Video games change. It's something I've come to accept over the many years I've been playing them, but there are a few standards that shouldn't get messed with too much. For every Dragon Quest or Pokémon that got the formula right the first time and is only slightly upgraded every iteration, there are fondly-remembered games like Bionic Commando that get a "modern retool" to less-than-stellar results.
Castlevania has received something of a modern reboot with the Lords of Shadow games, and the results are honestly mixed, in my opinion--it does some cool and exciting things, there are times when it feels like early Castlevania adventures on the NES, but it's all kinda samey and ho-hum at the end of the day. Lords of Shadow producer Dave Cox would like to do a similar reboot for Contra, Konami's genre-defining hardcore actioner, but thinks that a new Contra shouldn't stick to the familiar.
"I think if you're going to bring Contra back, you've got to be able to do something unique and intuitive that hasn't been done before. You can't just bring out a generic shooter. You have to have a new idea."
When asked about the critical success of WayForward's excellent Contra 4 or Arc System Works' Hard Corps: Uprising, he didn't have much praise:
"The problem with doing games like that is you are not doing anything new. You are basically remaking or doing your slant of something that has happened before. You have to have the things that made that game great, like Castlevania, you need to have that, but you have to not be afraid to do something new."
Like flat-out copy Shadow of the Colossus and God of War, for instance--that's fresh and new and unique and intuitive
He even went so far as to say that he'd try and court the Call of Duty audience with a new Contra:
"If someone were to do Contra, to say hypothetically, it would be like a new IP in many ways. We are hardcore gamers, we played those games, but there are a lot of people who don't know what Contra is. They have no idea. There is a massive audience out there, they play Call of Duty and love those games, but they don't know what Contra is. I think if we were going to reintroduce something to that audience, it has to be new, unique, it's got to stand out. It's got to have a new idea, something really cool about it that's never been done before."
Nobody's ever played a gritty third-person action game with puzzles, collectibles, QTEs, or RPG elements before!
Just speaking personally, my whole schtick as a game journalist is being positive and taking it easy and not going overboard on the snark. These are games, they're supposed to be fun. Even titles I don't like, like God of War or Assassin's Creed, are somebody's favorite game, so I try not to be too much of an asshole about it... but this is just plain stupid.
Gears of War took favorite elements from Contra (sorta-alien invasion, apocalyptic destruction, non-stop action) and turned into a completely new franchise that was loved for different reasons. Contra's formula worked the first time, and refining it is the point of the sequels--the minute you take away blisteringly difficult precision action that kills you in one hit, it's not Contra any more.
Which is why Hard Corps: Uprising and its life bar smartly avoided using the Contra name
And just to set the record straight, they did try "something new" with Contra on the PS1. Twice.
They were so bad that every follow-up since has stuck to the classic formula
I dunno, maybe I'm just being bitter about this--what do you think? Would a new Contra have to change to more modern standards to appeal to today's gamers, or will it survive on its own merits of difficulty and the reward of challenge, like Dark Souls?