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 series was largely hit-or-miss. There has been no equivalent of Metal Gear Solid or Symphony of the Night.
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 will reveal a more complicated situation. The director and one of the assistant directors appear to be from Tose, but the other assistant director 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. A few of the staff members previously worked at Riverhillsoft (where Cing's founding members came from), and the game came out three years after Cing was started.
Few people realize Contra Advance is technically a Cing game (their earliest known game), but even fewer realize that Cing was once a subsidiary of Tose, which would explain their involvement. As Cing was a "nonconsolidated" subsidiary, there was little acknowledgment of the company in official Tose documents. However, Tose's 2009 annual report noted the end of the relationship: "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.