Contra 4 Preview
Contra 4 box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: WayForward 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Konami 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 13, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Happiness is only 30 lives away

by Jason Nimer

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time reminiscing about the "good old days." Believe it or not, there was a time in the video game world where things like online multiplayer, achievement points and downloadable content were unheard of. If you wanted to play a multiplayer game, you'd better hope the kid down the street remembered to bring his controller over after school.

Contra 4 screenshot

People who remember those days will invariably have three, four or even five games that they spent the most time with; games that turned them into the video game enthusiasts they are today. Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!! - Everyone has a game that they remember like they would an old girlfriend or childhood pet. But one game in particular sits atop nearly all old school gamer's lists, a game that was both unrelentingly challenging and wildly entertaining, Konami's NES masterpiece, Contra.

Contra, even to this day, represents everything great about video games. It supported, and even encouraged, two players to tackle the eight crazy levels as a team, rather than as a solitary hero. The levels, the music, the enemies and "the code" all worked together to make Contra one of the most memorable and groundbreaking games of out time. Sadly, in the years since, Contra has seen a handful of sequels and spin-offs fail, simply because they couldn't recapture the simple fun of the original. Some attempts fell short for not sticking with the Contra mainstays. 3D Contra games quickly crashed and burned, as did the ones that fell short in the challenge and fun departments. Others came close to rekindling the Contra magic (Contra: Shattered Soldier for PS2 and Contra 3: The Alien Wars for the SNES are the two best examples), but even they were missing that special something. Now, after a number of years and even more failed attempts, Konami is poised to try once more to reign in the original game's magic and give fans exactly what they've waited more than a decade for - a true sequel and a game worthy of the Contra name.

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Just a few days ago, Konami announced that Contra 4, the direct sequel to the SNES classic Contra 3: The Alien Wars, would be coming to Nintendo's DS handheld sometime later this year. Even though the game has been announced and some screenshots have found their way to the Internet, actual cold, hard facts concerning the game, who is making it and what to expect have been few and far between. Here is what we know so far.

We'll start with the good news. The game has been confirmed as a classic 2D style shooter in the same vein as the previous successful Contra titles. We also know that the game will support 4 players (!) in simultaneous action. Whether or not this will be online, local area download or multi-card play has not yet been revealed, but it will be the first time in Contra history that more than two warriors will be playable. Konami has also confirmed that there will be usable vehicles in game and, to nearly everyone's relief, there will be no touch screen features incorporated into the final game. The only DS specific feature will be action spanning both screens, which could lend itself to some truly amazing boss battles and levels. The dual weapon system of Contra 3 will make a comeback as well, with not only the "two gun and grenade" combo, but actual upgradeable special weapons as well. All these elements could make a great game by themselves, but Konami has done fans one better - Contra historians will recognize the game's main villain, Black Viper, as the subordinate of Red Falcon, the original Contra's main villain. Eagle-eyed fans will know that this isn't Black Viper's first insidious appearance as a main villain, he first gave the Contra faithful headaches on the original Game Boy in Operation C, one of many so-so handheld Contra spin-offs. Perhaps best of all, the lead designers of Contra 3: The Alien Wars have had a chance to spend some time with Contra 4, and the rumor is they were extremely impressed.

Contra 4 screenshot

So with all these positives, is there even room for a downside? Unfortunately, yes. The game's developer, WayForward Studios, has a spotty-at-best record with Nintendo's DS and GBA systems. They were responsible for the excellent Sigma Star Saga (GBA), but also the abysmal American Dragon: Jake Long (DS), the disappointing X-Men: The Movie (GBA) and the downright terrible Ping Pals (DS). Should a studio with a less-than-stellar track record be trusted with a franchise as revered as Contra? I'm inclined to say yes, as Konami has yet to disappoint fans on the DS. After two spectacular Castlevania releases, Konami has a good thing going on Nintendo's wildly popular handheld.

Contra 4 should be landing in stores later this year. Will the game be worth your time? Will Konami be able to keep their DS streak alive? My bet is that question will be answered by a few directions and a handful of button presses. Up, up, down, down, left, right…

By Jason Nimer
CCC Freelance Writer

Screenshots / Images
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