2019 is shaping up to be the year of the run and gun shooter! Earlier we had the Contra Anniversary Collection from Konami that bundled a bunch of fantastic 2D goodness in one package. In September we’re getting a brand new sequel called Contra Rogue Corps, however it looked rough at E3 and nothing about that trailer tickled my nostalgia bone the way that the new game from JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew, Blazing Chrome, has. If you can’t get enough of over the top 2D action run and gunners, this game will definitely help fill the void.
Everything about Blazing Chrome screams ‘90s video game. From the pixelated title screen using scaling effects to the Terminator rip-off storyline (the robots have risen against humanity) to the graphics and gameplay. The developers have clearly studied what made games tick back in the Super NES and Genesis era and have done an amazing job creating a brand new experience that seems like it has time warped to the future. There are so many similarities to Contra III: The Alien Wars that you’d be forgiven if you thought that’s what was on the TV if you walked in on your friend playing this game. That being said, it contains plenty of great original content and it feels like this could have been an official Konami developed direct follow-up to that classic.
Upon starting the game you can select one or two players and then select your difficulty setting from easy to normal (hardcore opens up after you beat the game on normal). Easy mode give you 7 lives instead of 5 and support capsules that can help out in a fix, however you can’t compete in leaderboards, a feature that is promised at a future date. If it’s your first time playing the game you’ll have a choice between two characters: Mavra: a soldier with a big gun, or Doyle: a buff robot with a red Mohawk that has joined the human revolution. Two more characters are unlockable. From there we get a short tutorial that can be skipped that shows off a bunch of different moves. The game is loaded with the usual stuff to do, like running and gunning, but you can also duck, roll, and if you hold down the R shoulder button you can hold your ground and shoot in any direction. There are spots in the stages that you can hang on metal bars and there are special robot mechs that you can hop into that give you even more firepower.
Speaking of guns, you’ll have your basic automatic firing machine gun as well as three others that you can acquire by blowing up small crates. There’s a laser beam that lasts longer and is stronger if you hold in the fire button and then let go. There’s a purple energy gun that projects a series of eleven orbs in a line that you can then swing around 360 degrees like a whip to hit enemies coming at you from all directions. You can switch between them at any time with a button press, but if you die while holding that gun it goes away. There are also defensive (shields and speed boosts) and offensive bots (think Options from Gradius that add firepower) that you can find that will help you out by providing boosts like a shield or increased speed. It’s kind of funny that on one hand the characters are fighting against the machines, but then are completely OK with using other robot technology in battle. I’m not sure I’d feel too safe!
One big difference with Blazing Chrome is that from the start you can select from one of four stages. Each time you completely wipe out or beat a stage you’re taken back out to the stage select screen, which is really an awesome thing in a game like this where sometimes you just can’t quite get through a stage. This way you can take a break and move to a different one and try and tackle it. They each have a difficulty rank, but I found sometimes the higher ranked ones were easier for me than the easier ones and that may be the case for you as well, so if you get stuck, don’t be afraid to hop around to another level. You won’t have access to the fifth level until you’ve blazed through the rest.
Some modern day sensibilities are implemented in Blazing Chrome that I really appreciate. Perhaps the biggest is that the game automatically saves your level progress so if you have already completed a level and exit out of the game when you come back it will ask you if you want to continue. This is especially nice when playing in handheld mode, as I was, and I had some people come over and we wanted to play a different game. I immediately thought I’d have to start over, but when I booted the game back up I was able to pick up basically where I had left off. Other options, like the ability to turn off automatically swapping weapons when you pick a new one up and turning off rumble are great to have as well.
As I mentioned earlier, this game looks like it belongs on the Super Nintendo, with beautifully detailed and animated sprites. I love that some of the enemies zoom into the screen with that 16-bit scaling technology that was so prevalent back in the day. This game runs quite a bit faster and smoother than what was possible back then and there’s nary a sign of flicker or slowdown either. The color scheme seems a bit more muted than some of SNES games back in the day, and in that regard I often got Contra: Hard Corps vibes (Genesis). There are tons of parallax scrolling and other nifty graphical tricks to really seal the deal. The explosions are flashier, there’s more blood, and the action is smooth as butter. You’ve got gigantic bosses and memorable set pieces. In other words, I wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe add a tiny bit more color in places.
Even the audio is from the era, with garbled voices and synthesized music. The game has a few short memorable clips, like when you beat a stage, that reminded me of Contra, and the actual background music is quite good. It reminds more of something you’d have heard in arcade machines back in the day, not necessarily something from the Super Nintendo. There’s some good music here, but it’s not something you’re likely to have stuck in your head for weeks on end.
Like many games of this ilk, Blazing Chrome isn’t super easy to beat. Without a 30-man code (at least none that I’m aware of) it could take you some time to get through all of the stages. The levels are decently long and luckily you do have the difficulty setting that you can pick when you begin. Having the game save after every stage definitely helps things along and if you add a second player to the mix the game becomes much more approachable. Look, I know there are a ton of indie throwback games that come out on a weekly basis that look good, but never quite measure up to the game its based on. This is that rare case where the new game meets and maybe even exceeds the original, which is no easy feat! I had an absolute blast playing Blazing Chrome and those of you out there with a soft spot for Contra games of yesteryear should as well!
Blazing Chrome Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9.5/109.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
It’s not often that a current day indie game can meet or exceed the IP its drawing inspiration from, but Blazing Chrome somehow manages to perfectly capture the Contra III essence with some modern day sensibilities thrown in. If you enjoy 2-player co-op run and gun shooters, this one needs to be on your Switch right now.