Thanks to The Arcade Crew for the review code
Title: Blazing Chrome
System: Steam (PC)
Release Date: 07/11/2019
In a world under attack, you take control of a group of warriors who set out to defeat a mechanical terrorist group and stop them from taking over the planet! It’s a basic story as to be expected, but it works just as well now as it would have a few decades ago.
Considering how the prior two Joymasher titles were tributes to the 8-bit era that weren’t fully convincing in that regard, I didn’t really except much from this game’s presentation outside of maybe some sharper graphics and better music. Am I ever so glad to be totally wrong, as Blazing Chrome might just be the biggest presentation bump from a game developer I’ve seen in ages!
Yes, this is still a 16-bit tribute, but they go so far out of their way to make this game as authentic looking as possible while also not letting the look limit the game, that it ends up coming across more like a 32-bit tribute, or even akin to playing an arcade-perfect port on a system such as the Sega Saturn. The sprites have a ton of polish and animation, and the lighting and backgrounds are seriously impressive. Considering how basic these two aspects were for their 8-bit tributes, it’s really breathtaking to see how much they’ve improved since then.
Blazing Chrome is a side-scrolling action game, akin to Contra and Metal Slug where the main objective of each stage is to destroy anything in your path and defeat the boss at the end. You have jump, attack, and lock aim buttons that can be freely customized to any button on any controller you can throw at this game, so over the course of the past few months I messed with several controllers and control schemes before sticking to a Saturn USB pad.
So once you pick a control setup of your choice, you get to choose from one of the first four stages in any order you wish, after you pick your desired character for your save file. Since you cannot change this character after starting a save, it’s best to pick wisely, though there honestly isn’t much of a difference between them since they all use the same special weapon loadout, unlike Contra Hard Corps where each character got their own loadout.
Still, the controls are exceptionally tight. Going from the looser to control Oniken and Odallus to Blazing Chrome, the controls evolved and get so much more precise that it’s not even easy to describe this improvement in words. Seriously, it feels like another company made the game entirely, but nope, Joymasher is still in charge, putting their hearts out into another retro throwback with a great presentation and control scheme.
Besides your traditional aiming and shooting, there’s also a melee attack that can really murder minibosses and some bulkier enemies, but you can only pull it off when you’re up close to an enemy, and it uses the same attack button as a projectile, akin to how Metal Slug does it. There was one point in the forth stage where I really wished it was a separate button due to getting stuck in a frustrating gameplay loop, but I eventually managed to get through the stage with trial and error, something that I felt was much easier than in Oniken, mostly thanks to the multiple difficulty options on offer here.
There’s even a few gameplay shifts to distract from the standard run and gun action, and I actually really enjoyed these for the most part. One of these is a section in stage 4 that plays a lot like Galaxy Force, where you fly from a third person perspective and shoot at oncoming enemies, dodging doors and making sharp turns through a tunnel. (though the game does most of these for you, so it’s not nearly as tough) This is even where the boss is fought, and it leads to a pretty creative end to a level!
Overall, Blazing Chrome has lots of little charming moments like these. From bosses that reference similar foes from the inspirations, to weapons that mix and match bits of famous weapons from the past to create a new twist, this game plays it safe with making a new co-op run and gun, but it manages to focus more on refining the controls and making the best throwback possible. Really, the only thing that’ll stop you from finishing the game is the difficulty, which is very tough but fair even on the easiest setting. Thankfully, there are plenty of in-game achievements to collect, each of which task the player with completing stages and the game under tricky conditions, so there’s incentive to play this more than once if you get to the end.
Unfortunately, one gripe I had was how you only had one save file, period. If you want to start the game over again, you must erase your old one to start anew, and this is honestly a pretty silly limitation for a game like this. Yes, the game isn’t that long, but there were times when I picked this up after a few months and wanted to practice some earlier stages, but couldn’t due to having to erase my current progress. I can’t help but feel that having at least three save slots would have helped for practicing or revisiting certain stages without having to go through the game again.
Blazing Chrome is without of doubt the ultimate game to come out of Joymasher. Considering how these devs started with the flawed but decent Oniken and worked their way up to this outstanding work of art, this game is not only proof that any developer can make the most out of their passion, but it also serves as a good example of being able to properly pay tribute to a game series by how it surpasses several titles in the Contra franchise.
From the gorgeous pixel art, the excellent soundtrack and the smooth controls, this is a no-brainer purchase for any fan of a run-and-gun, to the point I’d argue that it blows the outstanding Bleed 2 out of the water. Whether you’re a Contra fan, a Co-Op enthusiast, or just someone who enjoys these retro throwbacks as much as I do, Blazing Chrome is easily a must-have and stands as one of the best titles of 2019.
Despite being just as difficult as some of those older run and guns, the fact you have multiple difficulty options to choose from means that with trial and error, anyone can eventually make it to the end of the game, and this amount of balance and pure joy just leads to a great experience that’s an absolute must buy. When my only major gripe with this game comes from the stupid save file limitations, that’s a testament to how solid this game is, and I honestly even feel it’ll be one of the Indie classics people will look back on a decade from now.
I give Blazing Chrome a 9 out of 10.
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