You really have to feel for Konami UK’s social media person, whoever that is. They’re doing their best, bless ‘em, but the hand they’ve been dealt is a particularly bad one.
Ever since the Kojima fallout, the removal of playable horror demo PT and the refocusing of their business, Konami have, somewhat understandably, had a terrible image among gamers. They’ve been seen as so anti-gamer that there’s even an anti-Konami hashtag – #FuckKonami, if you weren’t already aware – that seems to be wheeled out on a regular basis by ex-fans angry at the neglect and misuse of Konami’s biggest brands.
Yet they’ve done at least a few great things recently; PES is apparently back on form and their retro collections were, for the most part, brilliant and contained some absolute gems. Perhaps those were just more reminders of the franchise potential currently going to waste, though?
The release of a new Contra game should have been cause for huge excitement. As I covered in my Blazing Chrome review, the Contra franchise was an 8 and 16 bit powerhouse, with the series containing some of the most beloved games of the late 80s and early 90s. Though the series has floundered since those glory days, 32-bit entries and beyond did still retain an element of what made Contra, well, Contra.
Which brings us to the latest release – Contra: Rogue Corps. Released with little fanfare this week, it’s almost as if Konami are embarrassed about it themselves. Even their social media person – whoever that is, can someone buy them a drink please? – is tweeting out halfhearted promos at this stage. Konami UK’s Twitter account has 92.8k followers, with the most liked non-giveaway or retweeted tweet regarding Contra: Rogue Corps at 87 likes. Tellingly, this tweet is from the announcement in June, which was accompanied by an image – the trailer, posted in the same thread, managed 12 likes.
The reception at that stage seemed cautiously optimistic. As we head further into the year and more footage is revealed, it’s clear that people have seen more – and they don’t like it. As in – they really don’t like it. All of the latest promo tweets are being met with universal derision, with some judicious use of that aforementioned profane hashtag – and garnering a handful of likes at most, from an audience of more than 90 thousand followers. How did that happen?
Though set post-Contra III (which was, in my opinion, the high point for the series), it almost looks like a parody of the series. Not an homage, mind – as indie gem Blazing Chrome was – a parody. Imagine if Parodius wasn’t its own thing and instead was being sold as part of the main Gradius series – that’s what this looks like to me. Though Contra’s trademark is the sidescrolling run and gun gameplay, it’s always flirted with different viewpoints and styles, right from the first game – but the 2D running and gunning seems to have been abandoned entirely for Rogue Corps, with a sort of isometric view giving it the appearance of an action RPG or a shooter like the PS1’s Loaded.
As for why it looks like a parody, well – one example: one of the main characters is a cybernetic panda. Contra was always fun, but it took itself relatively seriously in terms of the character design and general feel of the game. It seems to be a random action game with the Contra name slapped on it. It really doesn’t help that it’s priced at £39.99 (with a Season Pass for an extra £4.99), when it looks like a bad cover version of any action game, let alone one bearing the Contra name. It looks and feels cheap; there are indies out there for a fraction of the price that look and feel a hell of a lot more like peak Contra (hello again, Blazing Chrome!).
I must stress that I haven’t played it. Opinion seems divided here; a few higher profile reviewers have blasted the game, but I’ve seen some positive and encouraging feedback from a few players. Time will tell, I suppose.
Right now though, spare a thought for Konami UK’s poor social media person. They’re trying – and this is certainly not a mess they’re responsible for.
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