Contra 4 for the DS does updating old-school games right

By Dan Zuccarelli . November 20, 2007 . 10:43am


[originally appeared at


Talk about taking me back to the old days. Quite simply Contra 4 does everything to pay homage to the old 2-D sidescrollers while avoiding the pitfalls of copying them exactly. I mean let's be honest, those games WERE great, but they definitely had problems that we really wouldn't (or shouldn't) tolerate with new games these days. So yea, go out and buy Contra 4 post-haste (that means like now). Why, you ask? Let me count the ways….


I was impressed by how Konami just decided to essentially update the classic side-scrolling Contra from days of yore. Gone are any thoughts of isometric or 3-D levels (except those "looking down a corridor" type 3-D levels from the 1st Contra), this is stripped down action. And that's a good thing. 


For those that weren't around for the original Contra, you're probably in for a bit of a shock. Now only for the jumping around and ducking under the bullets of your enemies, but for the simple fact that you'll be dying…. a lot. Seriously. Gamers have gotten soft with all kinds of safety nets to keep them alive and fighting but in Contra every jump has the possibility of leading to your uncertain death. Even on easy this game can get sadistic. Enemies come hard and fast (obviously harder and faster on the upper difficulties).


contra4u.jpgSince the game is faithful to the old school gaming style a good amount of your deaths are going to be "cheap." Especially when you're playing co-op. You see in the older games it couldn't zoom out when it needs to, the board scrolls along as best it can with two bodies but when the level moves up or down you could be in trouble. Your buddy leaping above you could push the screen up enough that the platform you're standing on goes off-screen, at which point you die. This kind of thing is going to happen a fair amount unless you learn to work together.


There are some enhancements to the standard Contra mechanic from back in the day that do make the fighting a little more fair. You have a grappling hook and the ability to hold two special weapons at a time (though still only wield one). There's a  comprehensive "museum" with stats and screenshots from all the past Contra titles, as well as the original NES Contra and Super C!


It's really a fun little addition for fans of the series, and proves the time Konami spent in an effort to make us happy. So why is no one talking about this game? I have no clue, cause it kicks all manner of alien ass and NEEDS to be on your Christmas list this holiday season if you haven't already bought it.


As an avid old-school gamer this one was an automatic buy, and luckily the game did not disappoint in the least. It's perfectly suited for the DS since it's quick to jump into and has a boiled down control scheme. Seriously, buy it.

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  • Chris

    I’d take ‘overly retro’ over ‘overly new’ any day.

    The action genre is probably the one that has sucked the most since games became 3d. There are three traps action games tend to fall into now.

    1) The camera angle is directly behind the player and your arc of vision is so small you spend the whole game just trying to figure out exactly where the enemy is. (Or the camera angle just wanders around way too much.)

    2) Instead of natural, intuitive controls, everything is some sort of three or four button combo of mostly cool-looking-but-useless-maneuvers.

    3) They focus too much on trying to have a plot like an RPG and it detracts from the flow of the game.


    This is so painful. I’ve been waiting for this game for so long and I still can’t find it anywhere (I’m in Montreal). Last night I even DREAMED I had it in my hands :(

  • jeffx

    Not available in CanadaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAARGHGHGHGHGH.

    Probably because Konami are losing billions due to our superior currency ;)

  • ryanzero

    There’s nothing wrong with plots, Chris. Developers can actually make a great action game with a great story to lead players through and connect the game sections. It helps when it’s done well. Unfortunately as you mentioned bad stories break the flow of action and would be better left out. A game is a game, not a film or a book, and I agree with you. However, marketing-wise, developers are going to write stories to hook more buyers since we aren’t dropping quarters at an arcade anymore. So writing and directing need as much attention as game design. Unless you make a game like Warhawk, where the story is implied without specifics.

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