Out of all the Konami games that could make a comeback in 2019, a Contra title definitely comes out of left field. Yet, in today's Nintendo Direct, Konami announced Contra: Rogue Corps, a twin-stick action shooter. Featuring five wacky characters, tons of guns, and an army of demons to slay, the game shows off what a modern take on a classic side-scrolling shooter could look like.
Contra: Rogue Corps takes place after Contra III: The Alien Wars. A demon-filled city called the Damned City has appeared, and any human caught in it tends to go insane. It's up to the Rogue Corps to blast their way in and save whoever they can, all the while kicking as much demon butt as possible.
The four characters set the tone well, and within a few minutes, you know you're in for an over-the-top, zany adventure. Kaiser takes the role of leader, as he was a prime Contra Force soldier during the Alien Wars. Ms. Harakiri is a highly trained assassin who also houses a belligerent alien in her gut. Gentleman, despite his ugly, bug-like appearance, fancies tea and table manners over vulgarity. Finally, Hungry Beast stands tall as a cybernetic panda with a human scientist's brain.
Clearly, Contra: Rogue Corps doesn't take itself too seriously, which serves the game well. This brevity translates well into the gameplay, which takes a competent swing at the twin-stick shooter genre. The camera moves on its own, switching from an isometric view to a side-scrolling perspective to anything in between. During my time with the tutorial and first mission, I never felt that the camera got in the way of the combat. I saw every attack coming. I blamed myself for every hit I took, not the camera.
The guns provide the game with an unexpected level of depth. Every character carries a main weapon and a subweapon. Kaiser, for example, carried an automatic weapon and a rocket launcher. Ms. Harakiri, on the other hand, brought a laser gun and a giant chainsaw to the battlefield. Each weapon runs on a cooldown system, actively encouraging players to frequently switch between the two weapons. Of course, they weren't bound to those guns. Between missions, you can change everyone's equipment in the Base Camp.
The Base Camp acts as a hub. You can change weaponry, customize weapons, augment characters, and switch between characters. In this area alone, the depth of the game runs deep. Players can customize every weapon at the garage with a variety of mods. In the demo, I saw some basic ones, like cooldown reduction or increased damage. Furthermore, every gun could be upgraded using material and currency.
Each character can augment their bodies. Parts of their body, such as the skeleton, organ, and eyes, could be swapped out for better pieces. These pieces can be bought in the Black Market, and they provide various passive bonuses. In these screens alone, the possible grind for better gear becomes quickly apparent. However, I didn't feel exhausting to look at; if anything, I wanted to jump back in and see more. To add a cherry to the top of this cake, Konami confirmed there wouldn't be microtransactions to muddle the grind.
But where Contra: Rogue Corps shines brightest is in the gameplay itself. Despite being a completely different view from classic Contra titles, a lot of it feels familiar. Characters move at a similar speed, and enemies still do enough damage to keep you on your toes. Every character has lives, and they all even jump while rolling in the air.
Beyond the nostalgia, everything feels cranked up to 11. Red barrels and explosive cars litter the stage. When an enemy gets caught in an explosion, they might fly right onto your screen. Players can dash through enemies, stunning some of them. You can use a finisher on certain stunned enemies, triggering a gloriously bloody cutscene. Using bombs brings up a similarly wacky cutscene. For example, Kaiser calls in a giant missile, and he leaps into the air to ride it straight to the ground.
Overall, Contra: Rogue Corps oozes fun. The crazy action makes you want to laugh and cheer at the sheer insanity. It feels like the developer had as much fun making the game as you will playing it. With co-op and PvP included, this could one of the better party and multiplayer games to come out this year. And even solo, it provides an engaging experience that left me wanting more.
TechRaptor previewed Contra: Rogue Corps at E3 2019 on a PlayStation 4 Pro. The game will also come out on PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on Sept. 24, 2019.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.