Blazing Chrome

A game by Joymasher for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2019.
Blazing Chrome is a run-and-gun shooter inspired by the Contra series – Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps in particular – offering explosive over-the-top action, huge bosses, and 2P local cooperative play… bringing back memories of the halcyon days where Konami actually made video games. In the well-trodden year of 21XX, machines rule the planet, leaving behind crumbling cityscapes and a fiery red sky in their wake. Humans are on the verge of annihilation, and only you can fight back the onslaught to give humanity one last chance.

You take on the role of Marva, a human resistance soldier, and/or Doyle, a reprogrammed robot with a bright red rooster comb haircut for that extra dose of 90’s flavor. The duo volunteer for a suicide mission deep in enemy territory. The soldiers can equip up to four different weapons to mash their robotic overlords to bits, which mirrors the weapon systems used in Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps. Along the way, they deliver destruction on foot, from the backs of hoverbikes, or within one of several empty mech suits that allow them to unleash additional firepower.

The game offers two difficulty modes at the outset: Easy and Normal, with Hardcore locked until the player completes the Normal mode. Easy mode starts the player out with seven lives, unlimited continues, and the ability to save the game, but prevents him from sharing his score on the leaderboards. Normal mode grants five lives with unlimited continues, and the ability to save the game. Hardcore mode offers three lives, three continues, and requires the player to complete the game in a single sitting… which is fine because if you’re playing on this mode, you either have the ability to complete the game in less than 30 minutes, or you’ll burn through all of your continues well short of the ending.

The fact that the game offers unlimited continues, collectible 1UPs, extra lives at certain score thresholds, a long invincibility period, the ability to save your game, and respawns you at a checkpoint when using a continue – as opposed to restarting the level from scratch – makes the game considerably more forgiving than its 16-bit forebears. As such, experienced run-and-gunners should expect to complete the game on Normal mode through attrition. Completing the game on Normal mode also unlocks a Mirror mode and a Boss Rush, as well as two new playable characters, both of which are melee-based (more on this in a bit).

Marva and Doyle are the two characters available at the start of the game, and both play identically and make use of the same weapons. The player can perform a 2x variable jump and has the ability to roll along the ground (this is not a dodge roll) or go prone in traditional Contra fashion. The player can shoot in eight directions while running or jumping – or just left and right while prone – and a button press allows him to lock his position to aim freely in eight directions (identical to the aim lock in Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps). When an enemy is close, tapping the ATTACK button allows the player to perform a quick slash that kills most enemies.

Each of these characters starts with a machine gun as their default weapon, which fires continuously by holding the ATTACK button. Collecting a “W” icon gives the player an electronic whip that he can swing around to do continuous damage to enemies at a medium range, similarly to the flamethrowers in Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps.

Collecting a “G” icon gives the player grenades, which are fired in an arc with each press of the ATTACK button. Grenades explode when coming into contact with an enemy, giving off a burst of splash damage, or the player can manually detonate grenades by tapping the ATTACK button a second time. The firing rate for this weapon is low, but the incredible damage output makes up for this. Finally, collecting a “P” icon gives the player a plasma beam, which may be fired with each press of the ATTACK button to deliver a goodly amount of damage, or charged to unleash a solid beam for ultimate destructive force.

As in Contra 3 or Contra Hard Corps, getting killed removes the currently equipped weapon from the player’s inventory, eventually reverting him back to the machine gun if he loses all of his other weapons. Keeping heavier weapons is a key strategy for dealing with certain level elements, and they can make boss battles considerably easier. Facing a boss with just the machine gun results in a prolonged battle, whereas some of the more powerful weapons can take a boss down in a matter of seconds.

On the downside, the machine gun and electronic whip are both continuously firing weapons, whereas the grenade and plasma beam are activated with individual button presses (or a button release in the case of the plasma beam). When the player is killed while using an auto-fire weapon, he sometimes respawns with a manual weapon equipped instead, resulting in zero damage output until he starts pressing the button or switches to another weapon. This can make the player miss the opportunity to strike during boss encounters, and it is in direct opposition to the design found in Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps where every weapon is set to auto-fire.

In addition to these four weapon types, the player can also access support pods (on Easy and Normal difficulty modes), which come in three varieties: speed, attack, and defense, as represented by “S”, “A”, and “D” icons. The speed icon not only increases the player’s movement speed but also allows him to double jump, which his handy for environmental navigation – particularly in areas with insta-death traps – and can also be used to reach otherwise inaccessible 1UP icons.

The attack icon spawns a drone that hovers near you and fires a machine gun in whatever direction you’re aiming, delivering a bit of extra damage. The defense icon creates a shield around the player character and allows him/her to absorb two hits of damage before it disappears, essentially acting as two free lives, which is quite useful in a game that offers 1-hit kills.

The two unlockable characters are Raijin and Suhaila, both of which are melee-based, and their abilities are identical to one another. These characters move more quickly and can jump higher (also letting them reach out-of-the-way 1UPs), and they can use support pods, but they cannot use any guns. Instead, they attack using swords, requiring them to get up close to their enemies. In addition, by holding the ATTACK button, the player can charge a long-range strike that does heavy damage.

In addition to running and gunning, there are several sequences which break up the action. First off are a pair of traditional hoverbike sequences where the player races along the ground taking down mobile ground-based and flying enemies, with one sequence requiring you to jump over level hazards.

Second is a faux-3D flying sequence where the player equips a jetpack and flies into the screen, Space Harrier-style, as enemies are scaled into view down a long and twisting tunnel. Here, the player can collect icons to increase the damage output of his weapon from the default pea shooter, to a slightly stronger version, to a weapon that occasionally fires heat-seeking missiles.

In addition to these dedicated vehicle sequences, there are several occasions where the player encounters a disabled mech suit in the environment. Hopping in lets the player unleash heavier firepower – or melee strikes in the case of the drill mech – for as long as he can keep the suit alive. The suits protect the player from damage, but they each have a life bar, and taking too much damage requires the player to eject before the suit explodes. Skilled players can pilot these mechs through the remainder of their respective levels, collecting powerups along the way, and it’s possible to take down end-level bosses using them as well.

Levels are long and intense, with a steady stream of enemies and projectiles coming at you from every direction, with occasional bits of moderate platforming thrown into the mix, resulting in challenging minute-to-minute play. There are plenty of set pieces as the player encounters bombed-out cityscapes, belching sandworms, speeding trains, and Giger-esque biomechanical environments and monstrosities.

In Contra tradition, the game is chock full of bosses and minibosses… to the point where you may think you’re facing the end-level boss, only to learn that you have to complete another entire section before reaching the true end-level encounter. Checkpoints appear after each miniboss, but using a continue sometimes requires the player to replay a significant portion of the level again.

As expected, bosses and minibosses have more complex movement patterns and longer health meters, and the player is certain to be killed early into many of these encounters until he learns the boss’ patterns. However, the large number of lives and infinite continues make this trial-and-error more forgiving than that of the 16-bit console era. Once the player learns how each boss telegraphs its attacks, he can expect to make short work of them, particularly if he manages to keep one or two of the more powerful weapons through to the end of the level.

At the start of the game, the player is able to select between one of four levels, which may be played in any order, but there is a difficulty ranking associated with each. Once all four levels are completed, the player opens a fifth level, and completing that opens a short sixth level that is dedicated almost exclusively to a multi-multi-multi-phase final boss encounter that will put all of your combat skills to the test.

Aesthetically, the game wraps itself in a late 90’s 16-bit style, specifically that of the SNES and Genesis consoles. The game is not quite as in love with scaling and rotation effects as the 16-bit console games were, but there are a few places where it integrated into the experience in a less jarring manner than its spiritual predecessors. The game offers chunky sprites, a limited color palette, meaty explosions and sound effects, and appropriately grainy voice samples, all set to a rockin’ soundtrack. In the end, Blazing Chrome is a more authentic Contra experience than any of the officially-produced games that were released after the 16-bit era.

Blazing Chrome was developed by Joymasher, a studio founded in 2012 by Danilo Dias, Thais Weiller, and Marco Galv√£o, and based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The game was published by The Arcade Crew, which previously published Dark Devotion.

Joymasher made its initial splash with Oniken (our 2012 Game of the Year) which mixes elements of classic 8-bit action games like Contra and Ninja Gaiden. The game features old-school difficulty with a lead character who mixes grand posturing with matching levels of badassery as he slashes his way through enemies, brutalizes bosses, and slices bullets in half with his sword. Along the way, he completes platforming challenges and auto-scrolling vehicle segments, and he is eventually joined by a machine gun-toting compatriot for an explosive epilogue.

Following Oniken, the studio's next major release was Odallus: The Dark Call, a level-based metroidvania inspired by the Castlevania and Ghosts ’n Goblins series, as well as Demon’s Crest. The game is packed with retro visuals and gameplay, with numerous powerups that allow the player to slowly expand his explorations across a dark world filled with evil. Just like Oniken, the game tough, with aggressive enemies, challenging environments, and no shortage of boss creatures. Players are equipped with a short-range sword and they can and also make use of three different sub-weapons to take down enemies from a distance.