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Contra 4 (DS)
Pub: Konami/Dev: WayForward
ESRB: T/Players: 1 - 2/Wi-Fi: No
N- Konami's Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS is one of the most superb run-and-guns to come along in several years. Many reviews have pointed out that it's like a lost Contra game from 1993, and there's probably no better way to describe it. As the name implies, it's supposed to take place between 1992ís Contra III: The Alien Wars and 1994ís Contra: Hard Corps. The key is that it's not just the name or story that places it there, but Contra 4 earns its position by being every bit as great as those two classics.
There's also a certain elegance to its execution. The game manages to be a very faithful throwback to the design of the original Contra games, particularly the NES versions, and it's loaded with excellent fan service. At the same time, it feels neither self-conscious nor archaic. Even the way the manual recreates the over-the-top style of Konami's early NES game manuals feels authentic, and it's confident enough not to have to add any self-referential winking or nudging.
Personally, I appreciated the high challenge level, but I could understand how some people would be turned off by it. The game makes you earn your progress. If you're used to the hand holding and gentler difficulty curves of more modern game designs, you'll likely have trouble accepting the fact that in Contra 4, you'll spend more time losing than winning. However, for an old school gamer like me, it makes victory all the more gratifying.
My hat is off to developer WayForward. Their expert handling of this legendary franchise seems almost effortless, despite that it's obvious they poured their hearts and souls into the game. I would hope that someday they could get a chance to work on another Contra.
Until then, Contra 4 is quite possibly my favorite DS game. Highly recommended!