Hard Corps: Uprising
That Konami has seen fit to drop the Contra moniker from this latest addition to the series is telling. In 2008, the publisher displayed a baffling reluctance to release Contra 4 – the last true addition to the canon – in Europe, despite the American and Japanese editions receiving stellar critical praise at launch. To assess Hard Corps: Uprising on a visual level is to see a game that, while striking, bears little resemblance to the original formula. However, be under no illusion that this is a weak sequel; Uprising maintains the granite-hard, twitchy bullet hell template that has held the series in good stead since Gryzor first hit the arcades in 1987.
Development duty now rests with BlazBlue creators Arc System Works, and with it comes the studio’s now trademark pristine anime visuals and fluid animation. The basic gameplay tenets of the series have been transferred to this sequel, but gone are series mainstays Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, replaced here by a rebel force helmed by soldiers Bahamut and Krystal.
So while it could be considered a reboot of sorts, Uprising pays homage to previous instalments through subtle nods, and direct replications of the series’ more memorable moments. This becomes apparent as soon as you dip in to arcade mode, as familiar guitar licks pound over the sound of gunfire, and familiar enemies rush the player from all angles.
The intricate blend of run-and-gun blasting and platforming remains, with plenty of hazards to leap across and hand holds to scale. However, the inclusion of ground and mid-air dash manoeuvres adds a new layer of skill to the mechanic, allowing for last minute escapes and crossing enemies to gain the advantage. Aside from your starting pea-shooter, players can store two extra weapons ranging from rapid fire machine guns and plasma scatterguns. Collecting two of the same shot type in succession will level-up your current weapon, though taking a hit will cause the player to revert back to the default gun.
While life bars have been notoriously absent from the series, Arcade mode grants three hits before death. This isn’t a case of the series going soft, because the challenge here is one of the most brutal ever seen from the series. This is Contra through and through, throwing a barrage of complex boss attack patterns and screen filling hazards fans have come to expect.
Solace can be found in Uprising mode, where players can tackle the core campaign, earn Corps Points and spend them on new attacks, as well as health and ammo upgrades. It’s a neat system that offers dedicated persistence.