CONTRA. If that name means anything to you, then you’re going to love Blazing Chrome. I usually reserve my first paragraph for a “what if” scenario in which I ask you to join me and see if the game I’m reviewing is good. I’ll change that up today, and much like the game, I’ll keep it short and sweet: yes, the game is very, very good. It is not, however, perfect as a package.
The story is NES-era simple, with robots taking over the planet, and you as the only hope for human-kind. You must traverse the (rather limited) world, either on your own or with a buddy (more on that later) and defeat the evil machines once and for all. I can’t even be mad about the lack of story, much like you can’t be mad at a boxing match for its lack of Shakespearean elements. Blazing Chrome is an unapologetic callback to the glory days of Run-N-Gun games like CONTRA, and it needs, in my opinion, no further story than that.
There are a handful of playable characters, two of which are unlocked from the start while the rest are unlockable during gameplay. It may not seem like much, but CONTRA on the NES had two characters and that worked. The world itself is about as big, too, and that might be one of my first, and biggest, gripes with the game. I don’t hold a grudge against short games – on the contrary, lately I prefer them to longer affairs – but at $17 this two-hour game is a bit hefty on the dollar-per-hour-played meter. I don’t always pay too much attention to that, but Blazing Chrome is a game I would not doubt recommending at $10. $17 is another thing altogether for a 2-hour game, but more on that soon.
Presentation and gameplay are the start of the show. In terms of presentation, Blazing Chrome looks every bit the part of a classic run-and-gun game, and then some. The characters are detailed, there is a tremendous variety of enemies, the boss battles are plentiful and fun, and you honestly feel like you’re playing an early 90s arcade game. It looks beautiful, and it sounds great, too: the music is top-notch, and the sound effects would be at home in a big arcade cabinet. A brief stint with my Sony MDR-7506s proved there’s plenty of body to this soundtrack, and quite a lot of thump, too.
Gameplay is frantic and, honestly, pretty difficult. It never feels unfair, though, and a generous saving system helps the matters along. This is definitely a game best enjoyed in pairs, much like the games in which it is clearly inspired. You traverse the world, killing hordes of enemies, picking up power-ups and bots along the way, and defeating increasingly-difficult bosses. It does not innovate, but at the same time, it does what it sets out to do so well that innovation is replaced by near-perfection in execution. And that’s alright with me.
Sadly, we must come back again to the value proposition. The truth is, this is a fabulous game. It might even be a perfect game within its genre. It really is that good. But the duration of it all hurts my ability to recommend it. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t wish the game was longer; I think they did what they set out to do perfectly, and any more “game” would have been fat rather than meat. But the price is just too steep for a 2-hour experience in what is, we must admit, a highly competitive marketplace such as the Switch eShop. The CONTRA and SNK collections alone make Blazing Chrome the odd man out, as it’s a new IP with shorter runtime that, while being an original and arguably perfect game, provides less bang for the buck.
With that out of the way, and if money is no object, I do think that Blazing Chrome is a perfect game. Or rather, a perfectly executed idea, if that makes more sense. It’s fun, it’s tough, it looks gorgeous, runs great and sounds just as good. Beyond the value proposition, there’s very little to dislike in what Blazing Chrome has to offer, and if you’re a fan of the genre and don’t mind paying up for the experience, the game will certainly not disappoint. If you, like me, grew up playing CONTRA on a NES (or in my case, a FAMICLONE), this will be one of this year’s Nindies to play.