After numerous forgettable attempts to resurrect the Contra series, Konami finally clues in that there’s no need to fix what’s not broken. Contra 4 forgets the disasters such as Legacy of War and resumes immediately following SNES action epic Contra III. This is a homecoming for a franchise that, given its inconsistent quality, should be dead.
Bringing back the villain Black Viper from the Game Boy Operation C, players barrel through levels at an intense pace, blasting everything. This is hardcore Contra, on its highest difficulty, rivals the toughest challenges the series has thrown at players in the past. Everything in Contra 4 screams retro style, and it’s a compliment to say that even against the complexities of today’s gaming, this simplistic run ‘n gun action still holds up.
The weapons system allows each to be powered up two levels, resulting in massive damage dealing. It’s a familiar Contra concept. All attacks are borrowed from other games in the franchise, and most have no changes to them. Some are even meshed together from different entries, such as the flamethrower with resembles the original game in its first form, and Super C in its second.
Multicard play is the unfortunately the only way to access co-op mode. As is the norm, having a second gun firing is almost necessary given the nature of the levels. Likewise, when you eventually unlock the NES editions of Contra and Super C included in their entirety, this is how co-op is done.
A new gameplay mechanic is the grappling hook. Its execution is flawed, mostly due to the hardware. It’s purpose is obvious, to draw players up heights onto the second screen within a second. Simply put, Contra is any form was never meant to take place on two screens, especially one where dead space exists between them, hiding enemies and bullets. Contra 4 is already cheap as expected, but bullets here are impossible to dodge if you can’t see them, or if you are forced to grapple without knowing what’s there.