What We Already Know:
Hard Corps: Uprising is the latest game in Konami's storied run 'n' gun series, Contra. Except ... it's not. Due to corporate shenanigans Hard Corps is not an official Contra game. Whatever you call it, Uprising’s smooth action, bright graphics and fresh ideas (all courtesy of Guilty Gear dev Arc System Works) make it one to watch.
What We're Seeing Now:
Didja assume that Hard Corps: Uprising was a follow-up to 1994’s Contra: Hard Corps? I sure did. Seems it ain’t so, though, and not just because of the naming issue. Hard Corps ’94 was defined by under-developed stages and frequent, apocalyptic boss fights. In contrast, E3’s Hard Corps: Uprising demo featured a very long and varied playfield, punctuated with a handful of modest mini-bosses. For my money it felt a lot closer to 1992’s Contra III than 1994’s Hard Corps.
That’s good, though. Ever since Hard Corps these games have emphasized boss encounters to the detriment of level design, so it’s nice to see the balance tip in the other direction. The Uprising demo stage featured extensive platforming sections, classic-feeling mini-boss encounters, Energy Zone-style laser gauntlets, Metal Slug-esque exploding barrels, vintage Contra pill-box turrets, a speedy hoverbike chase sequence, and a massive final boss. It was essentially Contra’s Greatest Hits - The Stage, rendered in a very pretty combination of 3D backdrops and high-res 2D sprites.
The challenges are varied but so are our heroes’ abilities. The final game’ll have four unique-playing characters but the demo only featured Bahamut, a guy in a torn cape, and Krystal, a lady in sleek cyber-armor. Take note: These kids can move. They’re much more mobile than prior Contra heroes, with a super-fast ninja run, a Guilty Gear air dash, a double jump and a counter move that lets you send bullets back at foes or pass through enemies while running. They can also hold position or strafe while firing. With all the new options I felt a little out of control at first, but soon I was happily air-dashing over bullets.
Yeah, Hard Corps: Uprising is definitely a Contra game, and to this fan’s eyes it’s easily the most exciting one in years. Arc System Works is clearly bringing its “A” game here, and I think I’m in love.