Not much has changed with WayForward and Konami's Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS, but attendees of E For All got a chance to spend time with what appeared to be the final build of the side-scrolling shoot 'em up sequel. Yes, it's still pure run and gun action, bringing hardcore, old-school Contra gaming to the DS, but now it's more complete. Having bested the first level, after burning through many a credit, at E3 this year, I found working my way through the jungle themed opening level just a hair easier. That means it wasn't blindingly difficult but just challenging to make a grown man cry. The second level? It felt near impossible.
After finally dusting off the end-of-level structure in the first stage, one that looks like a carbon copy of the first "boss" in the NES Contra, but with a dual-screen twist, I was taken to the Laboratory. The second stage requires heaping amounts of grappling hook usage, so you had better become familiar with your Y-button if you plan on making it through.
The Laboratory was made extremely difficult by the dozens of creeping aliens that you'll seeing crawling down from the top screen—they're quite speedy and you'll never be 100% sure where they'll reappear on the bottom screen—plus the shuffling zombies that stumble about on the lower screen. The walking dead take a few shots to destroy and, if they come close enough, they'll explode from the annoyance of being undead, launching an 8-way attack of diseased goo. Open holes in the roof and floor add an extra layer of platforming difficulty.
After finally leaving the lab, more classic Contra levels return. The waterfall area from the original, complete with mounted cannons, a constant stream of falling boulders and carefully positioned robo-infantry make upward progress a chore. Still, we're having fun, right? Right. Just not when face with an invincible soldier holed up inside a waterfall, one whose collision detection was frustratingly buggy.
It didn't take long for the waterfall level to take my last Lance Bean and my final credit. It left me wanting more Contra 4, more play time, more punishment. It's the hardcore answer to the question "Where are the DS games for non-casuals?"
The E For All build of Contra 4 also contained the Contra museum, an historical look back on all the Contra (and Probotector and Gryzor) games. Each game in the long running series is represented with screenshots, artwork, box art and synopses, making for a fantastic bonus gallery.
It may be a bear of a game, and you may shatter your DS in frustration, but just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's not worth doing.