Blazing Chrome Review: An In(contra)vertible Classic
Like any good arcade shooter, Blazing Chrome is a challenge. Some may say it isn't, but let me tell you it ain't a walk in the park. Until you master each level, each enemy attack, and each boss sequence, you'll find yourself pushing daisies more often than not.
I'd wager you'll be well acquainted with the undertaker and his pals even after you've gotten your Ph.D. in sentient robot slaughter. That's simply the exquisite nature of a game like this: a shooter unequivocally married to the halcyon days of the genre.
In no small way is Blazing Chrome a phenomenal homage to run n' guns like Metal Slug, Gunstar Heroes, and most obvious to literally anyone familiar with the genre, Contra. Specifically, I'm talking the incredible Contra III: The Alien Wars. Of course.
In almost every sense it's more than a tribute: it is the best Contra title to release in years. Change the name to Contra: Blazing Chrome and you'd never know this wasn't a triumphant return to form by Konami.
But it's not. Blazing Chrome is developed by JoyMasher, the same team also responsible for the awesome Oniken, and the one that's developing what amounts to a Ninja Gaiden 3 successor in Moon Rider.
Like the Duffer Brothers with Stranger Things, JoyMasher knows how to do nostalgia right — and the team knows how to out-Konami Konami.
As expected from any game in the genre, Blazing Chrome's story isn't an Academy Award winner. The good thing is that it doesn't have to be.
The game opens almost exactly like Contra III with an A.D. 21-something date flashing on the screen. In the background, the devastation of a post-apocalyptic Earth slowly comes into focus. Everything is laid waste, but the resistance will prevail and restore order.
The prologue does give us a bit more background than most anything found in Contra, telling us that the robots have taken over, and it's our job to take them out with a horde of bullets, lasers, and grenades. However, the mini-narrative is mostly inconsequential, and it can be completely skipped without fear of missing out on anything vital.
Hop into the meat of things, and you'll quickly find the game is as chaotic and frenetic as you might have hoped. Enemies and bullets fly every which way. Supply drops fall from the sky, giving you upgrades, new weapons, and support drones for offense and defense. Huge, multi-phase bosses take over the screen, lobbing all sorts of impending doom in your general direction.
You won't have access to as many weapons as some other games in the genre. Here a machine gun, beam cannon, grenade launcher, and a ropey laser-whip weapon are all you've got. What you lose in arms you gain in support from attack drones, shield drones, and speed drones.
It's a good thing, too, since a single hit will merc one of your lives and remove any weapon you were currently using sans the basic machine gun.
The game's Arcade Mode consists of six total stages, which will take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half to completely finish. Four are immediately available, and you can play them in any order by choosing them from the stage select map. After beating all of them, two secret stages become available.
These, of course, are some of the hardest stages in the game. More so than the first four levels, they showcase some truly creative level design which forces you to strategize your movements or rethink how to engage each merciless boss.
Things are made more tumultuous when you add another player via local co-op. There's absolutely nothing like teaming up with your best friend to viciously dismantle robotic alien scum a la' Probotector or The Alien Wars. I can only hope for the addition of online co-op sometime in the future, which is a strange omission here.
But whether you're traversing this metered madness solo or with a friend, Blazing Chrome controls beautifully. Aiming, shooting, and switching weapons is decidedly old-school cool while moving and jumping is buttery smooth.
While I'm not a fan of the game's default input layout, JoyMasher smartly allows for complete button remapping. Indeed, the game's options menu is surprisingly beefy. Aside from adjusting volume and input, JoyMasher provides two filtering options that mimic CRT TVs and one (5XBR) that reshades the game's already beautiful and era-accurate 16-bit pixel graphics.
The game is even localized in 10 languages at launch, any of which can be chosen with the flick of a button.
- Tight, remappable controls
- Classic run n' gun flair
- Beautiful pixel graphics
- Fantastic synthwave soundtrack
- Lack of online co-op
- Very short arcade mode
Blazing Chrome is an instant classic. In no small way has JoyMasher lovingly captured the sound and fury of classic Contra in a way that feels truly authentic.
Despite the lack of online co-op, my biggest gripe with Blazing Chrome is that the sequel isn't already out. I'm already yearning for more, whether in future DLC or sequels, which says nothing but good things about how JoyMasher handled this masterful throwback.
[Note: A copy of Blazing Chrome was provided by JoyMasher for the purpose of this review.]