Hard Corps: Uprising

The experience of playing Hard Corps: Uprising is very much that of controlling an action cartoon.

Hard Corps: Uprising

Publisher: Konami
Players: 1-2
Price: $15.00
Platform: XBLA
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: 2011-02-16

The first Contra game is fondly remembered for many reasons. The bizarre amalgam of Vietnam-era commando imagery melded with an alien invasion was certainly memorable.  The cooperative 2-player wherein it was possible to dip into your partners pool of lives to resurrect yourself from the dead was a fun gameplay mechanic.  Of course, the Konami code, which was actually introduced in Gradius, was arguably made iconic in gaming history via Contra, a game nearly impossible to defeat without the 30 lives that it granted.  Contra didn't originate the run-and-gun or bullet hell subgenres, but it certainly was influential entry to both.

While the series's glory days were undoubtedly on the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis, it was revitalized by Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS.  Coming at a time when nostalgia for the relentlessly difficult platform and action games of earlier console generations was rising, Contra 4 successfully renewed excitement about the property among fans.  Contra ReBirth for the Wii, the series' first downloadable installment, continued this trend.  Hard Corps: Uprising, a prequel to the well regarded 1994 Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis, brings the Contra formula to the PSN and XBLA, and it's largely a successful effort, though some of its quirks do take some getting used to.

What strikes the player first about Hard Corps: Uprising is the art style.  The opening cinematic sets the stage for an anime-style approach to the game's design, but it's difficult to fully appreciate how well that it's realized until you see the game in motion.  The experience of playing the game is very much that of controlling an action cartoon.  It's an interesting choice, since having this style of game presented as a cartoon seems, on paper, like something much more associated with the Metal Slug series.  But where Metal Slug's art design wears a sense of humor on its sleeve, Hard Corps: Uprising takes itself seriously in a perfect, over-the-top, 1980s-cartoon kind of way.  The animation is absolutely gorgeous, not surprising since developer Arc System Works was behind the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series, both known for stunning 2D animation.

Despite the visual overhaul, Hard Corps: Uprising is immediately recognizable as a Contra game, from the moment the shredding guitar version of the start screen jingle first plays. Gameplay is characterized by moving from left to right, shooting anything that moves, with the ability to aim in any direction. Power ups fly across the top of the screen in little capsules that inexplicably travel along a sine wave.  Any Contra fan will crack a grin the first time that the spread gun makes an appearance. Hard Corps: Uprising also features both local and online co-op, an absolute necessity for the full Contra experience.

The musical portion of the soundtrack is outstanding overall.  The arrangements are actually very reminiscent of the style of cult gaming band, The Minibosses.  The audio production, as a whole, however is somewhat uneven.  The voice acting is certainly over the top, but it seems unfair to paint this as a negative when cheesiness in other aspects of the game is welcome.  However, some of the sound effects, particularly the frequent enemy death squawks, start out as repetitive before continuing onto (and completely overshooting) grating.

The most welcome addition to the Contra formula comes in the form of “Rising” mode, an RPG-esque affair that allows players to level up weapons and unlock additional moves, characters, lives and other upgrades using points accrued through previous play.  These RPG-style mechanics make the game much more approachable to newcomers.  The game also features an “Arcade” mode which is much more similar to the classic Contra presentation in terms of difficulty, but players will likely spend a lot of time in “Rising” mode, getting used to the game's physics and boss patterns before making any real headway in “Arcade” mode.

Some of the gameplay mechanics certainly take some getting used to in order to take full advantage of the player's updated arsenal.  Double jumps, dashes, and reflections certainly change the tactics of the game, but many of these tricks are largely ignorable, making them seem like well intentioned yet shallow attempts to make Hard Corps: Uprising feel more different from other entries in the Contra> series than it really is.

Overall, Hard Corps: Uprising offers a fresh take on the Contra series, bringing the challenging, 2D, run-and-gun gameplay that the series in known for, wrapped in a gorgeous new package, and with enough new mechanics to alter gameplay tactics.  It's certainly not the level of reinvention that Namco brought to the table with successive, brilliant iterations of Pacman: Championship Edition, but it does well by the legacy of the series.  Hard Corps: Uprising seems positioned to be the beginning of an all new franchise, however, and it will be interesting to see where Konami takes it from here.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.