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Hard Corps: Uprising (Xbox 360) artwork

Hard Corps: Uprising (Xbox 360) review

"Just by looking at one or two images of Hard Corps: Uprising, you can tell it's a product of Arc System Works, or, "those dudes that made Guilty Gear". With 2D graphics, colorful worlds, fluid animation, and characters that could pass for GG fighters, it has a distinct familiarity to it. Hell, Bahamut, the protagonist, could pass for Sol Badguy's long lost brother!"

Just by looking at one or two images of Hard Corps: Uprising, you can tell it's a product of Arc System Works, or, "those dudes that made Guilty Gear". With 2D graphics, colorful worlds, fluid animation, and characters that could pass for GG fighters, it has a distinct familiarity to it. Hell, Bahamut, the protagonist, could pass for Sol Badguy's long lost brother! To beat a dead horse further, if Konami had gathered a group of nerds into a room and showed them footage of the game, way before it was even announced, they'd probably wet themselves at the prospect of a Guilty Gear shoot-em-up. Now... the last time Konami outsourced their Contra franchise, specifically the Hard Corps line, it was an epic trainwreck. And while having Arc System Works develop the latest incarnation sounds promising, there is potential for derailment, especially with it already sounding like a GG spin-off.

Well, I highly doubt they could replicate the magic of Appaloosa, even if they tried with all their hearts, and with that said, they've cranked out a very Contra-y release. Before you start having a joygasm, note that I said Contra-y, and not Hard Corps-y. If you are a fan of the more "casual" Contras, like III and Neo, you'd likely enjoy this, but if you were expecting a legit Hard Corps successor, you're in for a huge letdown. The game moves surprisingly slow with the rate of enemies appearing on-screen. The red shirts, or red hoodies, I should say, pop-up at a lax rate, making it very embarrassing to get hit by one if you're not busy taking out the equally generic, stationary baddies from the other side of the screen. I should mention there's a dash button, but I don't play Contra stages to run through them as fast as possible, I play for manly shooting action!

What's worse is how horribly repetitive the first stages are. Here's the basic flow:

Scrolling Segment ---> Mini-Boss ---> Similar Scrolling Segment + One Additional, Useless Enemy ---> Boss

This flow chart might have been fine in any other decent Contra title, but considering the slow pacing in Uprising, it gets painful plowing through "the masses". It reaches a horrific peak in stage 2, when you have to deal with two mini-bosses and a main. Look up at that chart again and imagine the agony. Uprising also suffers from Super Castlevaina IV-itis, where things only begin picking up right at the end; standard enemies start acting like threats by rushing and shooting laser beams that stretch across the screen, and the final three stages become almost a spiritual successor to Shinobi III's final levels. There's so many tiny platforms to stand and hang from, you make your way up an elevator shaft by jumping to and from missiles, and you even board a flying battleship in the end! Granted, the Shinobi-esque play mechanics are not what I wanted in a Contra game, but I was willing to accept anything good at that point.

The only aspect that's stayed consistently good throughout this release are the main boss fights. Most don't even compare to the chaos of the original Hard Corps bosses, however, in Uprising, they're normally the best things in the game. Each require mostly the use of dodging and memorization skills to survive. And th... that's why they're good. Yeah, I just described every boss fight ever, but in a game where those are sorely lacking half the time in the scrolling segments, it comes off as a blessing.

Two boss fights are worth mentioning in detail, though. Stage 4's takes place in the skies over a city, while on your rocket board/hover thingy thing, and against a ginormous, spinning wheel. Its first form is easy as easy, but its second form requires you to go inside the wheel's narrow corridors, to destroy its weak spots. This isn't as easy, since, when you destroy each area's shielding, rapid, blue projectiles shoot out, requiring you to pass them with precision, or destroy them before a giant green projectile, which circles the halls, smacks your avatar. You can shoot it... but it'll just disperse into four, smaller projectiles. The fight doesn't end there, as the whole thing starts rotating in various directions and shoots erratically, afterwards.

The other fight occurs in the 5th stage, and matches you against a giant contraption trying to smack you with its huge, robotic arms. Dodging the arms is easy, but can you do it while a row of fireballs fall from above? You're then greeted by a barrage of bigger fireballs that come at you from a slant perspective. Avoiding the first wave is easy, but when they hit the floor, they break into smaller pieces, making it hard to jump over those and the following waves. To round it off, its final form tasks you with avoiding more projectile attacks from above, half of which you won't see coming till the last second, while hopping over a legion of two-sided, spinning lightsabers that move upwards. Super dodging skills are in full effect here. These clashes are reminiscent of the original bosses, and do them proud. It's too bad the rest of the boss fights in Uprising aren't this hectic.

So did Arc System Works just drop the ball? Had no idea how to make a proper follow-up to the Sega Genesis title? I actually wish that was the case. Instead, as talked about in an interview with the game's producer, the game was intentionally made easier, so that it can be accessible to everyone. That's why the scrolling segments are tame, why the bosses don't compare, why it only gets hard right at the end, and why the life bar rears its ugly head... because they didn't want anyone to whine about it being hard. Shoot in Rising mode (more or less an easy mode), you can use points to purchase stronger weapons, more lives, and a bigger life bar. Madness! The only thing it does right is give you an option to shrink the bar so that you lose a life after one hit. Yeah, I wish this game was just a fluke, because if a sequel were created, I could have hoped that might be harder. But, it's likely going to be "accessible", as well.

It's funny, Contra: Hard Corps has always felt like the anti-Contra, the black sheep of the franchise... if you don't count the crap titles. And, with great irony, all its sequels and prequels have been nothing but anti-Hard Corps.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (February 27, 2011)

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joseph_valencia posted February 27, 2011:

Just wanted to point out that "Rising" mode can actually be tweaked to be more difficult than "Arcade" mode.
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pickhut posted February 27, 2011:

What the hell, I didn't know about the one hit kill. Kinda lame that certain things were left on in its "default" setting.

I'll give it that and edit the review a tiny bit. Still an easy game, though.
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joseph_valencia posted February 27, 2011:

Yeah, the only thing you can't tweak is number of credits.
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pickhut posted February 27, 2011:

I'm guessing they didn't think that was necessary since you can stage select in Rising mode.

Edit: Wait! Do you mean continues or lives? Because you can raise or lower lives in Rising, though the lowest you can go is 2 lives.
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joseph_valencia posted February 27, 2011:

Yeah, I meant continues.
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Masters posted March 01, 2011:

Yeah, I just described every boss fight ever


Nice job, by the way.
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pickhut posted March 01, 2011:

Thanks, Masters.

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