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Either Bill or Lance is chosen. The player has a rifle with no limit to the number of times it can shoot. However, the player after being hit by an enemy once.
The game has ten stages. For each stage, the player must shoot out the sensors before moving on. A player has 3 lives, and when all of them are lost, the game ends. In the arcade version, the player can continue a few times.
There are three types of stages:
Most stages are side-scroller stages, though Contra stages follow a basic pattern.