UNITED STATES—If there was ever a video game that I would never forget it is “Contra.” It was a game I had as a precocious 5 year-old who had the Nintendo gaming system better known as the NES. The game also had a sequel, “Super Contra” that has an amazing code that gives one infinite lives. Trust me you know the code if you had a NES gaming system.

However, I am not hear to discuss those classics, maybe for another column, I am here to discuss “Contra III: The Alien Wars” an elevated version of the franchise that appears on the SNES. So what makes this version better than the original? Let’s start with the fact that this game is tough as hell. I mean its tough people. You really have to be prepared for any and everything to be successful in this game. The stages are much harder than any “Contra” game I’ve played in the past; the bosses are no cakewalk either.

With that said you still have all the classic weaponry from the original, the super spreader, the flame gun, the laser beam, rapid gunfire and bombs that you can unleash that destroy everything in your path. The neat tool this time around is that you can swap weapons out. In the past if you had the laser you could ONLY use the laser, the third installment allows you to interchange between two weapons while playing.

So you can use the laser and the flame gun. Trust me each weapon has its benefits. The laser may be strong, but it is not as mobile as let’s say the super spreader which is one of my favs. The option is available to play the game solo or with a partner, but as I’ve argued in the past, you have to play the game with someone who knows what they’re doing otherwise it just leads to disaster in my opinion.

I will admit the first two stages are not that difficult if you’re just aware of your surroundings, but stages 3 and 4 damn they are brutal. Stage 3 to be honest I would argue is ONE of the most difficult stages in the game, next to stage 4 simply because that is a level where you are in constant movement. Gravity is working against you and that is always a challenge in any video game if you ask me.

Back to stage 3, you fight like 3 different bosses, and if I’m being honest any of them could be the final boss for the level, but when you do get to the final boss this double boss (yes its two of them), is a challenge. Just when you think you’ve defeated the stage, nope, the boss returns bigger, madder and more challenging than before.

If you manage to defeat level 3, you get to move to level 4 which is the ‘moving’ stage as I call it which forces you to be on your A-game. When you get to the end of the stage, you fight a boss that doesn’t feel like a boss, but is not as easy if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. Once you’ve complete those stages, the remaining levels are fun, exciting and not as challenging, but provides that nostalgia that fans have come to expect from the iconic franchise.

A challenge? Without a doubt, but at the same time a true gamer will endure and “Contra III: The Alien Wars” reminds you just how iconic and fun this game is. It is classic gaming 101 at its best America.