Back in the late 2000s decade, specifically 2007, shortly after the previous console generation came out (PS3, 360, and Wii), a retro revolution of sorts came about, and Contra 4 on DS was one of the first games to capitalize on it. As we near the end of my Contra retrospective, the games continue to be awesome right up to the present day, with the PS1 entries being the only notable exceptions.
Developed by Wayforward and published by Konami, Contra 4 went straight back to the roots of the franchise. It has old school style graphics, remixes of old tracks from previous Contra games, and most of the classic weapons and enemies. This time, though, there are three difficulty modes, so anyone can pick it up and enjoy it. There’s also a challenge mode, a sound test mode, and a couple other extras.
You do start the game with the crappy default weapon/pea shooter, but can get all the classic weapons, like spread, machine gun, flame, crush, laser, and homing. These can be further upgraded to go faster/do more damage, etc. In easy mode, all weapons are automatically upgraded when you first pick them up, but in normal and hard modes, you will have to grab two of them in order to get it fully maxed out. For example, flame does not do so well until upgraded, as it has that slow moving circular pattern from the original Contra, but the upgraded one hits hard and fast like in Super C. If you have an upgraded crush or flame, bosses will go down with little trouble. Just using the pea shooter is quite a challenge, so if you really want to be hardcore, you can try playing through with just that.
One of the new mechanics in this game is the grappling hook, which allows you to go up to a hook or handhold above you. It’s useful and necessary with the dual screens of the DS, and is needed to fight some bosses. Speaking of bosses, they are larger than life as usual, and while they all have very predictable patterns, it will take rote memorization just to get to them, let alone beat them. For veteran Contra players, this should feel right at home. There are nine stages, three of which are tunnel style stages, and the other six are classic sidescrolling. In your quest to defeat Black Viper, you must navigate familiar locales, like the jungle and city, before making it to the alien lair. Bosses should look familiar, and you can even choose any character you wish from all the Contra games up to this point, from Bill Rizer to Probotector and everyone in between. They all have different voices and death screams, too, which you will be hearing a lot of.
Overall, almost anyone can beat easy mode. With only seven stages, slow enemies, and fully upgraded weapons on pickup, it’s barely even a challenge at all. Normal mode feels more like the classic NES Contra games, but not quite as hard as III, Hard Corps, or Shattered Soldier. It’s definitely the go-to difficulty for most people, but will challenge those new to the series. Hard mode, on the other hand, is a true challenge for any Contra fan. Enemies are faster, bullets and projectiles move quickly, and bosses are quite a bit harder. Be glad you get two weapons slots, because you will be dying in this mode. You won’t get through hard mode without some serious trial and error unless you are a Contra master, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The challenge mode adds about 40 short missions that unlock new content as you beat them. Everything from speed runs, boss runs, limited ammo challenges, and no weapon runs are included from most levels. It’s a nice addition to the game, and helps you practice these sections, too. Finally, if you want classic Contra and Super C on the go, then you’ve got those as unlockables, too. What more could a gamer ask for?
After Contra 4 there would be a lot of great retro inspired titles to follow, even up to the present day, and I’m glad Wayforward led the way and gave us a great classic Contra experience for the 21st century. Mega Man 9 and 10, Double Dragon Neon, Duck Tales Remastered, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Castlevania Adventure Rebirth, and many more would follow in the years to come. Whether gamers are tired of these types of games or not is not in question. People love retro remakes and retro inspired titles, or they wouldn’t still be coming out. They can’t all be great, but there are plenty of awesome ones to keep people interested. Coming up, we’ve got Contra Rebirth and Hard Corps Uprising to finish the Contra retrospective.