Sept 4, 2007
Preceding a hands-on demo with Konami’s Contra 4, we were told its release would commemorate the classic run-and-gun franchise’s 20 year anniversary. Cool. We then got some back-story on original Contra commandoes Mad Dog, Scorpion, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean tackling an all-new extraterrestrial threat - the Black Viper. Fantastic. But hell, this is a Contra game, not a storybook so we really just wanted to be dropped into the jungle, armed with a damned spray gun. Still, despite a trigger finger itchier than Paris Hilton’s post prison private parts, our interest was piqued upon hearing confirmation that Contra 4 would indeed return to the roots of the original NES and SNES classics, abandoning the good-but-not-quite-Contra concepts of the series’ 3D efforts on the PS2.
So, with story-time over, and a DS clenched between our prepped-for-punishment thumbs, we parachuted into 8-bit bliss. Anyone who’s ever landed in Contra’s lushly pixilated jungles only to immediately side-scroll into addictive and occasionally frustrating fun will feel right at home in Contra 4. The green foliage, blue water, steel bridges and concrete bunkers are all back. So are the countless bullet barrage-spewing enemies, brutal boss battles and flying weapon power-ups.
The swear-inducing difficulty also remains intact, although Konami has mercifully included three difficulty settings to appease all skill levels. And take it from us, after hearing that classic Contra death knell twelve times on the first mission alone, we can report that there’ll be no shame in playing on “easy," even for seasoned fans. While keeping the challenge and overall presentation familiar for us aging armchair mercenaries, developer WayForward Technologies has also upped the ass-kicking ante with new features that take advantage of Nintendo’s nifty handheld.