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Contra: Rogue Corps’ Nobuya Nakazato Talks About Character Design, A ‘Risque’ Boss, And Vandal Hearts


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Konami has been tapping into its back catalog lately, bringing some series back, and Contra is among the titles getting love lately. Contra Anniversary Collection showed up in June 2019, for example, and Contra: Rogue Corps takes inspiration from past titles to do its own thing. Siliconera spoke with Contra: Rogue Corps Executive Producer and Director Nobuya Nakazato about this latest entry, Contra in general, and some other games he had worked on.


Siliconera: Which Contra games do you feel had the biggest influence on Contra: Rogue Corps, and how did their ideas influence this installment?


Nobuya Nakazato: There was a game, Contra 4, made by Wayforward, that was a big inspiration for me. It brought this great 2D scrolling style and tons of action. This actually served as a platform for me to realize that we could modernize these levels and portions of the game to make them more dynamic. That’s what I wanted to bring to Contra: Rogue Corps.


When it comes to innovation in Contra, like when Contra III introduced motorcycle chases and Neo Contra offered an isometic perspective, how do you brainstorm new ideas and directions? How much testing goes into a new mechanic or direction before it is decided upon?


Nakazato: It’s funny, I actually don’t have a very special process for this. Whenever I have an idea or come up with something new that I think may be good, I just start testing it out right away – I don’t think about the process too much. If it works and it’s fun, then I’ll likely put it in the game.


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Contra: Rogue Corps has two unusual characters, Hungry Beast the panda cyborg and Gentleman the alien, continuing the tradition of unexpected avatars. How do these characters come up during development and do designs come first or their possible capabilities?

Nakazato: I’m not really thinking too hard about the nuances of these characters during the dev process. I can definitely say there needs to be the buff, muscled guy as part of the Contra universe. That’s sort of the base definition of the franchise. If I start there, then I think about the other characters that may fill in the group. I’ll think about character designs and capabilities that complement and bring new and fun angles, but it’s not like I’m necessarily approaching each character with those design angles.

What kinds of mechanics did you work to implement to make Contra: Rogue Corps welcoming to newcomers, but also challenging enough for people who have loved the series for years?

Nakazato: First, and maybe most obvious is that you can select difficulty level. But the other aspect of difficulty adjustment is that the further you progress in the game, the difficulty might ramp down a bit because you are getting stronger and getting better weapons. For more advanced players, there are great exploration missions that allow players to bet credits at the beginning and the more credits bet, the more challenging the game will be. But if you’re successful you can also reap more rewards.


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Of all the Contra games you have worked on, which one do you feel best ended up turning into exactly what you expected and hoped it would be and why?


Nakazato: Frankly for just about all of the titles I’ve handled the final product has been pretty close to the vision I’ve had for the game. However there is one funny example I’ll note where it was the opposite. In Contra III, one of the first bosses was supposed to be this big robotic turtle that would stand on two legs and had a head that moved around like a snake. I didn’t see it, but the larger team pointed out that the turtle head had a shape that was, well, let’s just say a bit risque for its time. So we changed the design for the final game and the entire enemy character turned out more like a traditional turtle. Today the “risque” design would likely be no issue, but back in the day there was a retail expectation for a more family-friendly look and feel so we had to adjust things properly.


How did you feel about the cancellation of the Vandal Hearts DS game and do you have any ideas for the series if it would be able to be resurrected?


Nakazato: Actually I wasn’t even aware of Vandal Hearts on DS! So not sure how I feel about it. But in terms of resurrecting the series overall, I’m a big fan of this RPG series and personally I’d really like to have another shot working on a project in this genre.

With characters like Bubsy and Crash Bandicoot enjoying revivals, how would you feel about a Rocket Knight reboot?

This would be amazing. If we know there is big interest from the public and the fans, the best way to approach is to really let Konami know through the various social channels. If we can get enough interest, who knows, perhaps it can make a return!


Contra: Rogue Corps is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.