Nov 19, 2007
Playing like a long-lost gem, Contra 4 recaptures the best of an era, while introducing today’s gamers to the real meaning of "challenge" (swearing like a sailor with no shore leave, if you can't stand tough games). Picking up where the SNES Contra 3: Alien Wars left off, Contra 4 is just as much a re-imagined remake as it is a sequel. Veteran players will recognize locations and enemies from the prior titles, making a run through feel like a trip down memory lane. Don’t be fooled though, because Contra 4 is just as difficult as its predecessors. This isn’t a game you’re going to best in one sitting.
Visually, Contra 4 borrows heavily from what came before, adding a facelift to existing art but not drastically redoing any of the core sprites. It brings an immediate sense of familiarity as well as a renewed appreciation for sprite work. Our only real complaint with the visuals has to do with the dead space between the screens, which occasionally results in a cheap death from a hidden bullet.
In case the difficulty gets a bit too rough, the original “Konami Code” makes a re-appearance. Pause the game at any time and enter “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, B, A, Start” to upgrade your special weapon to full power. Don’t get greedy though - a second use means instant death.
After completing the single player adventure, Contra 4’s challenge mode automatically unlocks. Consisting of 40 different deviously designed challenges, this mode is a cross between advanced tutorial and pure torture. Each challenge forces you to discover the ideal route through to the goal and to execute it perfectly. There’s zero room for error here, because unlike in the main game you get no extra lives. Every run has to be a perfect run.
Completing the challenges unlocks a number of impressive goodies including alternate character models, Contra digital comics and the original NES versions of Contra and Super C. Never fear: the two NES games are the first to unlock so even average players should get to see them. The emulation appears to be spot-on, with the only problem being a lack of two-player support. The main game, for the record, does support two players.
Contra 4 stands alone both as a game and as an anniversary package celebrating the history of the series. This is a retrospective done right and it should be considered a must-have for any DS owner out there.