Blog:The EX Stands for Savings
The EX Stands for Savings
You can say what you want about Konami today, but the Contra franchise has been mistreated for years. After successful outings on the 8- and 16-bit systems, the games were largely hit-or-miss. There was no equivalent of Metal Gear Solid or Symphony of the Night to take the series to the next level.
While it is a decent game, Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX (Contra: Hard Spirits in Japan) definitely falls into the "miss" category. I'm not sure why this happened, but the Game Boy Advance became a sort of dumping ground for Super NES ports. I don't ever recall anybody claiming these were better than the original versions, but Contra Advance seems particularly lacking.
The graphics have taken a hit — they look very washed out — as has the sound. You can only carry one weapon, and you have no bombs. The overhead stages from Contra III are gone, too, replaced with stages from Contra: Hard Corps. I would think the GBA could handle those, but I guess not.
Some Japanese sites will tell you the prolific Tose was the developer of Contra Advance, but an examination of the credits reveals a more complicated situation. The director and one of the assistant directors appear to be from Tose, but the other assistant director/game designer was the president and CEO of Cing, the company behind cult favorites like Hotel Dusk: Room 215. One of the programmers was on Cing's board of directors. At least four of the staff members (including the aforementioned assistant director and programmer) previously worked at Riverhillsoft, where Cing's founders came from. Finally, the game came out in 2002, three years after Cing was started; I think that's enough to firmly establish Cing's involvement.
Then what's the connection between Tose and Cing? It's simple, but little known: Cing was once a subsidiary of Tose. Mind you, the earliest mention of this I could find in a Tose annual corporate report is from 2006.
Tose's 2009 annual report notes when this all came to an end: "CING, INC. is no longer considered a subsidiary, since the Company no longer maintains a management relationship in terms of determining CING, INC. corporate policies." (Tose's Tadashi Nishi had served as Cing's chairman.) Cing went bankrupt in 2010.
Post updated March 1, 2022