Contra: Operation Galuga
Co-Optimus: The original Contra starred a pair of playable soldiers, but Operation Galuga features a significantly expanded cast. Can you tell us about the playable characters that have been revealed so far, and which ones will be available from the start?
Tomm Hulett: Bill and Lance are back, of course, as you pointed out. Beyond them, as you play through the story, you'll meet additional characters who join up and become playable. Ariana is one; she's a young woman who has been surviving alone on Galuga since the meteor event destroyed her village. She has some ties to the island that reveal the bigger picture. Later on, Lucia [(from Contra: Shattered Soldier)] leaves the command center and joins the fray directly. She's an intel expert and seems to know more than anyone why they were brought to Galuga. We'll be revealing more information in the coming months…
If players fire up Arcade Mode, they can also select the Probotectors, who are robotic soldiers in the Contra unit.
Co-Optimus: What type of weapons can players acquire in the game, and how do the new upgrades and Overload system work?
Tomm Hulett: The basic system is similar to Contra 4. Your familiar Contra letters drop, grab one to get a fancy gun, and grab the same one again to power up that gun. The new twists come from what weapons those are. It will vary depending on your character — and we put a lot of thought and care into determining how the Level 2 weapons improve, and making sure they are satisfying. I actually made a huge spreadsheet to balance the weapons, and it included all our data from Contra 4, Spidersaurs, and classic Contra games. We made some interesting choices back then!
For Operation Galuga, I think we've really found an ideal balance where every weapon is useful in different situations, and none of them feel bad. I used to pass on the laser, but it's my main weapon in Operation Galuga! When you level it up, it ricochets between nearby enemies!
Overloads are our big new mechanic. At any point, you can overload your current special weapon, destroying it but creating a large effect of some kind. For some weapons this is a huge screen-clearing attack, while for others, it's more defensive or strategic. It creates a really satisfying risk/reward, especially in desperate situations.
Co-Optimus: Your previous game, Spidersaurs, was a blast, but it had this annoying enemy that would spawn right next to the player and kill them, seemingly as a punishment for standing still. Will Operation Galuga have any enemies or mechanics like that?
Tomm Hulett: We don't revisit that mechanic specifically in Operation Galuga, but you shouldn't think of it as a punishment. Think of it as a rare opportunity to observe the usually hidden Camo-leon! Did you preorder your limited edition Spidersaurs with Limited Run Games? The included cookbook has a delicious pasta recipe utilizing that particularly tasty specimen. It's time for revenge — and a balanced dinner!
Co-Optimus: Will Operation Galuga include 3D-style base invasion stages like the original game?
Tomm Hulett: Yes and no. Those stages were remarkable back in the day because they demonstrated a level of 3D that felt IMPOSSIBLE, especially on home consoles! Technical wizardry! It also began the tradition of Contra games each having "alternate gameplay stages" including top-down in Super C and Mode 7 rotation in Contra III. For Operation Galuga, we decided on hover-bike auto-scroll stages instead of behind-the-player infiltration.
But! Since Operation Galuga uses 3D assets, the spirit of those base stages — giving the users surprising and fun 3D moments — is alive and well. We find interesting things to do with every single dimension, and there is even a little technical wizardry lurking about.
Co-Optimus: Operation Galuga is based on the original game but features a fair helping of new content. What is the balance of new and old, both in level count and content within the levels?
Tomm Hulett: A majority of the game is new. For some of our past remakes/remasters at WayForward, we start by recreating the original game in a way, and then "adding on" where we have additional ideas or maybe the older designs don't hold up as well. This was not our approach with Operation Galuga.
Rather than looking at, say, how did this boss behave in NES Contra? What ELSE can it do? We instead decided which bosses would be cool to return, and then treated them as brand-new entities. Hey, this guy has spikes, how might he attack with them? Should he fire missiles? Is acid breath a thing? Sometimes it aligns with the original; other times, it's an entirely new encounter. Not to mention our actual, legit, entirely new encounters!
As for level layouts, Operation Galuga's are entirely new. (Okay, there is ONE cameo screen. Can you find it?) In my previous games at WayForward, I kind of have a penchant for sneaking in references to stage layouts. I'm not going to name names, but you can probably find them. With Contra, I made sure the design team knew we weren't doing that this time. These are jumps you've never jumped before!
Compared to Contra 4, I think there might be more original content in Operation Galuga — especially considering the new weapons and Overloads, and how they affect gameplay.