Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis was the first Contra game to appear on a Sega console. Although, it wasn’t necessarily a “true” numbered sequel to Contra III the game played very similarly to past games albeit with controls that catered to the Genesis gamepad. Fast-forward to today and Konami has decided to revisit the Hard Corps universe. In fact, it seems their intentions are to make the “Hard Corps” setting a series of its own, separate from the Contra games.
Does this new game, developed by Ark System Works, show promise for the Hard Corps franchise or is it just a lame attempt at trying to revive the Hard Corps name? Hit the jump to find out.
Hard Corps: Uprising offers a couple ways to play the game. There’s the traditional “arcade mode” that forces you to play through the entire game in one sitting with a certain amount of lives and continues and there’s “rising mode” which allows you to start at any stage you’ve progressed to and also adds an RPG element of sorts. I spent most of my time in rising mode as I was not gifted with the ability to beat a Contra game in one sitting.
The way rising mode works is you start with a very limited amount of hit points and lives for you character and you use your score as a means to purchase new abilities and improvements for your character. For example by the time I beat the game my character had six hit points and seven lives per continue. It’s a great motivator to keep on playing as every time you get a game over you instantly want to upgrade your character with the score you’ve accumulated and try the level again. It also adds a “grind” of sorts to the game as you’ll find yourself replaying levels just to build up your score and purchase the next upgrade. In addition to hit point and extra lives upgrades there are options to start with a specific weapon, get a new move, weapon upgrades, etc. There are quite a few things to unlock and I’d only used a fraction by the time I beat the game. You could make quite the super soldier if you wanted to.
The game itself plays a lot like past games in the series. You run from right to left shooting at enemies all over the screen. At times there can be five or more enemies on screen all firing projectiles at you and it does get a little hectic as you’re shooting all over the place while trying to avoid the oncoming missiles. I found that I played best taking the game slowly and inching my way through the level to avoid getting too many enemies on screen at once. It was still ridiculously difficult and I envy anyone who’s able to actually “run” and gun their way through this game.
Speaking of guns, Hard Corps: Uprising, has several types of weapons that vary in their usefulness. I mainly just found the machine gun and spread gun to be of any use but there is a missile launcher, flamethrower, homing laser, and a couple other weapons. I found that some of the latter were a little difficult to use mainly because of their limited range. All the weapons can also be upgraded by collecting another power-up of the same time but that rarely happens. If you get hit while using a special weapon you instantly lose it and you’ll be hit in this game a lot.
The visuals of Hard Corps: Uprising are impressive. Ark System Works is known for its excellent 2D animation work in games like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear and Uprising is no different. The character and boss designs are one of the best reasons to play the game. The developers did a great job of stopping the game from being repetitive by continuously throwing new enemies in that not only looked unique but also behaved differently than enemies in the past. These aren’t just palate swapped foes, each one is unique and it will take a couple confrontations before you know exactly how you’ll want to deal with them.
Unfortunately, the sound design does not fare as well as the visuals. You’ll hear the same repetitive enemies’ shouts and screams throughout the game and the soundtrack itself can grate. You’ll probably be better off playing this game with some of the sound settings turned down and picking out your own soundtrack. It does little to harm the game but it could have made the experience much better.
Overall, Ark System Works has done a tremendous job with Hard Corps: Uprising. It’s probably the best looking Contra game to date and stands out from other games in the franchise with its own unique look. If you’re a fan of run and gun shooters and like your games difficult than this game is for you. There’s a ton of variety in the eight stages available keeping the game from growing tedious. Plus, if you find the game a little too difficult you can always take it online and play cooperatively through the main campaign.
Hard Corps: Uprising gets an A-