Contra is back, but where you land on its return may vary. It's not a straight translation of the old side-scrolling Contra that classic fans may know and love; if you want that, the Contra Anniversary Collection is out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch right now. Instead, Contra: Rogue Corps envisions the series as a semi-top down twin stick shooter.
There's definitely some Contra flavor, with jumps rolling the human body into an odd ball and corridors that you run down before shooting a glowing orb, but there's so much more to experience now. You'll run-and-gun through seven mission zones, which have a bit more to explore than the linear levels of older Contras. There is a new dodge mechanic, and execution moves that use various elements in mission zones.
There's also online multiplayer, which is part of the reason that Contra: Rogue Corps has adopted a new style of play. "Contra is a game where over-the-top fights are really a part of the experience. But these days when you play multiplayer you have to play with your friends, and if we went with the scrolling, it would be kind of a mess onscreen. So we decided that having a twin-stick shooter would be the right fit," says veteran Contra series producer Nobuya Nakazato.
Contra: Rogue Corps also has a new over-the-top sense of humor, with outlandish characters and situations. The eponymous Rogue Corps are a band of misfits who kill as many people as they save. Kaiser is a cigar-chomping soldier with a drill for an arm, who first appears in the game riding a missile into battle. There's a cyborg panda, and a twisted mutant named Gentleman. It reminds me a lot of Grasshopper Manufacture's weirder games. Contra: Rogue Corps is a very odd game, which is why it makes sense that Konami was giving away hip flasks as promotional items.
"So when it comes to Contra, you need to bring back some of the fans beloved actions, but we also wanted to surprise them with new things. Ultimately, we need to make the game fun," says Nakazato when I ask about new the tone. "Some of the well-known elements return in this game, but their perspective and the way they're introduced is kind of fresh and new. It's a surprise for players to see a different point of view."
If you're a big fan of the new cast, you'll also be very excited about the ability to customize them. Konami was emphatic that there are no microtransactions, but there's a whole of host gear and items to make your characters firmly yours. This includes a whole of new weapons, like the Spread Gun for the older Contras.
I'm not entirely onboard myself, but that's partially down to the tone. I was a big fan of more serious and focused Uprising: Hard Corps from Arc System Works, which Nakazato did confirm as part of the official Contra timeline. Contra: Rogue Corps is coming to PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on September 26.