Retro Review – Contra 4 (DS)

I haven’t played that many Contra games. Prior to Contra 4 the only Contra game I’ve had any real previous experience with is Operation C for the Game Boy and a little Contra III too on the SNES. Contra 4 feels right at home with those games. As the name of the game indicates this is a direct sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars. So expect to fight against never ending hordes of various military types, monsters, and aliens. And it is all great. But for those new to the series Contra 4 is a primarily 2D action shooter where you must run, jump, climb, and sometimes ride a vehicle shooting everything that moves until you reach the end of the level and must take on a boss.


In a first for the series this game is played on both the top and bottom screens at the same time thanks to the DS hardware. This can be a little tricky at times because it does causes a blank space in the game where the screens are separated. It was easy to lose bullets in this ‘blank space’ and caused some unnecessary deaths. With that being said, however, this game looks great on the DS, just like the classic entries in the Contra series. So no one has a face! The sprites are big enough and detailed so you can see what is going on without losing where you are in the game. And being developed by WayForward Technologies and knowing their history with great looking games that is not a surprise. Bosses can easily fill a screen. In addition to the horizontal and vertical stages Contra 4 also features the classic 3D stages found previously in the original Contra. These levels also have that classic feel to them as well and are a blast to play. I don’t recall experiencing any slowdown on either the 2D or 3D levels due to the amount of things happening on the screen. That is always welcome in this type of game when you do have very precise platforming at times.

Contra 4 is classic 2D run and gun gameplay at its best. If you have previously played any of the older Contra games (Contra, Super C, Operation C, or Contra III) then you will have no problem with the controls for Contra 4. But unlike those games this Contra also adds a grappling hook ability to quickly reach railings at the very top of the screen, which comes in very handy. Also, the returning ability to have two gun options/bullet types was very well welcome too.

There are three difficulty settings for Contra 4: Easy, Normal, and Hard. Those new to the Contra series, or those looking for an easier challenge, can choose the Easy setting. This provides all weapon options maxed out and will all you to see most of the game. The last few levels are withheld from this setting but they can be found in both Normal and Hard. There is also different endings too for the harder settings. This game does get hard fast on the higher settings. Just like the games before it if you run out of lives and you want to continue you have to start over at the beginning of the level, no matter how far you made it before. Run out of continues? Have fun starting over at the very first level.

The game has some unlockables too. Various items can be unlocked by completing the Challenge Mode including ports of both the original Contra and Super C! What’s better than getting 1 game? Getting 3 games instead.

Contra 4 cartridge

Final thoughts:

At the time of its original release this was only the second portable Contra game in the series. Contra 4 does an amazing job at being both new and nostalgic at the same time. It is able to hit all the things that make a Contra game fun to play while also adding something to the series. And for player looking for a challenge Contra 4 delivers. This game is definitely recommended for anyone that wants to see what a newer Contra game feels like while still paying tribute to the games before it.

Originally released on: Nintendo DS

Reviewed on: Nintendo 3DS

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Matt Cudney is a gamer Dad who likes to write about video games and draw things from time to time. He can be found online here:

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