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Contra: Rogue Corps is the Ridiculous Action the Series is Known For – E3 2019 Preview

Contra should be a familiar name for anyone that’s been kicking around the video game industry for the last 30 years or so. It’s the game that spawned the original Konami Code, you know the one. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, and then tapping start to begin the game (because Start was never part of the original code, it was just the key to start the game after entering the code to gain 30 lives and I’ll fight anyone who thinks differently). That code was originally called the Contra Code and the first game came out back in 1987. Since, there have been enough Contra games to make a collection containing more than ten of the classic titles, but that’s not the only surprise Konami had for the series.

Contra: Rogue Corps is the next original game in the series, and the first one in a decade. This time around, Contra goes with an top-down isometric view, retaining that Contra chaos through arcadey twin-stick action that would make a Housemarque fan giddy. Contra: Rogue Corps doesn’t involve Housemarque at all, but as I played I couldn’t help think of the studio that once made a name for themselves on this kind of twin-stick shooter. It’s got that slick arcade feel that was once so beloved, and with a name like Contra attached to it, it’s sure to grab some attention.

Contra Rogue Corps e3 2019

Perspective sometimes shifts for gameplay interest, such as in this boss battle against a mecha-terminator wannabe.

There are plenty of callbacks to other Contra games too. Sometimes the perspective shifts to sidescrolling to provide that classic Contra feel. I’m kicking myself a little bit now for not experimenting with the Contra Code to see if it did anything in the demo, but I’m at least certain the final game will have some kind of nod to the classic code.

Contra Rogue Corps E3 2019 Preview – Contra in 2019

Modern Contra provides a ton of amenities that the series hasn’t had in the past, and Contra: Rogue Corps is expected to be packed to the brim with features. Four crazy characters from the series’ past set the stage for a massive campaign in Damned City, a place that drives people insane. It will also support local and online coop with up to four people. Each character plays a little differently, so there’s a lot of reason to build each one of them up or have multiple people all playing together.

I was immediately struck by how Contra: Rogue Corps manages to keep the action going constantly. The cooldowns on weapons are tuned in just such a way that there’s never any downtime. You might have to manage switching between weapons frequently, but you can always have some implement of death and destruction firing off towards the hordes of enemies that fill the streets. It’s a mechanic that imbues a sense of strategy and skill to the gameplay, but also keeps you feeling powerful throughout.

Contra Rogue Corps e3 2019

Gun-wielding pandas riding missiles? You betcha.

One aspect I wasn’t able to get a good sense of in the short demo timeframe was how upgrades will impact the feel of each character and the replayability. In an arcade shooter like this, the design should encourage players to keep coming back for more as they grow more powerful and gain new abilities. While the promise of this sounds good on paper, it’s something that can only truly be experienced within the full game once it launches.

I was also impressed by the hand-drawn comic book art that was present throughout the story cutscenes. There are hours and hours of this hand-drawn art to accompany the game’s bizarre, bloody, and crazy narrative. The little bit I got to see really caught my interest, and apparently all of the story cutscenes can be watched again from the menu, so none of that sweet art is going to waste.

Konami is promising a lot of content though, and Contra: Rogue Corps is releasing at a more friendly $39.99 price point, probably owing to the fact that it’s hard to sell an arcade shooter at a full $60. It’s a smart move that will likely garner a lot more attention for the game. Contra: Rogue Corps has a lot going for it, from the Contra name, to being a fun and engaging twin stick shooter, and finally that friendly price point for what is a ton of promised content. An arcadey game like this might be easy to pick up and play for a short time, but if my E3 demo proved anything, it’s that it will be hard to put it down.