The Contra game series has seen its ups and downs. The first two games (Contra and Super C) on the NES were great, and the games for Super NES (Contra 3: The Alien Wars) and Sega Genesis (Contra: Hard Corps) were even better. But the series hit a rough patch with the release of two poorly-received games for Sony PlayStation (Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure). These games attempted to bring the series into 3D but were not liked by many fans. Konami brought the series back to its roots with the side-scrolling Contra: Shattered Soldier for PlayStation 2 but went back to 3D with Neo Contra 2 years later to less successful results. In 2007, Konami decided to go take the series WAY back to its roots, releasing a sequel that follows 1992’s Contra 3 in both graphics and gameplay. Contra 4 is a fun game, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s all been done before.
One thing’s for sure: this game is HARD. Even on the “Easy” difficulty setting, you’re likely to get killed over and over again. As always in Contra, getting hit once means losing a life. Whether the view is side-scrolling or from behind the player, the object is to shoot everything in sight. Some enemies take 1 hit to kill, some take 50, some may take more. I didn’t get far enough to find out. This game is HARD.
The graphics are almost identical to the SNES Contra 3, released some 15 years earlier. Obviously, the DS can do better, but the look of the game creates a nice nostalgic feeling. The gameplay is just as good as ever. The controls are just like the old SNES game and are very responsive. There’s also a story, but who cares about that in a Contra game?
The only problem is that it doesn’t seem like anything new. If anything, its a bit TOO similar to Contra 3 – with some “3D” stages inspired by the original Contra threw in. This has the effect of making the game come across as more of a tribute to the Contra series than a sequel. It’s nice that they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel for the series when so many others have failed in attempting to do so, but it would have been nice if they could have brought something new to the table. The DS’s New Super Mario Bros. is a good example of a game deeply rooted in the tradition of its own series without feeling like a rehash.
But if you’re a hardcore Contra fan, you’ll just care about the awesome gameplay. And if you’re not a hardcore Contra fan, maybe you aren’t familiar enough with its predecessors to notice the unoriginality. The game has a number of unlockable bonus features, including the NES version of Contra and Super C, but good luck finding them – you have to beat the game before unlocking them, something I have yet to do. THIS GAME IS HARD. But it’s still a lot of fun. Contra 4 is one of the best action games on DS. When you are done with Contra you can start with Fortnite that is quite similar in some ways. Although, you get much better graphics, Fortnite itemshop where you can buy skins, and seamless gameplay when compared with Contra.