AKA: Mad Dog and Scorpion
As seen in: Contra (Arcade)
Also in: Contra 4 (DS)
Distinguishing feature: Look just different enough from Schwarzenegger and Stallone not to get anyone sued.
Strengths: The unrealistic ability to keep a gun's aim perfectly fixed while rapidly somersaulting through the air.
Weaknesses: The all-too-realistic ability to die from a single bullet.

Profile by Nicola Nomali | December 16, 2009

Everyone who survived the hell that was the Alien Wars is familiar with Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, two Federation foot soldiers who on multiple occasions saved humanity from total extinction. Although their official rank is merely Private First Class, they're better known by the title bestowed only to commandos possessing almost superhuman abilities and fortitude: Contra.

"Yeah," chuckles Rizer, seated across from me in a booth at his favorite Neo City watering hole, "we never cared much for promotions. Especially Lance—that'd make him 'Lance Corporal Lance Bean,' and he didn't want the grief." He laughs again. "He didn't want to hear it.

"Besides," he says, "we're Contra more than anything. Everyone thinks it's just impossible that two guys went in, time and again, and wiped out all this alien scum—Red Falcon, what have you. And to some extent, it is pretty unbelievable..." He pauses to procure a cigar. "But again: Contra. You hand a normal grunt something fully automatic with infinite ammo, and just see how long he can hold the trigger before the heat and vibration make his damn arms fall off—hands fused to the grips. I've seen it happen! But me, I do more with a rifle that shoots in five directions than an entire platoon could do with one that shoots in...thirty directions. You get the picture."

A week earlier, I'd visited the high-rise apartment of Lance Bean, resembling a cross between a munitions storehouse and a federal archive. Just as much a scholar as a warrior, Bean had asked me to see him at home since he couldn't wrest himself from his studies. "Contra are supposed to excel in guerilla tactics, too," he says, "although, honestly, we've never been much for subtlety. I still remember when we were about to drop into Galuga for the first time, and we could already tell that no armor we had was going to soften these mounted cannons and rings of flame belching out of Red Falcon's ranks. So Bill just pulled off his gear on the spot—stripped to the waist! I said, 'Well, what about camouflage?' He just clutched his gun to his chest, shot me this grin, and said, 'Oh, I want them to see me coming.' It sounds crazy, but...maybe you have to be a little nuts to do what we do."

"No one but us knows some of the things we've seen. Not even the movies they've made get it right," says Rizer. "I've faced an alien with a mouth I could stand inside, full of fangs and ooze, and with arm sockets that were also mouths. And snakin' out of them"—he pantomimes for me—"were these giant snake-arms, all boney and covered in spikes, and instead of hands, they had faces with eyes—and more mouths!

"And there was this other one, it had these spidery, uh, arthropodian legs all up in front, and then this fleshy tube just hanging off its side—covered in muscle, like it was tryin' to be an arm or a leg—that shot spiked pods into the air. It only opened its eyes to shoot lasers at us, and just below its face was another face, but a human one—in the middle of this heap of alien slime, just this giant, clean, calm-looking face of a beautiful woman. That gave me the creeps more than anything." He picks the cigar from his mouth to take a drink. "Lance said it was something called 'the Uncanny'—like Red Falcon knew we were human and had cooked up all these human skulls and faces to psych us out."

He takes a puff, seeming to look past me. "Didn't stop us from blasting them to hell and back anyway, though."

"It takes a lot to be a Contra," says Bean. "Even with advances in cybernetics and genetic treatment, you could probably count the eligible candidates worldwide on one hand." I nod; he smiles. "But the term 'Contra' as we use it actually dates back to the twentieth century. Originally, it referred to Central American insurgent groups; in Old Spanish, it was short for contrarrevolucionario, or 'Counter-revolutionary.'"

Rizer also smiles as I relay this factoid. "Yeah, I guess that was the inspiration—'counter-revolution.' But they didn't have the stuff we've dealt with seven hundred years ago. Us modern Contra, we're Counter-alien, Counter-giant-robot, Counter-everything." He eases back in his seat. "The best thing I can say about it, though, is at least we have no politics. The public might not have gotten as close a look at these aliens as I did, but they remember the cities knocked flat, the body harvests, the endless red sky... I've never had any doubt that what I've done is right, and they've never treated me like anything but a hero."

"In truth, we don't know exactly where the aliens come from, or why they've attacked us repeatedly over the years," Bean tells me. "I'm sure Bill and I could keep fighting them off until we're old and gray—and then some—but we'd save the most lives if we could prevent them from coming back in the first place. And to do that, we need to know why." He then gestures behind him, to a bank of monitors and scattered files. "So, I'm looking into it."

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