Hard Corps: Uprising Review
The Contra name may have been excised but the soul remains. In the hands of Guilty Gear studio Arc System Works, this sequel to 1994’s Contra: Hard Corps ticks all the franchise boxes but is transformed by the personality and vibrancy of Arc’s visual design into a thing of exquisite side-scrolling beauty.
A run-and-gun ballet of projectile attacks and memory-test boss battles, Uprising is a double-whammy of aesthetic prowess and simple, solid genre mechanics. Stages play out like assault courses as you traverse your way to the end, leaping, dashing and firing in six directions like a sprite possessed. It almost feels a shame to mow down the waves of delicately drawn enemies, their accoutrements swaying as they collapse into wonderfully choreographed death. The use of 3D models for backdrops and specific in-game assets may not always gel with the lush hand-drawn animations, but it does create a useful separation between fore and background detail which helps keep your eyes trained on the action.
As tradition dictates, the difficulty is beyond reason in Arcade mode, though Rising mode offers an entry point for the casual audience. Points accumulated in-game are redeemed to customise your character, increasing health bars, adding lives and unlocking special abilities like greater firepower. It’s a sizeable, sensible concession to the broader audience of console-based users – a trick many in the market continue to miss.
Uprising may not break any new ground in a genre that is arguably an endangered species, but it does a good job of breathing life into the dying breed. It’s a reminder that an artist’s eye, when met by a designer’s understanding of modern tastes, can revitalise a struggling brand and make the old feel new again.