Gaming Today Impressions of Contra 4

contra_4_boxart.jpgContra 4
WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Konami
Price: $39.99
Platform: Nintendo DS
Category: Arcade/Action
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood & Gore, Fantasy Violence, Language)
Release Date: November 2007

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” and “That which kills me makes me stronger” are two motivational chants that ran through my head over and over again when I fired up the latest game in the long running arcade series on my Nintendo DS.

I was one of the generation that grew up loving the Contra games on the NES. I was never good enough to get through the games without using the multiple life cheats and like most of the fans of the title that cheat didn’t bother me so much. I enjoyed the mindless run and gun, I fought my way to the next scattergun drop all in the name of obliterating the alien menace and trying to see just how few of those 30 extra lives I could complete the game with. Needless to say even at the peak of my Contra skill I never managed to do it with more than 20 lives intact.

Advance 20 years and we now have a new Contra title. Sure there have been a plethora of games called Contra released over the last few years – all of them with mind numbing difficulty intact – but none of them ever managed to recapture that initial joy of defeat I felt the first time Bill and Lance were killed 5 seconds into the first level of Contra by an alien soldier who managed to avoid a bullet and run right through me. Contra 4 is that nostalgic pain returning to torment my masochistic side yet again.

contra4_ds_1.jpgI’ve spent the last two days on and off trying to regain my Contra skills while playing the newest title and thanks to a very similar level design in the first board to the original NES version, I’ve managed to complete it on normal difficulty once using the provided lives and continues.. once! Normally I would throw my hands up in frustration but there is something about the Contra series that makes me try and try and try until my fingers bleed without the usual anger I associate with games this difficult.

So facing the endless onslaught of enemies I retreated to the familiar, trying to replicate the Up,Up,Down,Down,Left,Right,Left,Right,B,A,Start Konami Code combination burned into my memory from hours of my youth only to discover that it didn’t grant me an amazing number of lives with which to complete the game. Instead I got a weapons upgrade and when I tried again, it summarily killed my character with no benefit. What a cruel joke! Still I persisted. This was Contra after all, I needed to suck it up and sally forth to victory! Pain.. weakness… this game respected persistence and endurance and I was determined to prove myself in combat against Black Viper and his forces or die in the attempt.. over and over and over.

contra4.jpgFinally, I managed to complete two levels, two bosses down. I was making progress and I felt a strange sense of accomplishment. Then my skills failed me again and I was left starting over, unable to replicate exactly the fortuitous combination of events that yielded my progress toward the game’s end conflict.

I cursed my failure and gave in. Contra 4 was my master, I would forever be its thrall struggling to attain the seemingly insurmountable goal of completion… and I want company, I want others to feel the joy of true accomplishment, a feeling few games have ever pushed me to feel. I earn every small step along the path to completion with this game and I cherish the moments, however fleeting of victory.
Contra 4 is the 20th anniversary Contra game and the developers have packed a number of goodies – including the Original NES Contra as an unlockable as well as other goodies for those man enough to master its difficulty and fight their way to the eventual end conflict with Black Viper. I am not one of those men yet, but I soon aspire to be. I recommend Contra 4 as a “Buy it!” for the masochists in the audience though I suspect the game is a hard sell for those who take defeat harshly.

If you want to know more about Contra 4 you can find the official network review over at 1Up.

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