The first time you pick up Hard Corps: Uprising the word Contra immediately comes to mind, and for very good reason very good reason: the first attendee of the XBLA House Party stays true to Konami’s roots by delivering a fiendishly difficult side scroller that pushes your gaming skills to the limit. At the same time, it’s also a game that realizes some of the limitations of Contra and does its best to bring the classic franchise into the new generation. After playing through some of a preview build, we found this update might be just what the doctor ordered if you’re the masochistic type.
Booting up the game gives you a couple of options for how to tackle it. There is the arcade mode, designed for gamers who found Super Meat Boy far too easy, and the easier rising mode, for wimps who like incorporating RPG elements into their shooters; you can guess which one we tried (hint: the pansy one). Our trip through the first level saw us, playing as burly Bahamut, teaming up one of the games’ producers, who was using the less durable Kaitlyn. These two represent half of the playable characters from the final product, although we weren’t able to get any details about the other two.
Characters in place, we dropped ourselves into the stage number one; where we were promptly shot in the face. This was to become a recurring theme throughout our demo, as Hard Corps: Uprising presents you with plenty of bullets to avoid, even when playing in Rising Mode. Luckily, as our co-op partner’s life bar could attest to, the game controls well and gives you all of the tools necessary to finesse your way around enemy fire.
If you’re more of a brute force type of gamer, enemies will also drop power-ups which make your guns more deadly. Skill is still required even with a hulked up rifle, as one hit to your character and you’ve lost any accumulated upgrades.
Your whole time won’t be spent on foot, battling through waves of enemies though, as even our brief section showed a fair bit of variety. Our demo saw us blasting through normal grunt types, hopping onto a motorcycle to defeat a strange egg-shaped thing, going head on with a giant metal snake boss, and then hopping back on a motorcycle to finally finish off yet another egg monster. Each change of scenery brings a checkpoint, meaning that game over doesn’t kill all of your chances of finishing. It should be noted though that you are not able to save mid-level, something which could turn off some gamers considering how long and hard stages are.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the art direction the credit it deserves. It would have been easy to go the retro route and just rely on Contra nostalgia to carry the day; instead, Konami put in the work to create a fresh anime style that the west sees too infrequently. The one downside is that the art, much like many other parts of Hard Corps: Uprising seem to be geared towards a very specific niche of gamer, which could make it a very polarizing title when it kicks off the XBLA House Party. We’ll see just how well it can span generational and genre gaps when it launches on February 16th.
[Hard Corps: Uprising]-1200 MSP