Contra 4 DS Preview - 06/09/2007

Contra fans have craved for years for a true sequel to the NES and SNES Contra games. Will this be the return to form for the series?

Contra 4 is set between Contra 3 and Contra: Hard Cops, and it features a new villain named The Black Viper. The game features a mixture of elements from both the American and Japanese releases of the original games, and so hopes to get rid of the divide between the two. The story seems to be the same old Contra, and no one could expect any less. Hopefully as development progresses there will be more story elements added in, but even if not, it won't affect the rest of the game. And that’s what Contra 4 is all about, good old fashioned shooting action.

For games that appear on the DS, it seems that the first challenge is to make the game fit onto two screens. Contra 4 allows the player to get between the two screens by using a grapple hook. This means that the blank space in the centre of the DS doesn’t get in the way of the action. The levels are more vertical because of the extra screen, but this just makes the game stand out from other Contra versions. Apart from this, the game is nearly identical to the old Contras, in lots of ways. The controls are very similar to Contra III, due to the DS having the same button configuration as the SNES. This will allow veteran players to pick up the controls immediately. The game also looks a lot like a combination of the first few games in the series. The characters models are reminiscent of III, while the colour palette and backgrounds look just like the original game. The game runs nice and smooth, with characters that suit the DS’s small screen. It looks good for a DS game, but it doesn’t try overly hard to look gorgeous, which reflects the priorities of the developers.

But given how commercial the DS is, and the audience that it appeals to, it seems weird putting this game solely on this system. Contra is a very hardcore franchise, and most of the DS players will find it way above what they can cope with. The game is still as rock solid as it always has been, so new players would be advised to play the Virtual Console version first.

At the moment the game looks just too hard for a large audience to enjoy it. But with excellent fluidity and solid controls, Contra 4 may live up to the hype yet.

- Sam Atkins



Way Forward Tech.