Players: 1
Price: $29.99
Platform(s): DS
Developer: Wayforward Technologies
Publisher: Konami
ESRB: Teen
Website: Good Luck

Do you like your Contra hard as Powerthirst infused muscles? Well, if not, then please, turn the other way and close the door behind you, because it doesn’t get much harder than this throwback rehash to the original. Contra 4 is the kind of game that says it has different difficulty settings, but really doesn’t, and instead just offers you more lives when you play it on an easier setting, which means you’ll have even more opportunities to die when a red bullet slowly comes hurtling towards your face.

And when I say this game is hard, I ain’t joking. Just try playing this game for a half an hour without vehemently cursing the gaming god’s names on Mount Konami, as this is the hardest Contra I’ve played yet (I had to ramp down the difficulty to Easy just to get past the fourth level!). Maybe I’m not as hardcore as I once thought I was. Or maybe this game is just too unforgiving for its own good. I don’t know, I’m still torn on that decision.

Also of note is the fact that no matter how many different combinations of the famous (Or is it infamous?) Konami code I tried out at the title screen, I still couldn’t get my needed 30 lives. And for me, Contra without 30 lives is like Mario without mushrooms. It just doesn’t work, Bucko.

That said, a veteran of the series will gobble this one up. Taking place two years after the awesome Alien Wars (Contra 3) and three years before my personal fave, Hard Corps, 4 has you playing the roles of original favorites Scorpion and Mad Dog, and also features Lance and Bill for good measure. The story has them off fighting hordes of monsters and screen filling bosses in an attempt to trounce the evil Black Viper (From Operation C) once and for all.

Storyline aside, though (So, wait, Contra actually has a story?), what gamers are really here for is the take no frills action, and 4 definitely delivers in that department. Staying true to its stalwart 2D predecessors (And let’s not even mention the horrific 3D offshoots, yech!). The differences are what make this game really feel fresh and new.

The DS Dual screen for one, which takes a little while to get used to, adds a whole new dimension to the run and gun thrill as the firefights can get even more chaotic than you ever imagined when you now have bullets coming at you literally from all angles.

And the borrowed right out of Bionic Commando grappling gun, which plays a pretty intricate part in the boss battles, makes you feel like it’s a feature that should have been in Contra games years ago; it feels so natural and perfect. One boss battle in particular has you hopping on rungs of a jettisoning rocket while you fight off a giant bug type thingy clawing at you while you rappel yourself up to avoid its swipes. Honestly, if that’s not hardcore, than I don’t know what is.

Actually, maybe I do after playing this game. Abandoning any sort of save feature whatsoever, this game harkens back to an age when being “hardcore” meant you could go to the arcade with a limited amount of quarters and play a game to the very end while still having enough money for the Laundromat to spare. Get to the very end of this game and lose, and that’s it, pal. Back to the beginning with ya. This game actually made me reconsider where my skills must have gone, as I found myself getting more and more frustrated at getting so far only to repeat everything and remember the rote patterns of the bosses and enemies yet again. This game takes patience, which is something a lot of action titles doesn’t ask of you these days, what with memory cards and passwords and the like.

Still, if you have a DS, love Contra, and also are a little masochistic, you absolutely need to get this game. Just be prepared not to play it in a swear-free zone as you might find yourself getting fined more than once for obscenities. Contra 4 is not for the poor in heart. Or spirit.

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