Despite not having the name anywhere in its title, Hard Corps: Uprising is the latest entry in the Contra series. The developers at Arc System Works took everything you loved from the series and made it crazier than it’s ever been before. Remember the days when you could lose all your lives and continues on the first stage alone? Well, that’s exactly what you can expect from this game.
Hard Corps: Uprising is the spiritual prequel to Contra: Hard Corps, which was released in 1994 for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It doesn’t really matter if you never played it before, but it’s worth noting that Bahamut, the main character in Uprising, is the villain in Contra: HC. Really, though, who plays a Contra game for its story? While Arc System Works does a commendable job adding some back story to the game, the words merely serve as a way to distract you from the ridiculously long load times.
If you never played a Contra game before, the premise is quite simple. The games are side-scrolling shooters with platforming elements. Your character is equipped with a gun and you have to shoot your way through waves of enemies while dodging bullets along the way. Arc System Works keeps the tradition alive but adds in a dose of insanity to make the game even more exciting. I don’t think I’ve ever played a Contra game with as many obstacles, enemies, and bullets on screen as this one. It almost feels cheap at times, but you’ll eventually figure out a strategy that works.
To alleviate the game’s insane difficulty curve, new abilities are given to the player. Some of which include being able to air-dash, reflect bullets, and dodge incoming attacks with the press of a button. Keeping up with the game’s fast pace, players can actually dash through levels using the new run command. For the most part, learning each move ends up being a process of trial and error. The gameplay opens up so much once you master these techniques, though, that it makes all the painful efforts worthwhile.
The most useful mechanic in the game is easily the aim lock system. By holding down the left trigger you can lock the aim of your gun in any direction. You’ll find yourself using this tactic frequently. For instance, you could walk backwards while shooting forward without worrying about facing the opposite direction. On the other hand, the right trigger locks your movement and allows you to aim freely in any direction. Although these are not new mechanics to the series, the implementation in Uprising felt a bit clumsy at times. I would often aim in the wrong angle and take a few bullets to the face as a result.
- Released on the 16th of February
- Part of the XBLA House Party season
- Costs 1,200 Microsoft Points
Whenever you take a hit, the powerup you’re using is lost. If you happen to equip two powerups of the same type in one slot, you’ll increase the power of that weapon. For the most part, you’ll want to stick with the classic Spread Shot and Machine Gun. Those weapons will never let you down.
There are only two gameplay modes in Uprising – Arcade and Rising. In Arcade mode you’re forced to play through the game with a set amount of lives, continues, and abilities. This is the mode for the hardcore purists that want the most challenging experience. Rising mode, on the other hand, allows the player to purchase additional health, lives, weapon upgrades, and advanced techniques like dodge and reflect. Each customization costs a certain amount of Corps Points to unlock, so there is a bit of a grind involved. Rising mode is a lot of fun and enhances gameplay by making it more approachable to a wider audience.
In both modes there are two playable characters to choose from – Bahamut and Krystal. For whatever reason, the female character has less life by default. It’s not like the game needs to be more difficult, so it’s a weird design choice. Of course, if you’re playing in Rising mode you could just increase Krystal’s health capacity to avoid any disadvantages. Aside from that, the story is told from the perspective of the character you’re playing as. It’s nothing much, but it does provide some insight that is interesting to read.
Despite only having eight levels in total, Uprising is surprisingly long. It took me about six hours to complete the game my first time through, but that’s including every death and retry. Each level consists of lengthy gameplay sequences that constantly test your abilities as a gamer. Whether you’re driving a vehicle, riding on a raft, climbing walls, or simple running on land, there’s rarely a dull moment. However, the game eventually introduces a bunch of one-hit-kill sections that are quite frustrating to deal with. During your first playthrough you’ll never know what to expect other than death. When you do succeed, though, you’ll feel like you really accomplished something great.
Although the imbalanced difficulty is bound to be a problem for many gamers, the boss battles are easily the weakest aspect of the game. Sometimes they are enjoyable to fight, but for the most part, the encounters are a test of patience and endurance in ways that just aren’t fun. Unless you’re really good at the game, chances are you won’t have a powerup. Because of this, the boss fights just take too long. Even if you already figured out the pattern, you’ll have to go through a few more repetitions as punishment for getting hit even once. And unless you have the auto rapid-fire customization equipped, you’ll have to keep mashing on the fire button to get as many hits in as possible. The grind in boss fights seems unnecessary, especially when compared to the pacing throughout the rest of the game.
The cooperative experience is, without a doubt, the main highlight. Whether you’re playing online or offline, there is just too much fun to be had with a friend. The game does become slightly easier, but you’ll still find yourself dying just as frequently. Nearly every death somehow becomes comical and more amusing when playing co-op. This makes replaying the game a lot more enjoyable and certainly beats throwing a controller at the TV. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like Uprising compensates much for having two players. This results in both players sometimes fighting for the best weapons since they’re so rare. Even when playing alone, there was a severe lack of weapon powerups in the later half of the game. Aside from that, there aren’t any additional problems that arise in co-op that aren’t already in the single player experience. The netcode seemed to work just fine and there was no noticeable input delay when playing online.
The visuals in Uprising are really something else. Fans of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear will immediately recognize the art style thanks to the beautifully rendered sprites. Although the scale of the game might be smaller than Arc System Works’ previous titles, you can expect the same level of quality. It doesn’t matter the level you’re playing, every environment is colorful, unique, and full of eye-candy.
- It’s Contra, which means it’s going to be tough
- Lots of replay value
- Rising mode’s customization options are awesome
- The game is even more fun with a friend
- Beautiful anime-style visuals
- Load times are awful (nearly 2 minutes per stage)
- Might be too difficult for casuals; can be frustrating
- Sometimes the game is just too chaotic
- Controls can cause problems in tricky situations
I really enjoyed playing Hard Corps: Uprising. After I finished the game for the first time, I immediately started replaying it from the beginning. I find that Hard Corps is even more enjoyable when you know what to expect and have the means to dodge and counter anything coming your way. While the gameplay might be a bit too hardcore for gamers that are easily frustrated, the upgrades in Rising mode will eventually give you the edge you need to beat every level. Just know that you will die a lot your first time through. If you’re a fan of side-scrolling shooters like Contra and Metal Slug, definitely check this game out.