They are the side-scrolling games of 16-bit legend. Contra 3: The Alien Wars and Contra: The Hard Corps saw Konami’s run-and-gun series reach the zenith of its powers but since then, the franchise has been neglected and the magic has gone. Until now. Brazilian indie developer JoyMasher has produced the ‘spiritual sequel’ we need – and indeed deserve – in the form of Blazing Chrome, a love letter to Contra and other 16-bit classics. It’s a perfect blend of detailed, period-appropriate 2D pixel art, expertly crafted stages – and it’s available now on all modern platforms, from Switch to PS4/Xbox to PC. But what makes it succeed and what did it take to build it?
I’m finding the game to be massively enjoyable and eager to find out more, I spoke to JoyMasher directly to find out what it took to make the game, and what the ‘secret sauce’ is in creating a new experience that also feels so authentic to the Contra classics. After all, Relying on modern technology can produce beautiful results but perfecting an experience that feels like it is running on older hardware is more difficult. Sonic Mania is an example of how to get this right, but many others have failed.
Thankfully, Blazing Chrome is equally as successful – it’s a game that feels genuinely authentic to the mid-90s in every way while expanding upon what makes those classics so good. In many ways, this feels like a follow-up to Contra: The Hard Corps as it might have existed on Sega Saturn. That makes sense when you check out the early prototypes for the game. Blazing Chrome’s initial builds were built using art from both The Hard Corps and Contra 3. Like the best games on the Mega Drive, there’s a focus on deep parallax scrolling with a limited colour palette, but the developers have opted to push beyond this spec introducing huge numbers of sprites, scaling and rotation and other tricks. Obviously though, it’s the game design that’s of crucial importance.