Bill and Lance from Contra get the toy treatment in NECA’s awesome new retro video game box set.
NECA’s retro video game series has become something truly special in the toy world. What began as a novel way to repaint and re-imagine existing sculpts of their cinematic figures like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and RoboCop has since evolved into a truly unique and fun toy line, which combines stylized 8-bit paint designs with the predictably great sculpts NECA uses for all their toys.
The latest release in the line is a two-pack box set, featuring the heroes of Konami’s NES classic Contra, Bill and Lance. The pair of super soldiers make smart reuse of parts from the Predator Dutch figure, along with lots of awesome all-new tooling, based on the box art and on screen appearance of the video game characters.
Since they use the fantastic Dutch base body, both Bill and Lance sport lots of useful articulation, as well as a great deal of sculpted detail. Both figures feature all new headsculpts, which are modeled on the box art of the original video game, and they really nail the source material, whether it’s Bill’s blonde crop top haircut, or the scowling expression on Lance’s face. Each figure sports a cool deco that matches their game styles, with one of the more subtle 8-bit cell shaded designs we’ve seen from NECA. The paint certainly pops, and this combined with the hyper realistic sculpts of the figures leaves them straddling the line between cool action figures and stylish designer toys.
At the end of the day, the Contra figures lean toward the side of cool action figures, and a lot of that has to do with their inventive accessories. Bill and Lance both come packing their signature laser guns, each of which includes a modular attachment muzzle. One is the standard cannon, the other is the three-barreled Spread Cannon. The most fun feature of these figures are the blast effects, which can be connected to one another as well as to the guns. This allows for an accurate in-game style display featuring both the rapid fire pulses of the standard Cannon, and the ultra cool Spread Cannon effect, realized by a combination of multi-directional energy pulses which plug into the gun, and a stand-alone piece of more pulses in the arc pattern which will be instantly recognizable to anyone who played the game.
In theory, these blast effects are awesome, although in practice, they’re not without their challenges. The biggest issue, for my set, was the Spread effect. The base on my piece is off center, making the piece unable to stand upright. I wish the set had included more clear plastic connector pieces, as attaching the piece this way seems like it would be more effective than having to stand on its own. This leads to the other potential area of concern. While my effects pieces are intact, the hard plastic NECA used feels very brittle. I’m nervous to change up the arrangement of my blast effects too much, let alone try to pack any of them in a storage bin, as they seem destined to break apart without much resistance.
What works far more effectively is the Power-Up capsule, which perfectly renders the iconic in-game accessory in toy form. This floating pod is perfect from its recessed mechanics to the eagle insignia sculpted into its sides. The capsule includes a clear plastic flight stand which supports it well, allowing the piece to float up to our heroes just like in the game.
Even with the potential issues of the blast effects, the Contra figures are tons of fun. NECA found the perfect aesthetic based on both the 8-bit graphics of the game, and the more detailed game artwork, which is recreated perfectly for the fifth window box packaging. That silver rectangle is instantly iconic, and makes this set a very nice addition to the retro game collection from NECA, whether loose or in the box.
Word has it Konami wasn’t easy to deal with on this project, but I’m glad NECA was able to make these figures a reality. It’s a great addition to their retro game toy line, and a perfect nod to one of the best video games of the 80s. You can purchase the Contra box set and others now from NECA’s Entertainment Earth page.