One of the biggest surprises from the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct was the announcement of a new Contra title. The classic series had always been a staple of hard-as-hell NES games, although now it is more known for popularizing the famous Konami Code. But Contra: Rogue Corps resembles the original games in nothing but name only. The focus has shifted from single-player side-scrolling action to an overhead team based twin-stick shooter. And after Metal Gear: Survive, it feels like Konami is looking to throw another one of its classic franchises under the bus.
Contra: Rogue Corps takes place after the Alien Wars from Contra III. You play as a member of the Rogue Corps who is sent out to investigate reports of alien activity. There are four characters you can choose from. A generic dude, a generic girl, an alien bug creature that calls himself The Gentleman, and a big Panda. You know, the classic Contra characters. During the presentation, I was told that the generic girl was a badass, because she has an alien in her stomach that she must stab occasionally in order to prevent it from taking over. Yikes.
The game takes the form of a twin-stick shooter and consists of moving down different areas in a 4-player co-op mode that can be played both online or offline. Each character has their own specific type of weapon. The Gentleman, for example, has a giant laser that he can fire as well a flamethrower to burn down enemies. Weapons don’t consume ammo, but can overheat if used too much, meaning you must regularly swap between weapons. In addition to power-ups spread throughout the levels, there are also specific one-time use weapons like gigantic bazookas, whirling helicopter blades, and bombs.
Visually, the game looks unappealing. The colors are muted and blend together with the dull background and uninspired character design. I could not tell you what the enemies look like since they all fall on the same zombie/alien/cyborg spectrum. Even the bosses feel like big bullet sponges, with very few original elements to them. Combined with the stiff and static animation, I had to keep reminding myself that I was playing a current gen game instead of a GameCube title. In the heat of battle there was also noticeable slowdown, which makes me fear for how this game is going to perform on the Nintendo Switch.
While I only got to play this specific co-op mode, there is also a single player mode, which sees you playing through those same levels. What might be more interesting is the local couch 4-player co-op mode, which has specific hand-crafted levels for four players that are designed without the third person camera. Even though we got to see very little of this mode, it looks more like traditional Contra co-op levels. Konami also wants to push a specific mode called Carnage League, which they have described as ‘Pinball arcade crazy action’. Here you play a twisted game of soccer where you shoot an alien ball into a grinder (though you can also shove your opponents into the grinder, if you’d like). The developers are really set on making this mode something of an eSport, since this mode will also include many cosmetic items and will be supported by a season pass and DLC.
Contra: Rogue Corps does not feel like the glorious return to the hard-as-hell games that it is known for. Instead, it feels like a cheap branding move by Konami where they have slapped the Contra name on a new team based overhead shooter. Branding aside, Rogue Corps does not seem to have a lot going for it. The unappealing visuals, the repetitive gameplay, and a slew of modes that all seem to blend together has made me quite worried that another classic Konami name will soon be put to rest. Better pick up a copy of Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS while you still can.
The article is written by Willem Hilhorst. Follow him on Twitter right HERE!