Harking back to a time when Extra Lives, Continues, Powerups and End of Level Bosses were much more abundant that they are in the games of today, Konami's Contra games comprised a time-honoured series with a fiercely evangelical base of devout fans. And justifiably so, as the now 20-year-old franchise is an object lesson in how run-and-gun gameplay should be handled.
Three cheers then for Konami as it has just announced that a new game in the series, Contra 4, is coming exclusively to the DS.
The story sounds typical of previous outings, with the events of Contra 4 taking place two years after Contra 3: The Alien Wars (known to us gamers in the West as the SNES classic Super Probotector: Alien Rebels).
After rescuing earth from an invasion by Red Falcon, our war worn heroes Bill Rizer and Lance Bean are straight back to work against a fresh extraterrestrial threat, the Black Viper. Joined by muscle bound mercenaries Mad Dog and Scorpion, Rizer and Bean must once again stave off an entire army of invaders using the international language of blasting.
The game will remain true to its 2D side-scrolling shoot-'em-up roots, incorporating the familiar fire, run, and dodge gameplay of the originals. In terms of fresh additions, the game will make full use of the DS's twin screens, spreading the action across them both rather than needlessly sacrificing one to map or inventory duties. Konami claims this increased play area will enable for much more expansive levels, as well as some over-the-top end of level bosses.
Although clearly keen to stick closely to Contra's roots, Konami has also added a grappling hook, which can be used to reach loftier areas, so as to gain a height advantage on ground level foes during fire fights and also avoid ground level hazards.
More in keeping with another of the original's features is the two-person multiplayer option, which on the DS we are assuming will be achieved via wi-fi.
As much as the DS has proven itself as a place for innovation, it has also shown it can help to steer classic games back to their original path, most notably with New Super Mario Bros. From what we have heard so far, Contra 4 sounds like it may be in for the same treatment when it is released later this year.
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