A "heart attack" in Contra
A crucial bit of information is missing in Contra. At the end of level 7, you run through a door in some terrestrial, man-made structure. At the beginning of level 8, you’re standing inside the body of the alien leader Red Falcon. What the hell happened? Did the building contain a miniaturizing device, a la Inner Space, that allowed heroes Bill and Lance to penetrate their foe? Was Red Falcon cleverly camouflaging himself on Earth as an office building? No one knows.
Truthfully, it doesn't matter how you got there. Contra had several memorable bosses, but it upped the ante by setting its final level inside the final boss. Battling microbial organisms and jumping over pools of acidic blood fit with the strange logic of a game that hurries you through the jungle, up a mountain, across a snowfield, and through a high-tech power plant in just a few hectic minutes. It's the final screen, which gives new meaning to the term "heart attack," that ultimately allows you to consider yourself a hero.
- Mitch Krpata