It's been over 8 years since Hard Corps: Uprising released but Contra is back and crazier than ever. Is that necessarily a good thing?
I can tell already that Contra: Rogue Corps is going to be a super-divisive game. For starters, Konami is a very contentious company on its own. Plus, they're messing with a classic franchise that gamers love. Of course, there have been a few Contra games that haven't followed the classic formula already such as Contra: Legacy of War and Neo Contra but this is 2019; gamers love retro gaming so why not make the new Contra a 2D run 'n' gun game? Instead, it's basically a twin-stick shooter with some segments where you shoot into the screen and drag an aiming reticle across the screen. Disappointing, right? Well, not really. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Contra: Rogue Corps although it's definitely a bit rough around the edges so allow me to explain why I actually had fun with it.
Right off the bat, Contra: Rogue Corps hits you with an insane animated opening which introduces you to the off-the-wall world and its cast of characters including the hulking man Kaiser, a woman with a mutant in her abdomen named Ms. Harakiri, a panda known as Hungry Beast, a dapper insect-thing called Gentleman, and the narrator, Aero Captain (AKA Lily). Believe it or not, the in-game action is as crazy as the premise as you witness enemies splattering on the camera after they explode as well as your character of choice performing some truly awesome moves such as riding a bomb to blow up everything onscreen, tearing up tough foes with devastating finishing moves, and throwing enemies into stage hazards such as giant saws. It's so nuts that I regularly laughed as I played and watched the carnage.
The core gameplay of Contra: Rogue Corps is similar to your average twin-stick shooter which feels a bit weird at first because you'd expect it to be some sort of indie title with gameplay like that. However, once the challenge sinks in, you'll realise just how tight and satisfying it can be. You basically have a main and sub weapon that you must regularly switch between because they overheat rather quickly and you can dash and jump to avoid enemy attacks which are clearly telegraphed so you can easily avoid damage if you stay on your toes. Speaking of which, the variety of scenarios that you'll find yourself in and enemies that you fight is outstanding, especially the intense boss fights which will make less patient gamers throw their controllers in a fit of rage.
On top of the fun shooting action, Contra: Rogue Corps features a lot of replay value. For starters, there are a ton of RPG elements which allow you to develop, purchase, and customize loads of different weapons as well as buy body parts on the black market and have a surgeon transplant them to your body which can make your characters much more capable. I enjoyed optimizing all of these aspects and even replaying missions to grind a little is fun from time to time. Additionally, you can play the campaign cooperatively via online multiplayer and lengthy multi-level exploration missions via couch co-op. There are even competitive online matches with a special currency that you earn by playing them. So, if you ever want a distraction from the main campaign, there's plenty to enjoy.
Although I make it sound like a great game, Contra: Rogue Corps definitely has its fair share of downsides. First of all, why is local multiplayer limited to a specific co-op mission type? I was looking forward to playing through the campaign with my wife but I can't and that was one tough pill to swallow. Next, I found the controls to be finicky at inopportune moments such as when my character wouldn't switch weapons or use certain abilities after I commanded them to thus resulting in me biting the dust. Finally, I found many weapons to be a complete waste, especially against specific bosses but thankfully, you can test them out in the home base area before heading out to a mission so it's a good idea to choose ones that are as generic and well-rounded as possible so you don't get stuck.
Of course, not everyone will enjoy Contra: Rogue Corps but I certainly did. Between its crazy presentation and challenging gameplay, it's definitely a tough game to put down. If you're looking for a more classic Contra formula then play Blazing Chrome instead.
- + Tight and challenging twin-stick shooting with clever scenarios and enemies
- + Off-the-wall presentation is hilarious
- + Loads of customization and replay value
- - Local co-op is needlessly limited
- - Controls can be finicky at times
- - Many weapons are basically a waste