The original version is really cool as well, particularly with the voice-over intro, monsters, and explosion. This hands-down makes this one of the coolest game intros ever. If you haven’t seen it yet, you deserve to watch it right now. Ronald Reagan would be proud.
Explosive drum beats, blaring trumpets, and rockin’ guitar synths make for true dramatics. Those opening notes are immediately recognizable and a sure attention-grabber. This medley is from Contra Spirits (1992) and contains “Thunder Landing”, the stage one theme. This is a very intense guitar-driven piece with some nice string synths. Stands its ground well against the original Contra theme. There’s also “Great Heli-Ruined Base”, a nice, intense boss theme that was reused in Contra 4. The whole soundtrack was released in Music from Super Contra & A-Jax (1988) and has more mixes. If you check it out, be sure to listen to “Jungle Juncture” which is a hilariously awesome jungle rhythm. (Incidentally, though the NES did not have as good a sound chip as the arcades, they managed to replicate some of the trademark string and percussion bursts from the original in Super C).