Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns is an admirable tribute to Contra

Vampire Survivors' latest DLC is an entertaining throwback to Contra's 8 and 16-bit eras.


From the beginning, anyone who picked up Vampire Survivors saw a resemblance to a famous Konami franchise. That's why it was so interesting to see Poncle issue a collaboration for a totally different one. Operation Guns brings Vampire Survivors into the world of Contra. It doesn't exactly gel with the series' run-and-gun 2D gameplay, but it is, however, a great homage to the times that the series has dabbled with overhead stages.

There's a reason that the original Operation Guns trailer, through its music, tried to evoke memories of Contra sequel Super C. That's because the Vampire Survivors style means Operation Guns' Neo Contra stage plays out like an overhead level from Super C and Contra 3: The Alien Wars. It has the aesthetic of the former, but the puzzle-like layout and multiple points-of-interest of the latter. Survival isn't the lone goal, because to make the most of this DLC, players will have to be on the move constantly.

Running through Neo Contra City in Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns

Source: Poncle

It should be noted that newcomers could dive into Operation Guns, but it's recommended that they make progress in the base game first. Neo Contra City is a massive landscape. It's filled with upgrades for players' weapons, some of which come with a free Revive, but finding everything, including the locations of some unlockable characters like Bill Rizer, will require some peeks at the map. Even if players collect the Neo Contra Map, though, they won't be able to access it without collecting the Milky Way Map from the Dairy Plant stage in the base game.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, Operation Guns fits in surprisingly well with the melee-based auto-battling of Vampire Survivors. While Bill and Lance can be accessed after some time with the DLC, players will more likely gravitate toward the weaponry of characters like Probotector and Stanley Ironside. The latter, specifically, packs some homing missiles that feel right at home with both Vampire Survivors while fitting with the Contra theme. The evolved version of that weapon is especially fun, as players basically shoot out giant missiles that split off into smaller missiles for some wild area-of-effect coverage.

Players will appreciate the Contra pickups and the familiar-looking foes, but the most rewarding moments in Operation Guns await those who can survive to the final minutes and defeat some of the series' heavier hitters. A special boss fight awaits and plays out similarly to the battle it was based on. It doesn't last long and it can feel a little clumsy at times, given that the game is playing out a 2D boss fight in Vampire Survivors' 3D movement space, but it's the thought that counts.

There's a lot to find in Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns, but it's also totally possible to find most of it in just a few hours. This is a great homage to a run-and-gun pioneer franchise, from the visuals, to the weaponry, all the way to the remixed tracks that harken back to many chapters in Contra's history. There's even a second unlockable stage that plays around with one of Contra's cooler gimmick levels. It's also a testament to how much of a shelf life the Vampire Survivors concept still has, so hopefully, Poncle will be ready to lock-and-load with other crossovers in the future.

These impressions are based on a DLC code provided by the publisher. Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns is available now on PC, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for $2.49 USD. It is coming soon to PlayStation.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola