Blazing Chrome (PS4) Review – A Hard Corps Afternoon
Blazing ChromeJuly 11th, 2019
Blazing Chrome is nothing short of an extreme look at the mid-90’s era of shooters of all identities, whether it’s the alien invasions of Contra or Treasure’s magnum opus, Gunstar Heroes. It may seem like I’ve been playing a lot of these historically-inspired action games of late (Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night being my most recent adventure) and I couldn’t be happier. These games were what made up my childhood and most of my formative years and taste in gaming, so to see the genres that I grew up with being explored with modern mechanics and toolsets.
There’s an awful lot of Contra 3: The Alien Wars to be had in Blazing Chrome, and if you haven’t had the chance to pick up Konami’s recent Anniversary Collection, consider Blazing Chrome to be more than a worthy substitute. Much of the control scheme feels similar between the two: moving, jumping, and Contra’s signature eight-way shooting (which you *can* hold down a shoulder button to fire without moving) are all in your arsenal. What JoyMasher does to go beyond the Contra archetype is to give players the ability to crouch and dodge roll away; it took a lot of quick deaths to realize that this roll isn’t invulnerable despite what your Dark Souls instincts might say. The other option is a close-range melee attack by tapping the shoot button once enemies are in range. This last tool gets an incredibly high amount of use in some of the later stages where waves of gunless alien monstrosities are thrown at you that take a few more bullets than your standard machine gun can throw at them.
To take on a ruthless robot menace, you’re going to need more than just a bigger gun. Blazing Chrome’s powerup system works in two ways. The first comes by way of new weapon types. You have a few types at your disposal, including a handy airburst grenade launcher, short-range plasma whip, and sustainable energy cannon that can absolutely melt through anything it hits. These weapons never run out of ammo, can be switched on the fly via the shoulder buttons, and are only lost if you equip it the moment you die (the other weapons are safe until you keep meeting a similar fate). The other powerups are temporary boosts that, again, are only lost when you die. There’s an exception to this, as the defense powerup spawns a rotating shield that can only take a few hits, but an AI drone that matches your firepower for double the damage and a speed boost each can last you through the entire level if you’re careful about not rolling into traps or bullets.
Blazing Chrome’s length is a throwback to the classic run and gun titles that JoyMasher clearly build their latest action title around. Only six levels separate you from an alien menace that that smooth ending credits roll; four of which can be chosen at the player’s discretion leading up to the final stage. Each stage has its own gimmicks, from clambering across strategically placed pipes to the obligatory futuristic motorcycle stage where killing hazards are as frequent as the powerups. And, of course, each stage ends with a badass boss fight that’s just punishing enough if you can’t learn its attack patterns. From beginning to end, I spend close to two hours on my first playthrough on Normal Mode, unlocking two new ninja characters and more difficult modes in the process. The new Hardcore mode still offers the same challenge, only with a drastically reduced pool of lives and continues. It shouldn’t be any trouble for you Contra veterans, right?
While the length of Blazing Chrome hits that perfect afternoon sweet spot, there’s one length that JoyMasher could’ve worked on: checkpoints. All too often, an unexpected run of deaths will send the player back to a checkpoint that might not even have been in the last five-ten minutes. Replaying the same jet cycle segment over and over because you keep mistiming a jump or get overwhelmed by enemies can sour a run that might’ve otherwise been flawless up to that point. The checkpoints are, at the very least, gracious enough to send you back to just before a boss fight, eliminating that awkward run back to the boss, or even worse, to the beginning of the stage if you exhaust all of your lives.
Blazing Chrome’s aesthetic is a perfect throwback to that gritty 90’s era of run-and-gun shooters that made the Sega Genesis such a console powerhouse. Both the chunky pixel graphics and dirty audio samples invoke memories of wasting hours away at Mega Turrican or Contra 3 after school. If you sent a copy of Blazing Chrome back with a time traveler, no one would be the wiser about playing this with a friend on their old CRT television (though, the wireless controllers might raise a few questions). Of course, if you can’t afford a time machine, Blazing Chrome does offer a few scanline filter modes to help replicate those vintage tube TV’s.
For a trend that seems to be getting harder and harder to find in modern action games, Blazing Chrome is very much a true arcade-style action game without any of those fancy bells and whistles that indie devs enjoy putting in every game as if working from a similar checklist. There are no character upgrades, no cosmetics, no fetch quests to undertake. It’s merely you, a partner if you’re feeling social, and all the bullets you can feed into the alien and robot invaders that just want to ruin your day. If the thought of 80’s power fantasies continues to excite you (and the 3D nature of Konami’s upcoming Contra: Rogue Corps doesn’t rekindle that flame), Blazing Chrome is a fine way to kill an afternoon and still leave some time to rewatch Top Gun before the sun goes down.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
Blazing Chrome doesn't try to be anything more than a classic run-and-gun and thus easily exceeds expectations, although the length does leave something to be desired.
- Distilled Contra essence on a modern platform
- Perfect for speedrunning
- New characters and modes to unlock
- Power-ups can last the whole stage if you're good at the whole 'not dying' bit
- No online co-op, so invite a friend over
- Dodge rolling right into an enemy attack is awful
- Melee attacks can sometimes leave you open up to dying when you meant to shoot instead