E3 2019 Hands-on – Contra: Rogue Corps

I feel like I was the only one at E3 2019 who actually enjoyed Contra: Rogue Corps, the brand new iteration on Konami’s otherwise dormant franchise. Instead of focusing on being a new side-scrolling shooter, something that can actually be enjoyed right now by playing the Contra Anniversary Collection, Rogue Corps is a top-down twin-stick shooter with cartoonish visuals and dumb humor.

The overall aesthetics pleased me. Sure, Contra had previously never been that stupid and self-aware, but I doubt anyone had ever taken the series’ lore seriously before Rogue Corps‘ reveal. Rogue Corps features ridiculous characters, including a bug alien and a sentient panda. Everything is completely over-the-top, with comic book-styled cutscenes, crude humor, surprisingly decent voice acting, and even Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

Rogue Corps

A panda with a Vulcan Raven machine gun. You can’t make this stuff up.

Gameplay-wise, I’m not going to say that Rogue Corps wowed me, but it didn’t enrage me either. Despite the new gameplay, dimension, and camera angle, I actually felt a bit nostalgic while playing the E3 demo. It reminded me a lot of Contra III‘s Mode 7 top-down levels, just with an extra touch of self-aware stupidity. The controls are your basic twin-stick shooter fare, with the addition of a simple dash maneuver, a generous health bar (no more one-hit deaths!), a vast array of upgradeable weapons, secondary explosives weapons, and character-specific screen-clearing special attacks.

It doesn’t sound like something that’s very unique in any sense of the word, but it got the job done during the demo. It was fun to blast tons classic Contra enemies away with the most ridiculous of weapons, and I can only assume that things get even more chaotic when playing with friends, as the game will support up to four players locally, as well as future PvP and PvE modes.

Rogue Corps

There’s still a lot of bullets and dead aliens involved.

Was Rogue Corps sort of unimaginative gameplay-wise? Yes, but thanks to its ridiculous premise and humor, I still feel that’s the right way to go for a franchise that used to take itself way too seriously, to no avail, back in the day. I had a fairly good time playing it at E3 2019 and that makes me look forward to the final release in September. I mean, it has a machine gun-wielding panda. If that’s not enough to put a smile on your face, then I have no idea what will.