One of my favorite games of all time is Contra III: The Alien Wars. A game that was released in 1992 and which still stands as being one of the finest examples of what the run and gun shooter genre can serve up. And whilst later 2D run and gun incarnations were fun (such as Shattered Soldier and Contra 4), none were quite able to recapture the same magic as what was offered by the IP’s SNES outing. Indeed, even rival franchises such as Metal Slug have never been able to eclipse what Konami concocted during the 16 bit era. And even though Konami is now but a mere shadow of itself, that’s not to say that the company isn’t looking to rejuvenate some of the ethos and spirit that made it so beloved in the hearts and minds of gamers who still fondly remember titles such as Axelay, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Silent Hill 2.
As part of this drive to rekindle former glories, Konami has sought to revive the Contra franchise. But with notable changes to the classic Contra formula, there have been concerns that Contra: Rogue Corps might not live up to expectations. As part of this, and ahead of the game’s release on 26 September, I spoke to Richard Jones (Senior Brand Manager) and got to ask him about these concerns. Enjoy!
I understand that the game is being produced by Nobuya Nakazato. Is the game being developed in-house or is it being developed in association with a third-party developer who has the license?
So it’s not a license. What it is, is Nakazato-san works for Konami – he’s one of our senior producers and he is doing the in-house production. The development itself is being handled by an external company called Toylogic who are based in Japan.
One of my favourite games of all time is Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super Nintendo. I understand that Contra: Rogue Corps is a direct sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars. What sort of pressure did that put on Mr. Nakazato as well as Konami? Because to me, that is the game that will forever cement the Contra franchise in the hearts and minds of fans – many of which consider Contra III as being one of the greatest run and gun shooters of any era. So what kind of expectation and pressure that did that put on everyone to ensure the latest game lives up to the benchmark that Contra III set in its day?
So Rogue Corps is a very, very different game from Contra III obviously. It’s no longer a side-scrolling game. It’s now a twin stick shooter over the camera that’s generally sort of three courses above the action. It does change dynamically. So to say that, from a story perspective, it’s a direct sequel to The Alien Wars. So at the end of The Alien Wars, Earth think they’ve won, they think they’ve defeated the aliens. But from the ashes of the battlefield, the final conflict, this huge hideous landscape erupts out of the ashes. That landscape is fondly referred to by those people on Earth as the Damned City. Now anyone who enters the Damned City is driven mad. There are a few people that can survive in there, whether that’s because of mutations, whether they’re just generally immune, or it’s because they’re already mad. So that kind of sets the scene. Basically its Earth after The Alien Wars, when Earth thinks it’s been victorious but then this hideous city erupts out of the ground. The people that live in there are the sort of outcasts of society and those are the people that you’re playing as. So they really are the Rogue Corps.
Rogue Corps has a shift in perspective from side-scrolling to overhead third person. What prompted the shift in perspective?
Speaking to Nakazato-san, the idea was that he wanted it to be a multi-player game, and he wanted it to be an online game because that’s how modern multi-player games are played. And for that, he felt that a shift in perspective and a shift in style was an interesting and appropriate change of direction. The game is still very, very much a Contra game. It still has everything that makes Contra. Contra: Rogue Corps still has those huge bosses, it still has muscly protagonists, it still has silly childish humour, it still has grotesque creatures, and you’re still running and gunning. You’ve still got a jump button, you’ve got a dash button now. So you’re actually very agile in a way that you can control your character. You can dash around from left to right, you can jump, you can air-dash. So it’s a very dynamic and fast-paced game. And obviously the perspective has changed, but it was done with the idea of it being a four-player online game.
Do you think this is a test? Because Contra obviously has been gone a while now. Do you think this is a test to see how the market responds to Contra and the return of Contra as a franchise? Because I just think that if Konami ever decides to do a big-budget modern day version of Contra and bring it bang up to date… the closest incarnation and equivalent that I can think of is Gears of War. Would Konami ever consider taking the Gears of War approach towards Contra, because it’s, you know, very big muscle-bound guys taking on aliens. And you know, it does have that third-person, run and gun shooter perspective. I just wanted to know if that was something that was even conceived of or considered as being part of Contra‘s future?
I mean… I obviously can’t speak about what we’re planning in the future. But everything you say there is correct.
Because a Contra game in the Gears of War style… I would buy that.
(Laughs) I think a lot of people would… yeah, we do have plans. Contra went away for a while. We’ve brought it back. I hope people enjoy the one we’re about to release, Rogue Corps. Who knows where Contra can go after that. I think there can be some really exciting directions for us to go with it.
So I’m going to ask one more question. This is a difficult question…
Okay, I’m bracing myself.
No, it’s not that difficult. It’s just a tough question, and I say this with all due respect. On occasion when Konami have outsourced development duties for their bigger franchises such as Silent Hill, such as Contra when Appaloosa handled development duties on the PS1, they’ve basically had disastrous results. I know that it’s not the same developer but it’s still the whole “we’re going to hand development duties over to someone else (like Toylogic)”. What sort of quality assurances can you give fans who don’t want a repeat of whatever has come before with regards to Konami shifting development duties to external studios and not getting the desired results for their beloved franchises?
I mean this is very much a game by Nakazato-san. He lives and breathes Contra. He’s been involved in Contra since The Alien Wars. I think he’s been involved in pretty much all of them in some capacity, so it’s a franchise that’s very close to him and I think, the fact that he’s involved and he chose to take this direction to get the game made should hopefully instill faith in the fans. We all want to see a really successful Contra game. We all want to see it retain what makes it Contra. You know, the over-the-top fun, and that’s what Rogue Corps delivers. So hopefully when fans get their hands on it, they’ll agree that it’s a good, fun, entertaining game.
Thank you so much, Richard. Thank you so much.