Contra 4 Review

I was having a conversation with a gaming friend of mine the other day, and the topic of difficulty came up. He told me that no game has challenged him since the days of the NES, and that all of the current-gen titles cater far too much to the casual player. When I asked him about the Wii, he laughed. When I mentioned the DS, he laughed harder. Finally, when I handed him my DS with Contra 4, guess what he did? He cried. Tears of joy, or tears of pain, it makes no difference. Contra 4 is freakin’ hard.

If you’re a fan of the original Contra series, you already know what I’m talking about. Contra, Super C, and Contra 3 (you know, the good ones) were all incredibly challenging while still offering fantastic platform-shooting action. The latest DS rendition offers a brand new chapter in the series, yet sticks with the tried-and-true formula. (And yes, the Contra Code works, too.) It’s all about intense running and gunning, combining the classic 2D gameplay with an interesting dual-screen twist. Instead of having all the action on one screen with information or a map on the other, WayForward Technologies decided to span the entirety of the game across both screens, much like the Sonic DS games.

But make no mistake: Contra 4 is hard. I mean, this game is absolutely nuts. Remember playing the original Contra for the first time and thinking that was impossible? Apparently using twice the screens means getting twice the difficulty. While the whole game isn’t too long at– around 9 levels,– if you start out on Normal mode, you’ll be spending at least an hour or so on each stage, not counting the amount of times you’ll have to retry the previous stages. That’s right, in keeping with the old-school traditions, the developers decided not to throw in a way to save your overall progress. This doesn’t mean you have to beat Contra 4 in one sitting –– you can still turn off your DS and start from where you left off –– but when you lose all of your lives, and more importantly all of your continues, it’s back to the very beginning.

Now, hardcore Contra fans will, without a doubt, declare this to be an incredible game. The only problem is the DS is more of a casual system, and the average gamer is sure to be turned off by the ridiculous difficulty of Contra 4. There is an Easy mode, but it’s still much harder than just about any other game on the DS. Then again, Contra 4 isn’t for the casual-style player. In fact, aside from using two screens to depict the gameplay, there’s no DS features like touch controls implemented. Personally, I think that was a good idea; if it ain’t broke, you know? But surprisingly enough, WayForward Technologies didn’t even try to add any new elements to the Contra formula. The game is literally exactly as it always was, from its birth to most recent incarnation.

Even the graphical department carries a strong similar aura with it. The sprites, while sharp and distinct, are actually a step backwards from what we’re used to seeing on the DS. I’m digging the nostalgic feeling it offers, but a little more “zing” on screen would have been appreciated. The audio, on the other hand, takes this concept and puts it to good use. The second you drop into the first level, you immediately recognize classic Contra tunes redone to fit 2007. Throughout the game, the soundtrack offers similar styled Konami classics, but keeps it fresh and audibly-pleasing. Really, the music just rocks.

At the end of the day, Contra 4 is just another great Contra game. Depending on whether or not you’re a fan of the series, this could mean the difference between a rental and an immediate purchase. While the graphics leave a bit to be desired, the heightened difficulty and insane boss battles make up for it. Just like any other Contra game, it’ll take you a while to get through it the first time, but once you figure out the formula you’ll be just fine. This game just screams nostalgia with its familiar music and gameplay, and really is the perfect gift for hardcore Contra fans. Happy 20th anniversary, Contra.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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