A thing of the past, almost
Any true gamer will know what Contra is all about. Well, maybe not but I think they should! Who could ever forget that quarter-munching monstrosity... always taunting, "Hey, just one more time...". The original arcade version of Contra is, simply put, one of the finest arcade games ever made. Naturally, Konami wanted to follow up and they did with a NES version of the original Contra. Most gamers remember this particular game for its infamous ‘Konami Code’. Next came Super Contra (also known as Super C) and it was another smash hit. The few spin-offs that were churned out after that were okay but the main course was served once again with Contra III: The Alien Wars. This next big step for the Contra franchise is regarded by many as the pinnacle of the series, the absolute finest in the Run&Gun genre. After Contra III, the main installments in the series went dry. A Genesis game, a few PS1 and PS2 games... it seemed like Contra was steadily going downhill, with the old fashioned 2D running and gunning a thing of the past.
Enter Contra 4, a supposed re-imagining of the series. Just when everyone thought the series was fizzled out, Konami announced this little baby to save the day. Granted, nobody was convinced this was a return to former glory, especially not since the game was being developed by WayForward. Who? A quick glance at their portfolio didn’t make me happy. Unfabulous for the GBA, Ping Pals for the DS along with a smörgåsbord of educational PC games. Things were certainly looking grim for the former King of Run&Gun. But those who looked at WayForward’s portfolio a little better, saw the diamond in the rough known as Shantae. This Gameboy Color niche game was actually a fantastic side scroller in the vein of Metroid and Castlevania. So there was one noteworthy game helmed by WayForward after all. Not all was lost!
Fret not, though. Contra 4 is the best game in the series, period. WayForward has done the impossible and returned the series to its former self. Booting up the main adventure, the first level is laden with nostalgia; from the main Contra theme, to the forest background and the familiar weapons. Remember the Spread Shot? Yup, still here, and it kicks just as much ass as ever. The levels are all elegantly designed, and even though there are merely 9 levels, the game is anything but short. Not only will you love every minute of it, but you will keep coming back for more. I lost all my lives on ‘Easy’ in the first stage but I kept at it. Before I knew it, I could complete the entire game (still on Easy) with just one ‘Continue’. Contra relies on repetition, and perseverance is rewarded.
Players who take it one step further and play on harder difficulty levels will be rewarded even more. In ‘Normal’ mode you are able to view the real ending, and play more stages (you can only play 7 of the 9 levels on Easy). In ‘Hard’ mode the music changes and the new remixes are ear-droppingly good. Beat the game on Hard? No problem, there is a Challenge Mode to boot that offers 40 different challenges, and all... quite challenging. Only the toughest of the tough will be able to chew through these bite-size pieces of steel.
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