Hard Corps: Uprising Review
Arc System Works is usually known for its BlazBlue series and beautifully animated sprites. This time, they’ve been commissioned by Konami to work on Hard Corps: Uprising, a prequel to the classic Contra series. Like most of Arc System Works’ games, Hard Corps features beautifully drawn 2D sprites and mixes it with old school gameplay to both satisfy seasoned gamers and attract younger players, even those who may have never touched a Contra game before.
Fans of classic side-scrolling 2D shooters already know what to expect; levels filled with weak baddies leading up to sub-bosses and then mind numbingly hard bosses. This is certainly the case in Hard Corps, except that both sub-bosses and bosses are not only difficult, but are all unique and require players to use almost every feature in the game to beat them. The first boss in the game already required me to strafe and shoot him from behind as I had to jump and dodge an onslaught of laser shots and fire. It only got better as another boss fight became an airborne battle, effectively turning Hard Corps into shmup. However, while extremely fun, the game’s difficulty will surely turn impatient gamers away from the frustration of being a pixel away of defeating a boss, then having to repeat a large section of the level again.
In an effort to be more inclusive, Hard Corps features both an Arcade Mode and Rising Mode. Arcade Mode appeals to old school fans, giving players preset abilities and continues for them to run through the game. On the other hand, Rising Mode allows players to upgrade their characters throughout, giving them more health, lives, or abilities. Needless to say, Rising Mode is the easier of the two and is much more forgiving, even allowing players to restart on any stage they’ve reached before. This balance gives both crowds a chance to experience the game in its entirety, allowing hardcore players to have a challenge and casual players to plow through the game – however long it may take.
Arc System Works’ trademark hand drawn sprites mesh together with polygonal enemies and environments to make a game even picky gamers from the generation of CG graphics can appreciate. The environments are all rendered beautifully – busy highways, desert battlefields, and lush rainforests round out the types of terrain players will encounter. The sound quality does feel a bit lackluster in comparison to the rest of the game though. Shots and other sound effects feel recycled from older titles and may irk newer gamers. Contra fans, on the other hand, will probably enjoy it and see it as a homage to older titles.
Hard Corps is one of those titles that has the potential to bridge the gap between veteran gamers and the younger generation. Its challenge will bring back fond memories for most people who have ever popped in a Nintendo cartridge; the synergy between hand drawn sprites and polygonal environments will pull in younger gamers to experience that same challenge and create fond memories of their own. Be warned, however, that it takes a degree of patience to go through some of the bosses, but the experience is definitely rewarding.