For some people, Contra is all about memorizing patterns, honing skills to a razor's edge and clearing brutal levels without taking a scratch. For me, it's all about the multiplayer. For some people, it's probably about both of those things. But whatever your preference, it's hard to deny that Contra multiplayer is artful in its simplicity. It requires a significant amount of teamwork and coordination to really succeed, as anyone who's been the victim of an overeager friend can attest to.
Being a portable game, Contra 4 lacks the ability to have two people playing the game together on a single console. Though it does have local wireless play, there's no way to play with people further away. Contra 5 should include both of these things, with a few bonus features thrown in.
Local multiplayer would obviously be the mode's bread and butter -- there's something about the frenzied teamwork you just can't replicate at a distance. Still, for those poor souls whose friends live oh so far away, online play would be a great addition, as long as the game's netcode is up to snuff. Even a hint of lag could utterly ruin a match. A simple stat tracking feature would also make multiplayer even more fun and competitive -- picture an after-round tally of how many kills each player got, a score count based on the toughness of their slaughtered enemy legions, and penalties for deaths.
To take the online integration out of the realm of good and into the land of awesome, Konami could tap into the online speed/perfect run community by allowing users to upload videos of their best playthroughs to show off. No longer would you have to scour Youtube for that perfect run to study over and over -- just boot up the game and watch it from your comfy couch. And if you don't have a comfy couch...well, really, what's wrong with you?
It's rare for an IP handed off to a small developer like WayForward Technologies to produce such a fantastic game. Contra 4 is the ultimate homage to the retro entries in the series, but it's also one of the few tough-as-nails games to be released in this day and age that rivals the best on its platform. Though the audience for these games isn't large, it's certainly dedicated. WayForward proved they could play with the big boys with Contra 4 -- and since they're already working on something for the Wii, it's time for them to see how they handle Contra 5 in the big leagues (and maybe throw in a sequel to Shantae while they're at it).