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Set after Contra: The Alien Wars, Contra: Rogue Corps sees you taking on the role of one four Jagers to face off against the Fiends that have emerged in the aftermath of The Alien Wars. Named for their ability to withstand the debilitating effects of the newly formed ruins the Fiends inhabit, they are the only ones capable of ending the world’s newest threat.
Contra: Rogue Corps takes an angled bird’s eye view at varying distances, based on the type of level you’re playing and it has a twin stick shooter style. You use the left stick to move your character with either L1 or the X button being used to execute the classic Contra spinning jump, while the right stick can be used to rotate your character and aim your weapon, though doing so will slow them down quite a bit. R2 is what you’ll be using to fire your currently equipped weapon but you’ll have to manage the way you fire it or your weapon will overheat, causing you to have to wait until it cools down. While you’re waiting you can press Square to switch to your other weapon but that one will also overheat and depending on the weapon it may do so faster than your primary weapon, if you’re left without weapon fire you can press L2 to perform a damaging dash move that serves as a way to stun enemies as well as get yourself out of a tight spot and occasionally some enemies you dash into will become stunned which allows you to pick them up and throw them at others or into an environmental hazard to kill them.
As well as using Circle to pick up enemies, you can also use it to trigger a finisher on certain other enemies that will drop a lot of pick ups when you defeat them and as an added bonus you’re invincible while performing the finisher. Much like enemies, you can also pick up certain environmental items such as boxes and barrels to throw at your opponents but if you’re hit while doing so you’ll drop it and it’ll usually be destroyed, I found it was quite difficult to use this effectively in combat because of the sheer number of enemies and the fact that your character is quite slow when it comes to using them. As well as the abilities they have so far, you also have access to bombs and while they always have the same effect, the different characters use them differently, they’re not as effective as their retro counterparts though with only being able to clear out the smaller enemies in your immediate area. Each character also has a special move they can use that’s activated by pressing R1 and it lasts for a short time before needing to be recharged, while they all play the same way, their specials aren’t the same so it really depends on whose special you like the most when it comes to choosing who you play as.
The levels are fairly short, simply requiring you to get from A to B in an allotted amount of time while pushing through the hordes of enemies in your way, you’re graded at the end of each mission based on your performance with how quickly you got to the end, how many enemies you killed and how many of the 15 vials you were able to collect. The time and enemy killing rankings are fairly straight forward but you’ll have to rush if you want to get all of the vials as they’ll explode a short time after appearing if you take too long. Contra: Rogue Corps is one of those games that gets easier the more you play and that’s largely to do with the many customisation options and the fact that your weapons will level up the more you use them. In a strange turn you can acquire new body parts that will boost your character’s abilities and you can have different ones applied to different characters and give them each different weapons if you want to use them as loadouts but the confusing thing is that you can even swap out your character’s brain for a better one, it’s probably best not to think too much about how that works. Whichever surgeon you use can affect the body parts you apply but the good ones cost a pretty penny so you’ll be saving up your in game coins for a while if you want to wait to use that one, you can also upgrade your weapons with new abilities to make them more effective but it’s best if you use the materials you gather up to make new ones as they’ll be more powerful by default.
As you get further into the game you’ll find that the levels begin to get repeated, meaning you’ll be traipsing through already completed levels with stronger enemies, it wouldn’t be as bad if they were played in reverse or in different sections that intersected with places you’d already visited but they play out the exact same way with most of the dialogue being the same as well. Most of the enemies are repeats as well in different colours so if you’ve already figured out a good way to beat them, then you won’t have much trouble, especially considering you’ll have amassed a good amount of stuff by the time you reach these levels that you’ll have powered up enough that it’s no more difficult to play through again. Some levels feature a shooting gallery mode where the camera will shift behind your character and you’ll move left and right while controlling your aiming reticle but these are often over as quickly as they started and they’re few and far between.
There’s a massive online focus to Contra: Rogue Corps but I can’t really talk too much about it since the entire time I played the game I never got to play with another person, I had thought that maybe it was the way the lobbies are designed, since each level has its own lobby and you have to be on the same level as another person to be able to play with them rather than a system where you could search for anyone at any point in the game. Even with the PvP portion of the game I couldn’t get a match, I would be entered into lobbies where I’d be the only one in them and I’d give them a good deal of time before I’d get tired of waiting and go back to playing the campaign. Eventually I asked my colleague, Dominic, to share play with me so we could try out the multiplayer via the couch co-op option but you’re restricted to playing the exploration missions and they have to have the same character as set up you do. The exploration mode isn’t a bad one to play since you have to keep moving through hordes of unrelenting enemies in a fight to the end but when that’s all the game will let you play together, it’s more than a little disappointing.
To be completely honest, Contra: Rogue Corps isn’t that bad of a game, it might be a little repetitive but it does offer quite a lot of replayability and it can actually be pretty entertaining to play, probably more so if you have some friends to play it with but on the other hand this definitely isn’t what I’d call a Contra game, it has more in common with something like Dead Nation than it does Contra. It seems to have very little in common with its predecessors aside from the odd thing here and there and what it really feels like is some unrelated game that Konami slapped the Contra name on to help shift units but it really should have been its own thing. Personally I think if they wanted to have a crack at updating the series, they could have gone in a Metroidvania route which would have allowed them to keep the 2D essence of the series while also giving it a new flavour.
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