Many gamers will remember the old Konami series 'Contra', they will also remember how good it was. Contra was a simple run and gun style shoot-em-up; players would travel from left to right annihilating all enemies that stood in their path. Hard Corps: Uprising is exactly the same because as some people may not be aware, it's a Contra game! Hard Corps: Uprising is actually a prequel to Contra: Hard Corps which was released back in 1994 on the Sega Mega Drive. The story and its place in time in the Contra series may be a little confusing, but the simple gameplay ideal that made the Contra series great is still there.
Konami showed off the game at their booth during E3 in the form of a demo containing one of the eight levels in the game. Players get the choice of two characters, one of which being Colonel Bahamut, the main antagonist from the original Contra: Hard Corps. Once the level began it was clear that it was a Contra game, even with the name dropped from the title - the gameplay was solid. Konami have had over twenty years to get the gameplay formula right, and it was apparent they had. Players can only shoot in eight directions which in today's shooters would feel restrictive, but in Hard Corps: Uprising, it feels right. Restricting the game in this way forces players to be more aggressive, move around more and re-live the old school days of hardcore gaming.
That's not to say that the game will be as difficult as they used to be, this is clear with the inclusion of 'Rising Mode'. Essentially the game's 'easy' mode, players can be shot three times before dying in contrast to being shot once normally. The demo was obviously in this mode during the play-through, dying wasn't a problem as the game seemed a little more forgiving than so many other side-scrolling shoot-em-ups. A nice little addition to the game is the boost option. Players can run on the ground or even thrust through the air for a few seconds to drop behind enemies and shoot them in the back. It doesn't seem like much of an ability but varies up the gameplay nicely, especially against armoured opponents.
Throughout the demo, it was hard not to notice the game's anime art-style. This is different for a Contra game but certainly a welcome commodity. The game looks great, seeing that the visuals have been designed by Arc System Works, the developers behind eye candy classics like the Guilty Gear series. The enemy types are a little obscure and sometimes seem out of place somehow, but it's not really a complaint, it's just a little weird to see anime characters being chased by a UFO with legs. That being said, it would be bland and boring to be chased by the usual Nazis and Russian Soldiers seen in almost every other game.
Hard Corps: Uprising is a beautiful game that re-visits the same old gameplay fans of Contra have loved for years. That's not to say it feels dated, it feels fresh, new and re-imagined for gamers to fall in love with all over again.
Hard Corps will be available on XBLA and PSN this Winter, 2010