To our delight an unannounced title we were scheduled for hands-on time with turned out to be the first new Contra game in a long time. Entitled Contra: Rogue Corps, this new addition to the classic Konami side-scrolling franchise places a tongue firmly in its own cheek as it takes the endless shoot-em-up of the beloved originals puts the dial in that famous position of 11. Unlike the famous original was a simple and to the point repelling of a hostile alien invasion, this one imagines a world after the Alien Wars set entirely in an environment known as Damned City. Once a bustling metropolis Damned City is now overrun with aliens and bizarre forms of alien mutations. Even the human denizens of the city find themselves swiftly going insane with seemingly incurable insanity. The few that haven’t been afflicted by the strange virus become mercenary warriors living on the fringe regions of society.
While not featuring the original Contra‘s Lance and Bill Rogue Corps features four main characters that players will be able to choose from. Ms. Harakiri literally has to keep a sword stuffed in her stomach to keep an alien from fully taking over her body. Kaiser was a former soldier brought back from massive injuries and now featuring a giant drill for an arm. Gentleman is a Brain Bug alien raised by humans that behaves with foppish British etiquette. And lastly, Hungry Beast is a giant cyborg panda with a scientist’s brain inserted into it. The group work as a team, taking jobs to earn cash for better weapons and upgrades. It was the brawny Kaiser that we were able to use for this demo.
Different from the simple mechanics of the side-scrolling original, Contra: Rogue Corps uses a double stick control akin to the classic arcade game Smash T.V. One control stick operates what direction Kaiser moves, the other which direction he shoots in. Ammo is essentially unlimited, but each gun he’s outfitted with can easily be over-heated requiring cooldown time. The villains are varied and aplenty through the game, coming in all shapes, sizes and styles of attack. None boast significantly challenging AI, but that is really the point here right? One does not simply walk into Contra and expect oppressive realism. One walks into Contra to blast baddies by the bowlful. The game really takes off when you start getting more powerful weapons or temporary power-ups for your existing weapons. Then, you’re not simply shooting endless throngs, but watching hilarious bursts of violence. One good caused explosions so powerful that the enemies were flung towards the camera landing like a fly on a windshield in front of all the action. Kaiser’s melee attack allows for a finishing move at the right times, using his drill arm to literally blow the alien to bits.
It would not be a true Contra game unless it had couch co-op mode. That’s right, four players can play together and fight through Damned City like the glory days of Konami adventures like Contra and Jackal. In addition, the game will also feature online multiplayer for both story mode and for player vs. player action. And last but not least, there are built-in mechanics that were not truly available as a part of this demo where the game’s character can be cybernetically upgraded. Not just arms, but organs, eyes, brain and head. This along with weapons purchases are surely where some of the game’s most satisfying effects will come into play. But make no mistake, it’s the mindless, not taking itself too seriously fun of this title which will have fans happy to have the franchise back in action. Some things never really need much upgrading, and Contra: Rogue Corps is proof that the classic formula still makes for a super fun experience.