Update time：2021-07-21 21:20Tag: Contra： Rogue Corps
Back in 1992, my brother and I would scale the wall in our neighborhood as a shortcut to the Target store nearby. Our goal? To play “Contra III: The Alien Wars” on that stores’?Super NES demo console.
See, my brother and I were legit Contra fanboys. I can’t even tell you how many hours we’ve both plunked down on the original Contra on the NES and its follow-up Super C. Now, it took us some time to finish The Alien Wars without a cheat code for 30 lives. But finish it we did and it was one of the proudest moments of our gaming lives. To this day, my brother — who stopped playing video games after the PS2 came out — will still sit down for a quick gaming session if he sees Contra ready to go on the TV.
Needless to say, I was looking forward to asking my brother to join me once again after I found out that Contra Rogue Corps was coming out. It would be like the good, old days, I thought — a chance to indulge in some brotherly Contra couch co-op once again.
Unfortunately, my brother was traveling overseas so I ended up deciding to play the game by myself to check it out. Turns out my brother was likely fortunate to not be here. As a diehard Contra fan, I have mixed feelings about Rogue Corps. Now I’m seriously debating whether to even bring it up with my brother after he comes back. One reason is because the game doesn’t even let you play the campaign in couch co-op, which very much goes against the spirit of Contra. The other reason? The game just isn’t as good as the Contra games we knew and loved. Basically, I just don’t want to plant a negative memory in my brother’s head about a series that he loves so much.
It’s a decision that makes me feel a bit torn inside. There were actually times while playing Contra: Rogue Corps when a wave of nostalgia would just rush through my head — like the first time I did a rolling jump or every time I heard a familiar sound cue from the game. It just made a lot of these wonderful memories pop up in my head. Those wonderful moments in Rogue Corps, however, are more akin to exceptions instead of the rule.
While the game has parts that show potential, they’re mostly buried by a string of bad choices that end up crippling the overall experience. For some folks, it starts with the game’s dated visuals. Now I’ll be the first one to say that graphics aren’t the main thing I look at in a game, no pun intended. While the game’s visual style has a bit of an asset swap vibe, I actually dig some of the character and enemy designs of Rogue Corps, including the towering Terminator robot skeleton boss that harkens back to the Alien Wars. Personally, Rogue Corps’ look is not a deal-breaker for me. Can it look better? Most definitely, yes. That being said, I’m one of those folks who subscribe?to the belief that gameplay trumps graphics. It would be ideal to have both but I can live with dated visuals if the gameplay is on point.
Unfortunately, gameplay is where Rogue Corps commits most of its cardinal sins. It starts with an overheating weapon mechanic that sucks the life out of the shooting just when things start to get good. You can be getting on a roll and kicking enemy butt when all of a sudden, you either have to stop shooting or swap weapons because your gun just got way too hot to operate. Contra has always been a series that boasted high difficulty. Usually, it’s due to the plethora of foes and screen-filling stream of bullets it likes to throw at you. One thing you never had to deal with, however, was your weapon ceasing to function. It’s just a big rhythm killer that trips you up just as you get up to running speed. It also gets annoying when you’re dealing with a lot of foes and enemy fire, all the while babysitting your firearm so it doesn’t overheat. Add timed missions and it just feels like I’m doing a lot of micromanaging instead of just shooting and blowing up stuff. It just feels so, well, not Contra when that happens.
Then there’s Rogue Corps’ laggy controls. I don’t know what it is but it just feels like everything I do is a split-second off. That includes jumping and other actions, which can be distracting when things get hot and hectic. The camera can also be a pain to deal with due to your inability to make it do what you want it to do. This means enemies can be hard to keep track of, which becomes annoying as you desperately try to move your character around to uncover them. A lot of times, it feels like I’m fighting with the camera as well as the foes that are trying to kill me.
The game also recycles a lot of enemies, which, to be fair, the older classic Contra games did, too — though it was typically limited to the grunts. In this day and age, there’s less of an excuse to recycle bosses, which Rogue Corps does quite a bit. The result is that the game starts to feel repetitive after a while as you find yourself fighting the same enemies while going through the same kind of locales. There’s good repetition and there’s bad repetition and in the case of Rogue Corps, it can be guilty of suffering from the latter.
Then there’s the fact that campaign co-op is only available online. Couch co-op is basically limited to special missions, which just boggles my mind. I mean, this is Contra. I want to be able to play the campaign with someone right next to me. Even if you let that slide, playing with others is still tough because the community is pretty much non-existent online. Co-op play is one of the things that makes Contra games shine and you’re pretty much handicapped from doing that due to one reason or another.
It’s sad, too, as the game does have some bright spots. Weapon development and upgrading have?potential, for example, and I like the new dodge mechanic, too. I also liked the diversity in character options, even if their actual differences really aren’t that pronounced in the grand scheme of things. I could even grudgingly accept the addition of loot mechanics in a Contra game, which can be fun when done right.
It’s just that the iffy core gameplay, combined with a bunch of other issues, just takes out some of the joy out of the gameplay. This is especially true for series fans such as myself who remember the older games and are in tune with what made them good.
The even sadder part is that I really wanted this game to do well. For one, I feel bad for the folks who worked on it, because I’m sure they didn’t start out wanting to make a bad game. I mean, I’ve written articles that certainly could’ve been a lot better but even those took actual, honest work. I can only imagine how the staffers feel after putting all that effort into the game and seeing the negative responses it’s garnering now.?
Then there’s the fate of the franchise itself. It’s rare enough for Konami to actually release games these days, much less a Contra game. The bad scores and poor performance of this game probably means the series is going to be dead, at least for some time. That’s bad news for hardcore fans of the franchise such as my brother and I. I’ve already decided just keep quiet and not even mention this game to my brother. Right now, my brother doesn’t even know Rogue Corps exists. That’s probably a good thing. In the meantime, I just might boot up Hard Corps: Uprising wh
Contra is one of my favorite video game series of all time. Which makes giving Contra: Rogue Corps a low score extra painful for me. I really wanted this game to do well. But while it has some good ideas, they’re pretty much buried in an avalanche of poor gameplay decisions. From overheating guns to poor camera angles, playing Rogue Corps feels like you’re fighting the game a lot of times instead of the aliens inside it. I just hope it doesn’t spell the death knell for a franchise I love so much.
Rating: 4 out of 10Cost: $39.99; PC, PS4, XB1https://www.konami.com/games/eu/en/products/contra_rc/
Jason Hidalgo covers business?and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews video games as part of his Technobubble?features. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Like this contentSupport local journalism with an?RGJ digital subscription.