For the finale of the Contra retrospective, I’m going to recount some of my experiences with this great game. I just started playing it last year in 2013, after I downloaded it on PSN. It’s produced by Konami but actually developed by Arc System Works, who worked on the Guilty Gear series. Turns out that one of the other article writers, Dan The Physics Guy, plays it too and is quite good at it. So he and I did some co-op, and it was a lot of fun. We also tried playing Double Dragon Neon, but sadly it’s only local co-op. That’s too bad since it’s a fantastic game, but more on that in the future.
First off, this is a prequel to Contra Hard Corps, as people like Colonel Bahamut and Dr. Geo Mandrake are in the game but quite a bit younger. Bahamut and Krystal are your main characters, and you can get three characters as DLC: Harley, Sayuri, and Leviathan. Bahamut, Krystal, and Harley all have two weapon slots, and more than one life bar on the life gauge, and pretty much play the same. Leviathan can only take one hit before dying, and only has one weapon slot, but can do special moves like toss grenades, tackle enemies, and vault over obstacles. Sayuri is totally different from all others, as she can only use a sword, but it is fast and insanely powerful, and she can charge it up and shoot a beam across the screen.
The story is pretty basic as usual. The evil leader Tiberius is causing trouble, and it’s your job to stop him. Everyone has a backstory, and you can read it during each mission bumper, which is cool. The graphics in this game look nice, and are in 2.5D, much like most other classic game franchises turned modern(Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles, Double Dragon Neon, Maverick Hunter X, etc.). One of the best points of the game, besides the gameplay, is the soundtrack. Many of the early Contra games had excellent soundtracks, but Hard Corps Uprising might just have the best soundtrack of all the modern ones. With the same composer as the Guilty Gear OSTs, you can definitely hear that hard rock/metal influence.
As for the gameplay, it’s still classic run and gun, but with a lot of new features to make it feel fresh. You can dash, double or triple jump, evade enemy bullets, reflect bullets, dash through enemies, and some other cool things. You’ve got upgradeable weapons for all the ones you can pick up: machine gun, heated plasma, chain laser, spread, ripple, and crash. These have all been in various Contra titles before, and as they are upgraded, they usually get bigger, faster, and do more damage. Crash is always good against bosses and minibosses, but really slow. Machine gun is the go to weapon for any situation, and ripple is a great defensive weapon. The controls are spot on, so if you fall in a pit or get hit and lose your weapon, it’s your own fault. Even with a life gauge, this game is still brutal.
Speaking of difficulty, if you play on Arcade mode, you don’t get to upgrade your characters at all, and you must play through the whole game in one sitting. It’s challenging, and there’s even a gold trophy if you can win without dying, not unlike Mr. Perfect in Mega Man 9 and 10. You can play online with a friend, or do local co-op, which helps immensely. In Rising mode, you can play through any level once you’ve completed it, and earn corps points to upgrade your characters’ health, weapons, and moves. Since I’m not “Hard Corps” enough for Arcade mode usually, I stick with Rising mode most of the time.
Bosses and enemies are quite tricky in this game, and it’s just as difficult, if not more so, than Hard Corps, Contra III, and Shattered Soldier. Stages 1 through 4 are not so tough, and stages 5 and 6 get a little tricky, but stages 7 and 8 are brutally difficult. The bosses you have to fight leading up to the finale will certainly test your reflexes and skills as a gamer. You might just be asking yourself, “Can you avoid this?” over and over, and if you get that joke, you’ll know what I mean. If the game wasn’t so difficult, it would not be such an awesome Contra title, though.
Dan here. I couldn’t agree more with what Brent has said thus far, especially the part about me being good at the game. I want to speak briefly of the difficulty and the achievement/trophy for beating the game without dying. That accomplishment is wonderful to have in there, not for the reason you are probably thinking though. Us retro gamers don’t need validation for our achievements as our stories, memories, and interactions with others while playing are satisfaction enough. Why this accomplishment is so wonderful, is that I believe it may have been one of the many factors to help the developers keep the game tough, but fair. It is very possible to achieve this, but only with enough persistence. I don’t believe that there is a single part in the game that frequently causes cheap deaths, all of the mechanics allow the player to charge quickly through the game, without hesitation (assuming you are confident enough). I believe this is a tremendously balanced game that allows for a true challenge.
Brent again. I highly recommend Hard Corps Uprising, and it’s probably my favorite modern Contra game, just as the original Hard Corps is my favorite classic one. That concludes my Contra retrospective, and I know most of you have played at least some of the games. Other than the PS1 entries, most titles are great, and you just can’t go wrong with the King of run and guns.
Dan the Physics Guy & General Brent
Next time: Brent will do something and Dan will be proving Contra is real!