The road for NECA’s NES-styled Contra figures of Bill and Lance was a long and aggravating one. First announced in December of last year, the figures were scheduled for release the following Spring. That didn’t happen. The figures were delayed for unknown reasons by Konami, but were shown again at the New York Toy Fair in February. This time, a similarly-styled Simon Belmont prototype figure based on his appearance in the original NES Castlevania was also shown. More delays followed. Fast-forward to August. Konami unfortunately nixed the Castlevania figure, but the Contra figures survived. Now after almost a year, the figures have finally shipped. Was it worth the wait? Let’s attack aggressively.
Now before anything, as a videogame fan, and fan of Konami’s properties, I have to say this: Konami’s burning of bridges with fans over the past year and a half has been really unfortunate. It’s a sad state of affairs to see once-great franchises like Silent Hill, Contra, Castlevania and Metal Gear heading to Pachinko machines in Japan. It’s especially frustrating since this month is the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania franchise, which Konami is doing nothing to recognize. However, rather than be negative, it’s important to recognize fans’ efforts like Randy Falk and the rest of the NECA crew. The fans were the reason why we’ve been able to get these Contra figures at all. It’s a small consolation that we need to enjoy. Of course, it’d have been nice if Castlevania had gotten some love, but there’s always those previous figures that NECA released (if you can find them).
Like the other figures in the line, the windowbox packaging recreates the original NES package for the game, with the obvious changes to reflect the figures/NECA. The back of the packaging features shots of the figures in place of screenshots of the game. Unlike the other figures in this line, the package doesn’t have the faux worn look to it. Inside the package, the figures are squeezed in there against the backdrop of the Level 3 boss that in no way rips off Alien. The flap that opens the front of the package features the main title screen, and is secured with a round velcro piece.
Essentially a repaint of the 7-inch Rambo figures with new heads, these are still great-looking figures. Being that this is based off of the NES version of Contra, the figures share the same bodies (save for the different colours and hands). All of the details like the wrinkles, pockets and stitching in the pants from the original Rambo figures are here, including the laces and treads for the boots. Both figures are equipped with ammo belts, holsters and knife sheaths. True, the game never used handguns or knives, but it’s a great little added detail. As for the heads, Bill and Lance are recreated here in amazing detail. Their look is based off of the famous artwork for the game (which is based off of an amalgamation of Commando, Rambo and Alien), and while there’s a bit of artistic license taken, it’s all done with the best of care.
As for the paint, the figures look as close as they do to their in-game counterparts as they can. The paint for the skin recreates the shading used for Bill and Lance on the title screen (which is about the only real detailed look for the characters in the game), while the pants do a great job of recreating their appearance according to the in-game sprite. Now I know that some people will point out that Bill and Lance have had their colours switched (Player 1 was Bill in blue, while Player 2 was Lance in red), but according to NECA, Konami asked them to do it this way. If you’re really set on their colours being accurate, you can always swap the heads. There have been some cases where Bill’s eyes tend to be a bit cross-eyed. If your figure has this issue, you can always give NECA’s QA department a shout for help.
Both figures sport over 25 points of articulation and have a great range of motion. The heads are on balljoints, and move freely without any hindrance. The arms can move outward almost to 90°, as well as move forward and back. The arms bend at the elbow to 45° and rotate, and the hands are on balljoints that move easily. There’s an ab crunch, as well as balljoint at the waist. I know that some people might not like the look of the ab crunch breaking up the sculpt, but it’s not that noticeable once you get these guys posed. The hips are on pin-and-socket joints, and can move outward, forwards and back and rotate. The legs bend at the knees to 45° and can rotate. Finally, the ankles are on balljoints, allowing you to pivot the foot. It can appear a little awkward, as there’s no boot cut and the pivot can break up the sculpt, but the range of motion more than makes up for it.
This is what makes the set. For starters, both figures come with a handgun and knife. Both figures’ right hand is sculpted to hold the handgun (with trigger finger) with no issues. The knife, unfortunately, is another story. It’s more just for show, as neither of the hands can get a proper grip on the knife. Again, it’s a cool little addition. The rifles are the big draw. Fantastically sculpted with hinged guards, both feature unique designs and paint. The ends of the gun can be modified with the included barrel extensions, which can plug into either gun. One extension is for the single rapidfire shots, the other is for the Spreader shot. Also included is an extendible buttstock that again can be plugged onto either gun. There are a series of three blast shots that can be plugged into one another for a rapidfire effect for one extension, and a three-way spread shot that can be plugged into the other. Do note that you can also plug the three separate shots into the Spreader shot to give it a fuller effect. For the ultimate effect, there’s a five-spread shot that can be set up and plugged into the included stand. The stand can also be used for the power-up capsule that’s also included, although it can stand on it’s own if need be. Really, the possibilities of customizing the way you set up these guys is awesome. Sure, we could’ve used another stand, but it’s a minor nitpick.
If you’re a fan of Contra and videogames, this is an absolute must-buy. The sculpts and paintjobs are great, and the articulation and included accessories allow for a lot of custom setups. This was definitely worth the long wait. Given that Konami probably won’t be revisiting the franchise for a good long while over here, this set is a nifty little tribute that really deserves a spot on your shelf.
Big thanks once again to Northmen Collectibles for making this figure available.