This Evolution of Contra (Mostly) Works
The past few years have seen a swell in the amount of franchises looking to get back to their roots. Games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One and Street Fighter 4 have tried to return their respective franchises to their roots with varying degrees of success. Konami has decided to take a different approach with Hard Corps: Uprising by evolving the Contra formula in some interesting ways while still remaining true to what made the series great in the first place. Only a handful of issues keeps Hard Corps: Uprising from being a sure thing.
Hard Corps: Uprising contains two main modes. The first is Arcade Mode.This mode is vanilla Contra; three lives, three continues, and weapon power ups with the addition of a double jump, an air dash, a sprint, and (most importantly) a health bar that allows you to withstand up to three hits, depending on the strength of the attack. Each character (of which there are two standard and two available for download) also comes with a preselected slate of abilities. Your enhanced mobility and ability to absorb more than one shot make this mode slightly easier than the Contra games of old, but not by much.
The other mode is called Rising Mode. In Rising Mode, you still begin with everything you had in Arcade Mode, but you can freely select from any stage you've already finished as well as upgrade your abilities, health, and number of starting lives using Corps Points, which you gain from playing through the stages. You can even purchase new abilities such as the ability to deflect bullets and vault over low obstacles. Even with these added amenities, Rising Mode is no joke, and may require a bit of grinding to get through. Hard Corps: Uprising also features both local and online co-op, as well as score leaderboards. Just as with past titles in the series, Hard Corps: Uprising is best enjoyed with a friend.
Visually, Hard Corps: Uprising is a bit inconsistent. The character and enemy design (aside from the two downloadable characters, who are goofy in a kind of endearing way) is shockingly generic, which seems odd for developer Arc System Works, whose bizarre style I'm usually a big fan of. Otherwise, the visuals are impressive, with smooth animation and intricately detailed sprites.
The music in Hard Corps: Uprising consists of remixes of old Contra tunes, and does its job admirably. The voice acting, however, is physically painful to listen to for any amount of time. I found myself playing through the majority of the game with the sound off.
Hard Corps: Uprising comes with a few caveats, but fans of old school action who don't mind a little bit of repetition, some minor control frustration, and the most god-awful voice acting outside of Mega Man X4 should find it to be well worth their $15.