What can I say about Contra that hasn’t been said to death before? It’s one of gaming seminal franchises, one that helped cement videogaming as a hobby thanks to some incredible games over the years. I for one played the original NES game for years, and even though I always sucked at it, I knew its historical value was gigantic, even if personally, I’ve come to prefer playing other types of shooters.
Thing is, it’s been years since Contra’s been dormant. Konami’s situation has changed quite a bit since Contra 4 graced the DS back in 2007, and it was unlikely that any of their franchises would see any sort of comeback, let alone Contra. But 2019 has seen a resurgence of sorts, thanks to the re-release of their back catalog via some collections like the Arcade Anniversary Collection, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, and *bam* the Contra Anniversary Collection (review pending!), each on their own bringing classic games into modern systems. But what about some new games? Would E3 2019 be another year of solely seeing the newest entry of Pro Evolution Soccer and more HD remasters of older games?
No, if Konami has anything to say. We got a big surprise at the show. Contra is back. Are you pumped? Well, I’d like to pop in at this moment and ask you to pump your brakes. Contra: Rogue Corps might not be exactly what die-hard fans of the original games might be looking for in a new release, even if it has ‘Contra’ in its title. The bizarre has been no stranger to the franchise, after all Contra: Hard Corps blurred that line long ago featuring a weird robot and a werewolf as protagonists, so seeing a panda with a human’s brain and an impish witch doctor (I think?) join the cast shouldn’t come as a big shock.
The thing that really made me hesitant about this new entry in Contra was its gameplay. For me, Contra’s all about being a tight, fast, extremely chaotic bullet-riddled 2D side-scrolling action game, which to all accounts, most of the old games pulled off masterfully. When some of them tried to make the jump to 3D, things got slow and clunky, and not a whole lot of fun. Rogue Corps attempts to do attempt to do better, and as a result, it feels sluggish and not a lot like Contra. Even though series’ creator Shigeharu Umezaki is credited as the mind behind this new game, the demo didn’t give a whole lot to go for in having me hopeful for a Contra experience.
That’s not to say that Contra: Rogue Corps may in fact turn out to be a pretty good game, but for what I played at E3, it just didn’t feel like Contra. The opening level in the demo had us tear through an enemy attack, with me 3D platforming our way, triggering explosive barrels and shooting my way to the goal, all the while having to deal with the slow feel of the controls and just how weird the game looks. Once that was through, I got dropped into a base of operations where I could change some of my equipment and interact with the colorful cast before launching my next strike.
I really dug the comic book look of the promotional material of Rogue Corps, but I’m not too hot on how it’s translated to actual in-game graphics. There’s been a number of games that played quite similarly to Contra over the years (like Contra: Hard Corps’ own prequel on Xbox Live Arcade, the excellent Hard Corps: Uprising) that have borrowed the same art style and made for some excellent visuals, but that’s not the case of Contra: Rogue Corps.
Still, I’m willing to give this game the benefit of doubt, even though I know that it’s pretty close to coming out, so close that I don’t really think it’ll radically change a whole lot. I hold hope that things develop better as I get further into the game and much deeper than I did during my play session at the show, even though the first impression didn’t make much of a positive impact on me.
Contra: Rogue Corps is dated for a September 24th release on all current gen consoles. We plan on having a review around that time, so if you’re curious like me about the final version, keep your sights over Entertainium.