|Random picture from Contra 4|
You know, when I was a kid (back in the classic NES days), I was a fan of both Contra and Super Contra, and like many classic game series, Contra has several newer titles (like Hard Corps Uprising, Shattered Soldier, etc) and now they also have Contra 4 (also known as Contra Duel Spirits) for the game boy DS / 3DS system. I was pretty excited to get my hands on the title, especially after just playing through Hard Corps uprising before that, and was pleasantly amazed. This game is the official sequel to Contra 3 and is set about 2 years after the events of Contra 3. After the horrors of Red Falcon's foiled genocidal war against the human race in Contra 3, things were relatively peaceful. However peace was too good to last and before long a new alien race known as Black Viper (which is pretty similar to Red Falcon in many ways in my opinion) has come to earth and is waging its own war against the human race. As with previous entries, commandos, Bill Rizner and his buddies are dispatched to defeat the hostile alien forces against all odds, braving 9 intense levels filled with enemies, booby traps and bosses. In addition, the tunnel stages from Contra 1 (you know the ones where you had to walk in a frontwards direction and shoot enemies and targets to progress) are back and have been greatly improved. By the way, many levels in the game are pretty similar to the ones in the previous games (with some obvious changes), same goes with some of the bosses in the game too. Even the wall boss from Contra 1 (if you remember that one) is back too, and is back with a vengeance too (2 part boss battle). Like the previous entries, one hit kills your player and you do get limited lives and continues. Ideally you will want to play through the entire game in one sitting for best contra experience, however if something comes up and you have to stop for the day, the game does come with a limited save feature where it will save your progress that you continue later. However, sadly you do automatically lose a continue (kind of like how it is in candy crush where if you stop during a level you lose a live) each time you do so and once you run out of continues, it is back to the beginning for you (which will likely be frustrating for some, especially if you made it really far in the game). Also the game does come in 3 difficulty modes: beginner, normal, and hard. Beginner mode is essentially the "practice" mode and gives you a good of what is to come in the game with some less challenging aspects (for example, in the waterfall section in the Laboratory level, you don't have to deal with the boulders that fall down like you do on normal and hard mode). Ideally you will want to play the game on Normal or Hard because the game stops abruptly on easy mode (the game ends after level 7 for beginner players whereas you go through the full 9 levels on normal and hard mode). The game also comes with extra features, such as a challenge mode (where you can complete various challenges for prizes and other goodies) as well as hidden game modes (such as Contra and Super Contra for extended gameplay).
- Feels like Classic Contra with modern twists
- New level designs
- Great background music
- Massive boss battles, including a climatic fight with Black Viper in the end.
- 3 difficulty levels: Beginner, Normal and Hard. Note: while beginner mode is a good choice for first time players, you won't be able to play through the final 2 levels in the game (alien hive or the harvest yard level) and get to the final boss or the ending.
- If you find the game to be too difficult, there are some cheats/glitches that give you considerably more lives as well as ways to earn extra lives (usually after shooting x number of enemies in the levels).
- Tributes to levels, enemies and bosses from previous contra games, with next generation style overhaul (such as new and improved tunnel levels and bosses).
- Extra game play modes, such as challenges that you can complete and win various prizes as you beat them.
- There are at least 2 hidden games you can play in the game that unlock by completing them: Contra and Super Contra. Can be nice if you liked those games.
- Nice voice acting too (reminds me of the guy from Duke Nukem in many ways).
- Definitely a must have for contra fans in my opinion.
Cons about Contra 4:
- This game is definitely intense and may be too difficult for some people. One hit deaths can definitely be punishing and can even come cheaply too and there are levels and areas in the game where you can find yourself dying alot. Two classic examples are: the laboratory level (especially during the first half of the level) and the latter half of level 4 where you have to climb a huge missile, fight a miniboss, dodge missiles and avoid falling to your death, which can be easier said than done).
- Sense of deja vu in some levels. By the way, if you play level 1 on hard mode, you even get a remixed version of the background music from Contra 1 during the jungle level.
- The levels are somewhat long on average and you will definitely need to give yourself at least 2 hours minimum if you want to play through the game (unless if you are an expert at games like Contra).'
- While there are "save" points in the game, they are limited. Also you lose a continue each time you stop for the day.
Recurring themes and levels from previous Contra games:
- Return of the "wall" boss from Contra 1 (this time in 2 forms)
- The "tunnel" levels are back (new and improved too). In fact there are 3 "tunnel" levels to contend with.
- The Waterfall level is back during the second half of the laboratory level (even has a giant alien boss on top of it with some obvious differences).
- It appears there are some content from Operation c such as the submarine miniboss during the Harbor level (note: I haven't played Operation C yet, so I don't know how much similarities there are between Contra 4 and Operation C).
- The Hologram boss is back (from contra 1). Even plays a remixed version of the boss music from Contra 1
- It appears that some stages have remixed music from earlier games (such as the City level where the music is very similar to that in level 1 on contra 3).
- The mutant dogs are back too (from Contra 3) and you will encounter them on the City level. Note: while they don't attack you in "beginner mode" they will charge you on "hard" and "normal" modes after passing them.
- One hit deaths are back, same with limited continues.
- The red falcon heart and aliens are back. This time, the red falcon heart is huge and has a 3D look. It even "screams" while shooting at it.
Note: I don't remember seeing anything from Super Contra or Contra Hard corps. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong though.
Overall Grade: B+
General review of Contra 4
Boy, Contra 4 is definitely a fun and yet intense game to play through. You play through 9 levels, each with increasing difficulty and intensity, each with their own unique enemies, obstacles and even huge boss battles lurking at the end of each of them. By the way there is voice acting in the game and if you have played through the game (at least as Bill), doesn't the voices remind you a bit of the voice acting from Duke Nukem? It does for me which does make it pretty entertaining. Some memorable quotes includes: "locked and loaded", "Take em out!!!" (usually happens after dying often), and others. This game even pays tribute to Contras 1-3 in many ways too as any of the levels and bosses do have striking similarities to the ones in the previous game (like the Jungle level at the beginning of the game, which is pretty similar to the one in Contra 1 in many ways and even has the famous wall boss battle at the end, which is actually a 2 part battle this time around). Also as mentioned earlier, the tunnel levels from Contra 1 are back too and have been greatly improved too (you even get a map on the lower screen that shows your progress through those levels too). The first tunnel level even has one of the hologram bosses that you fight in the first game too. Also, the City level (from level 7) is pretty similar to the one in Contra 3 (the mutant dogs are back too).
The levels are pretty fun to play through and even have at least one major boss fight at the end of the stage (my favorites are the alien on top of the waterfall section of level 2, the final boss at the end of the Harvest Yard level (final stage of the game), as well as the giant robot you fight at the end of level 4 (the harbor level). Also like many of the newer titles in the series, the game even has various minibosses too (like the giant submarine that you fight towards the beginning or the Harbor level as well as the giant spider boss you fight in the city level to name a few).
While many people will like the action the game brings, that game may not be for everyone. One classic example is the difficulty in the game. Like what other people have posted about Contra 4 (like the the writer on the gamespot review of the game put it), Contra 4 is definitely HARD and may be too much for some people. Think of it this way, you have Bill and Lance (reminds me a bit of Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a way), an army of 2 and trying to take out an entire armada of hostile alien forces. Definitely easier said than done given the odds against them I also agree with most reviewers: most people probably won't beat their game in their first several attempts Contra 4 is intense too. Unlike Hard Corps uprising (the previous contra related post I did earlier), one hit deaths are back and you only get so many lives and continues before it is game over and you have to start over. There are 3 different difficulty levels by the way, with the easiest mode being "beginner", followed by "normal" mode and "hard" mode. Beginner mode does have its pros and cons too. While the game is significantly easier on Beginner mode than it is on the other modes, it is not a total "walk in the park" as you only start out with 9 lives and 5 continues, though the difficulty is somewhat less intense compared to the other mode. Some notable changes includes: the absense of the boulders that fall during the waterfall portion of level 2, the missile section of level 4 being somewhat easier (the rotating handles didn't seem to rotate as often as they do in Normal mode), the hologram boss in level 3 is a bit tougher and uses those rolling things more often. Also, while the mutant dogs in level 7 aren't a threat in beginner mode, they will charge at you in Normal and Hard modes after you pass them (much like how it was in level 1). The only downside to beginner mode is that the game ends in level 7 (the city level) and you won't be able to the final 2 levels of the game nor fight the final boss of the game, so eventually you will want to at least to Normal mode if you feel confident and want to access the final 2 levels of the game. Also the lives you start with does vary by mode too as in Normal mode you start with 5 lives and 4 continues and in hard mode you only start with 3 lives and 3 continues. Like many contra games, Contra 4 is definitely intense especially with the one hit deaths, and sometimes deaths can come cheaply too. One classic example of this is during the first half of level 2 where you are in a laboratory and you have aliens crawling down from pipes, aliens crawling down from some walls and ceilings as well as monsters (called meat puppets btw) that basically function much like how it is with suicide bombers in the middle east where when they see you, they blow themselves up and try to take you out with them. Ideally you will want to go through the level slow with a good weapon in hand (like the lasers and missiles to take them out quickly). However, if you try to rush or aren't familiar with their patterns you will probably die alot and may have to use up a continue too before all is said than done, and that is only the first half of the level too. You still have the waterfall section too with its own unique challenges and death traps (like boulders that fall down and crush you if you happen to be in their paths, turrets that try to shoot you, snipers, and other enemies that want to send Bill and his comrads to early retirements). There is even a huge boss fight at the end of the level too where you fight snipers at the the top and later a huge alien creature too. There are other levels like that where death can come pretty cheaply too, such as the final section in level 4 where you have to climb a huge missile aimed at a city while fighting enemies, dealing with a mini boss battle about half way through, dodging missiles and dealing with rotating handles that your guy has to grip where if you fall you die. There is even a huge boss fight at the end of the level too, which adds to the difficulty too (btw, if you get game over there too, you have to do the missile section all over again). Also bear in mind that if you have upgraded weapons, you will lose them when you die (if you are armed with them of course) and you can switch between 2 weapons too.
This list can go on, but there are definitely alot of ways Bill and hsi comrads can die and you only get so many lives and contiues before it is game over. Obviously, this game might be "easy" for some while nearly impossible for others (much like how it is in other titles in the series). On the positive note, there are some ways to simplify the game a bit. There are sections in the where if you shoot enough enemies, you can earn extra lives and there are plenty of infinite enemy spawn points where if you have the patience, you can arm yourself with a good weapon (like the machine gun, upgraded laser, spread shot, and / or heat seeking missiles) and shoot the endless waves of enemies and gain extra lives over time. My favorite area for this is towards the beginning of the city level where there is a section where hoards of blue and red enemy robots charge at you or shoot at you (usually in 3s) and there are places where you can simply cling to the wire above or stand on top of a building (make sure that turrets and similar enemies are out of the way before attempting this by the way) and just stand there or hang there and shoot down at enemies as they come by. You can gain almost as many lives as you want that way (though it does take time for your lives to accumulate, so patience is a must here) and there are other places for this too, such as the infinite alien spawn points in the laboratory level, mutant mosquito section in the latter half of the city level (where endless mutant bugs swoop down and try to grab you and take you to your doom if you let them (a good spread shot or heat seeking missiles could probably make quick work out of them). Alternatively, there are at least 3 cheat codes you can exploit too (I will post them in the spoilers section) if you are struggling (my favorite is the 99 lives cheat which I will talk about .later). Besides the difficulty you will likely get a sense of deja vu in many levels of the game though they do have their own unique twists and additions and is not nearly as rediculous than how it was in Sonic 4 (at least episode 1) where many of the levels and bosses are almost identical to the ones from Sonics 1 and 2 repectively. Another thing worth mentioning too is while the game does save your progress (where if you beat a level but need to take a break for whatever reason), it is limited. Here is how it works in my experience: so say that you are playing through the game and get to say level 3 (the base level) and you need to stop for the day (such as going to work, doctor's appointment, interruptions, etc) the game will save your progess and you can resume later. There are 2 drawbacks though. 1. Each time you resume your game, you will automatically lose a continue (which can make things harder for you). 2. If you run out of continues you will have to start over from the beginning of the game (and the save file goes away too) which will likely make the game frustrating for some, especially if they were really far in the game like on level 8 or 9 and they have to start over from the beginning..
Overall, this game is awesome in my opinion and definitely doesn't dissapoint and will likely be a hit with contra fans. Like many of the games in the series, it might not be for everyone (especially given the difficulty), but for those who are patient and good at games like Contra, it is definitely a good game to have all around.
Due to time restraints, I will have to add secrets and extra content on a different post. I have to admit, free time has been a bit limited for me lately especially in part to the situation with my mother (she broke her ankle back in December) and I've been having to help take care of her needs, and naturally that does mean less free time fro me. Also I do have 3 part time jobs too (along with several other blogs and websites I do as well). Will try to add new posts as time allows.