Contra 4 (DS Review) by Robbie P.
Developer: WayForward Technologies
System: Nintendo DS
Release: November 13, 2007
Novebmer 30, 2010, by Robbie P. - Contra 4 is a return to form for the series and a sequel to the original Contra series. Konami released this game as part of its 20th anniversary celebration of the Contra franchise. WayForward Technologies was responsible for the development of the game and they have managed to recreate all of the Contra action as it is fondly remembered. One hit deaths, running and gunning, enemy evasion, side-scrolling, platforming, and the famous spread gun all make their respective returns. Most of these elements, apart from the spread gun, are part of the formula for the brutal difficulty for which the series is known.
The Alien wars of Contra III are over and now an entirely different threat known as Black Viper has emerged. Black Viper begins his assault on earth with his army of aliens and the Earth Federation is left with no choice but to send out some of its toughest commandos. Four Contra Force commandos are chosen to oppose Black Viper. Cue the return of Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, and the introduction of Mad Dog and Scorpion. Players are even given the opportunity to choose their favorite of the four commandos to play the game with from the start menu. However, this has virtually no effect on game play, except being a different colored sprite. A 2- player cooperative mode also exists for those who want to play with a friend. Both players will need a copy of the game to use this feature because no single card, download play is available.
After choosing Arcade mode players are dropped off in a very familiar jungle, via helicopter, and are left with nothing but their wits and a simple rifle. Game play is identical to that of the NES/SNES games which consists of running and shooting enemies while avoiding gunfire and environment hazards. New to the series is a grappling hook which allows players to reach the upper screen. This particular feature is implemented well and can be used to fight some bosses that span two screens. Players can gain new weapons by shooting capsules that appear at chosen spawn points. Each commando can hold and switch between two acquired weapons at any time. If you pick up the same weapon a second time you upgrade that gun. For example, the Spread gun has more spread and the Machine gun doubles in bullets. Those playing on easy mode will automatically be granted second level upgrades after only obtaining the weapon a single time.
Easy mode also has other advantages such as more lives and continues, but those playing on easy will never see the true ending. That is reserved for the hardcore player, for only those that dare to take down the enemy on hard mode. Regardless of which mode is chosen players will encounter two types of levels, either straight run and gun platform levels, or base levels similar to those from NES Contra. Both levels feature a boss fight at the end. Most boss fights are large in scale and based on former bosses from the series with a slight twist.
Contra 4 is also nostalgic in its soundtrack. Few series favorites such as the jungle stage theme and waterfall stage theme make their return as fantastic remixed tunes. These remixes are really well done and sound good on the DS, even if the sound output isn't all that great. It is great to hear these songs again and in my opinion it's the perfect way to celebrate the 20th anniversary.
After completing the game on any difficulty, players are treated to some additional unlocked content in the form of challenge mode. Challenge mode is full of intense missions designed to test the abilities of the player. Challenges can consist of objectives such as not killing any enemies, or not getting hit by one of the enemies. More unlockable content can be obtained by completing a number of these challenges. Players can unlock the original Contra and Super C games which would be found under the bonus content selection in the main menu. In addition to this bonus content, a museum exists in the game to showcase every game released in the Contra franchise up to Contra 4.
11/15 - Classic tunes remixed into epic sounding tracks fit the Contra action scheme really well. It's a shame that it has to come from the DS speakers.
16/20 - Contra 4 sports beautifully drawn sprites reminiscent of Contra III: The Alien Wars. Levels sport fairly impressive backgrounds and huge, well designed boss characters.
16/25 - Contra 4 will most likely only appeal to long time fans of the series. Other gamers may pass on this title because of its difficult nature. Fans will still find lots of lasting appeal in the museum and classic Contra games though.
37/40 - The game play is easy to learn, but hard to master. This doesn't really differ from the classic Contra games. Controls are tight and responsive, so if you die it's either your fault or you suck at playing Contra.
80/100 - Contra 4 is an amazing return to the series and could easily be considered the best entry. It features lots of nostalgia for fans in the music, characters, level design and classic games. This is a definite purchase for fans of Contra games, and a good starting point for others interested in the series.
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