I’ve always wondered, what exactly does it mean to be a spiritual successor? Is it some title you can claim if your game is similar to a cult classic? Or is it earned by evoking the same feelings as the original game? Who exactly awards these spiritual successor titles?
Actually, absolutely none of that matters now. Blazing Chrome is called by many the spiritual successor to Contra III, and you know what? I wholeheartedly agree that Blazing Chrome is deserving of the Contra legacy!
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Jul 11, 2019
Blazing Chrome is a 2D run and gun inspired by run and gun masterpieces like Contra and Gunstar Heroes. You play as human resistance in a last suicide mission to stop the machines which control the world. Your adventure will take you through 5 different stages as you battle a bunch of different enemies, bosses and play through intricate action sequences.
Have you been to the movie theatre recently and felt a nostalgia rush by watching the movie posters for Aladdin, Toy Story, Godzilla and X-Men? Blazing Chrome is what you would expect from buying a gaming magazine and seen an 80’s poster of a girl and a robot, with guns and cigars and robot/alien invaders.
Unlike many other “retro” games, Blazing Chrome learns a lot from history. It is very common to see “retro” games get inspiration from classics, but also inheriting its flaws. Blazing Chrome expands upon the genre by refining the weapons, improving the mobility, increasing the adrenaline and polishing the entire presentation aspect.
Mobility is half of the equation, and just one of many things Blazing Chrome got absolutely right from its predecessors. Movement is quick and responsive, as it needs to be. Running around, dodging enemy fire and jumping around feel very intuitive. There is one key difference in jumping: you can control the height by holding the jump button. That extra layer of control is always appreciated.
There are 2 particular aspects which stood out to me: rolling and thin platforms.
Rolling is a defensive maneuver performed by pressing down+B. It allows you to quickly reduce the size of your hitbox and move in a direction. You can probably see how useful this is when trying to stay on the move while low profiling enemy fire. To further increase its versatility, rolling can be cancelled midway through by a jump or pretty much every other input. This eliminates the commitment of doing a full distance roll, and gives more power to the player as a result.
Beware of diagonal inputs though. A leading cause of death for me was to input accidental rolls when shooting diagonally down. I usually jump around a lot to stay mobile, but when I was shooting from higher platforms, I frequently found myself aiming diagonally downwards and trying to transition into a jump to avoid enemy fire. The result was that a roll which more often than not killed me. I want to say I would prefer if rolls were strictly down+B without diagonals, but they also feel quite seamless when using diagonals.
Thin platforms were very surprising because someone had to point out they didn’t work as I thought they had worked. My expectation was that pressing down+B will allow me to phase through the platform. I could have sworn if worked that way until I found one which didn’t.
One of the devs had to point out to me that platforms don’t allow you to phase through, and they all behave the same in allowing you to roll but not phase. I went back to the game and found that it was in fact through, so I guess I never really noticed.
The combat aspect of the game is where things get interesting. Blazing Chrome lets you use multiple weapons instead of limiting you to 1 or 2. There are 4 types of shot which are the machine gun, flamethrower like wave beam, the grenade launcher and the plasma beam.
Each of this weapons (except the machine gun) have to be collected and will last until you die with them equipped. This means that you could hold all 4 weapons and die when you were using the grenade launcher, this will cause you to lose only the grenade launcher, but keep the rest of them.
While it is a very simple concept, the beauty of it comes from the fact that the weapons don’t overlap their use cases at all. You will use the flamethrower when you need piercing firepower. The grenade will be your de facto fire and move around weapon. Plasma works when the enemies give you openings to charge it up. Beyond finding the right tool for the job, you can also micro manage your weapons to avoid losing the one you will really need.
Close and personal
By far the funnest mechanic of the game is the melee attack. If an enemy is close enough, pressing the fire button will dish out a devastating melee attack! Melee attacks are stronger than your average attack, and will push back the enemy.
While a melee attack is very common in gaming, what sets it apart in Blazing Chrome is the flow of the game. Think about a game like Metal Slug and the close-up knife attack. The use for it is to deal high amounts of damage as a reward for being in a danger position.
The pacing in Blazing Chrome is different with enemies running at you from every direction. This unique difference means that, while your melee attack still deals considerable damage, its main utility comes from the control you get. By being smart and timely with your melee attacks, you can keep the enemy from overwhelming you and create safety within your personal space.
Personally I just love the seamless transition between shooting and KOing enemies who dare to get closer than they should. It is by all means a way to channel your inner badass. You are THE Rambo of this game. Fair warning, your melee attack is constrained by the same cooldown rules as your guns. What this means is that if you shoot the grenade launcher, you won’t be able to use the melee attack until the cooldown for the grenade expires.
Out of all the playable characters, some can be categorized as the melee characters. As such, these characters can’t use any weapons and their regular fire is a short range sonic boom. They can do charged long range attacks and can also air dash! Their play style certainly seems much more fast paced.
If you are lucky, you can find these little guys called bots. They come in 3 flavors: attack, defense and speed. Your attack drone will fire along with you. The defense drone can protect you from 2 attacks. The speed drone is a little guy pumping you up go fast! It even allows you to double jump, which is pretty cool.
Action packed stages
In an unexpected turn of events from the genre, Blazing Chrome lets you choose a stage instead of forcing a progression. The stages are still numbered and have an appropriate difficulty, but you are free to start with stage 4 and end with stage 1 if you so desire. You can’t play the final stage before beating all the other ones for obvious reasons.
Each stage is nothing short of a rollercoaster, if the rollercoaster was riding a motorcyle and bullets were coming in every direction. Despite all my efforts to describe the gameplay and controls, Blazing Chrome is pretty clear about offering variety in every single stage.
I won’t go into details about what you will see on each stage, but suffice to say that you won’t be on your legs very long and the stages will feature iconic action sequences inspired by the likes of Contra, Battletoads and even Space Harrier.
Easter egg galore
Other than learning from the source material, Blazing Chrome also pays a homage to several different games with tidbits of gameplay or design which evoke the classics. Once again I’ll let you go hunting yourself, but I was able to fine references to:
- Space Harrier
- Star Fox
- Mega Man X
- Metroid Fusion
Play time – price ratio
If you are interested in this game, you should keep in mind the kind of game you are getting into. Old school run and guns are games that are short in length. They are meant for you to play and have fun, get in and get out. the longevity comes from challenging yourself with harder difficulties, from replaying with multiple characters, from taking alternate stage orders and overall just having fun. Just like how Contra III has stayed relevant for being insanely fun despite being a 30-40 min game.
An average play through the campaign mode should take you around an hour, thanks to the generous checkpoint system and infinite continues. Even then there are extra modes for you to re-visit the game like the boss rush, speed run mode and even the hilarious mirror mode.
Blazing Chrome as a speedrun
As a speedrunner myself, I am super excited to try and beat the game as fast as possible. There are a lot of inclusions which lend themselves to fast paced gameplay such as the speed bots or the air dash. There’s even a timer that tracks total play time and individual stage time to see how fast you really are.
Apart from being very fun to speedrun, I would say it will be a very entertaining run to watch live. Carefully maneuvering the levels is going to be a thing of beauty, and the constant change of pace is certain to wow viewers all over the world.
A Blaze of passion
With all said and done, I can easily say Blazing Chrome is one of my favorite games of 2019. Blazing Chrome is an outpour of 90’s action-packed, adrenaline-induced run-n-gun gameplay. The game plays amazing, it looks fantastic and the variety in its action sequences will keep you on your toes.
While being short, it never gets old. It is one of those games that you might not play from noon to midnight, but it will be a game you will play in short bursts for the rest of your life.