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Back in the day of 16-bit consoles, Contra III: The Alien Wars came out on the SNES, making Sega Genesis owners wonder if their system would be graced with Contra or Castlevania title.  Thankfully, we received both.  The Contra title was Contra: Hard Corps, and was easily one of the best titles up to that date for Contra, even the Genesis.  Four characters, crazy speed, ridiculous boss battles, smooth animation, and a story line from the outer shores of WTF.  The difficulty level lived up to its name, and it was insane, but fun.  It was Contra!



Coming into E3 2010, there was a title put forth by Konami with a working title of Hard Corps: Uprising.  We thought aloud "Is it a Contra title?"  Konami said "No, it isn't."  Techically it isn't.  It's a sort of pre-boot to Contra: Hard Corps, without the Contra brand.  Understood.  Who, beyond the fans who recognize Contra, would jump at the chance of owning a Contra title?  Or is it simply the fact that an enemy in Contra is one of the heroes of Uprising, and the Contra is the rebel character, and there is no rebel present? Hmm. Ponderous.


Playing Hard Corps: Uprising is definitely a trip back in time to when games were simple and tokens flowed like wine, mixed with a time when graphic possibilities seemed endless and people demanded more meat in their games.  The graphics in Uprising, for lack of a better term, are awesome, and manages to hold onto the main gameplay mechanic of the scroll-shoot Contra style. 


When you start the game, after you get passed the impressive production that is a mini-movie quickly showing what's going on in the world, you will begin to recognize the music from the old Contra games remixed with new instruments and a "rocking" tune.  The main menu (menus are modelled from the Contra Hard Corps menu style, which are collapsible screens with lines of static here and there,) let's you choose which mode you want to play: Arcade Mode, which will try your patience with its insane difficulty; Rising Mode, where you will upgrade your character, your weapons, your health, number of lives, and you can choose a level to play after you have them purchased from the Shop & Customize area; Online Mode which, thankfully, allows for Arcade and Rising modes in a multi-player atmosphere.  Shopping and customizing your character is done with your points accumulated from Rising Mode turned into credits to purchase upgrades.


There are two characters to choose from who have multiple color palette swaps to change up the look and to help see your character if you play a multi-player game.  There is a woman, Krystal, who is actually dressed for the part of a warrior, unlike lots of the female characters these days who are, shall we say, less modestly dressed and more ready for some mud wrestling than for war.  The male character is Bahamut, a future enemy of the Contra fighters.  He is also dressed to kill, but has a long red scarf dangling behind his neck, like a sort of red flag to wave in front of the bulls.


Below: Krystal (left) and Bahamut (right) swingin' the vines.


Multiple weapons are available, and you will recognize them, even though there is a little bit of alteration in their rate and type of fire.  The machine gun, the spread gun, and the basic pop gun are the ones that will be instantly recognized without a doubt.  The fire gun, laser, and missile launcher are back, but very different in how they are used.  The fire gun is chargeable, holding down the fire button gets your shot power stronger with greater distance, simply tapping the button gives you a little spurt of fire which is OK for close-range combat.  The laser fire will attack in an angular fashion, going forward, up, down, left, right, while finding its way to its target.  Very helpful in some of the insane boss battles.  The missile launcher is more of a powerful mortar cannon that plops a projectile out a certain distance and does significant damage to your enemies.


The trigger buttons are used in a way that made me literally say "that's a damn good idea."  Holding down one trigger will keep your character still while you can spin around your direction of fire without the worry of walking into an enemy or walking off a cliff.  The other trigger allows you to move around in any direction while concentrating your fire in one direction.  The shoulder buttons allow you to dash forward when in the air, or run forward on the ground.  The air dash doesn't move you very small, but combined with a double-jump can get you into the hard to reach areas of the board or give you those extra inches to avoid death.  When you get the handle on using the trigger and shoulder buttons combined with your regular jump-shoot-action buttons, you'll soon be kicking some serious ass.


Gameplay is perfect 80s style insanity, injected with some of those seemingly long-lost characteristics: instant control-throwing deaths, minimal continues, a high level difficulty, and the dying-off "Game Over" screen from arcades gone by.  This is a perfect title for multi-player, and is highly recommended if you even think you can get to the higher Arcade Mode levels.  Sure there's several savant game players who have, by the time I have finished writing this, have already cleared the game and achieved some of those "Complete Game Without Dying or Powering Up" achievements, but oh well, that ain't me!  This game returns me to the cathedral of my youth, which was a carpet walled arcade with ashtrays drilled onto the game cabinets.  In hindsight, probably not the best places to hand out, but something I wouldn't trade for many things.


Each level has a personality, which we've come to expect from games.  The desert, the jungle, the post-apocalyptic city..  You will also bump into the Contra Barricades, those giant metal doors equipped with cannons and a gunner on top, shooting at timed intervals at you while you pound away at the flashing light that blocks your immediate path.  You know the ones, they've been in Contra and Contra-style titles for over 20 years:



Your boss battles are, shall we say, epic.  Level One's boss battle was actually trying my patience, it consisted of 4 sections.  FOUR sections on level one!  Another later boss battle was a guy in a fast-moving Mech, but he laughed like he was bored with fighting.  Maybe he was?  Anyhow, the boss battles are all about memorization of patterns for these battles, but for some reason I was getting carried away and dying, and dying a lot.  There aren't many continues to be had or lives, so your mind is a critical element in this game.  Oh, and your patience.  Uprising is from the quarter-muncher school of gaming.  Die, and put in more money to continue.  Die, and finish, let the next player put in his money. 


Thankfully, being a current XBLA title and upcoming PSN title, Hard Corps: Uprising saves you a ton of cash in game tokens at its $15 price.  There is a lot of replay value in the game, with the Arcade and Rising modes of play, coupled with a tight online connection (tested!) and planned DLC to breathe new life into the title..  On top of everything else, the game is fun.  Some games take themselves too seriously and somehow manage to kill the fun of playing. Uprising, thankfully, is a different breed of an older breed of video game.  The guys at The World of Einstein & Pencil Shavings recommend/require your purchase this game.












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