Contra: Hardcorps

Developer: Konami
Publisher:  Konami

Holy cow this game is amazing! I had heard some people saying it wasn't quite as good as previous Contra games, mostly due to an unbalanced difficulty and there being simply too much stuff on the screen. Well, I wholeheartedly disagree! This is in my opinion the best classic contra game I have ever played!

It's like the developers deconstructed Contra 3: The Alien Wars, took out what didn't work like the overhead mode 7 stages (yes, I know the Genesis wasn't technically capable of doing those anyway), kept what DID to add everything else they could think of! 

You can now choose between four characters, but these aren't just skins, each character has a different arsenal, you'll also run across branching paths, these will change the levels you play, the ending and even the final boss with a total of six endings! That's just a ton of content for a 16 bit Contra game, hell, it's a ton of content for any Contra game but the craziness doesn't stop there, there's a secret area on level 3 where you get to fight a robotic alien version of Simon Belmont from Castlevania and if you beat him along with two extra bosses you're propelled into pre-historic times and become the king of the apes with your very own ape queen! I swear I did not make this up. Hell if you do this as Sheena she STILL marries a female ape (could she be the first lesbian character in gaming?). 

You also get a storyline as told by either briefings before each mission or a short cutscene at the beginning/end of each mission. I understand these were needed for the branching paths feature, but I wish they gave you an option to skip the dialog.

I've talked so much about the game already but I haven't even gotten into the gameplay itself, which is in a word: a-freaking-mazing! It's like Contra 3 on steroids, no matter where you are there's always a ton of enemies trying to kill you, but luckily they all die with one hit, when you do get stronger foes the game is kind enough to keep them at a manageable amount. 

Much like Contra 3, you can switch between your weapons at any time, but instead of two weapon slots you now get 4. This time however, you can't jump and use two of them at the same time like you could in its SNES counterpart, you do however get a slide move, which makes you invulnerable for the second or two it takes to finish the move. Lastly, the title is chalk full with bosses and mini bosses so it's generally a good idea to stockpile as many weapons and bombs as you can for these.

Whereas Contra 3 went for a more realistic art-style, Harcorps adopts a more cartoony (or should I say anime?) style. Everything is very colorful and exaggerated, the enemies are often very goofy looking, in this regard it doesn't actually feel like a Contra game. Despite that the art-style works very well. I especially love the explosions, they just keep going, in other games, when you kill a big baddy you see random ball of fire popping up, here it's like they dance around the enemy circling it, stretching and compressing, it's crazy. 

You're also treated to some very impressive 3D effects, my favorite being the bike boss fight where you're running down a quasi-3D road. The only issue I had with the graphics were the relatively small character sprites with very little detail on them. Heck, Sheena doesn't even have a face!

The music will likely be hit or miss for most, it's all very techno with a few "silly" tunes thrown in. At first I didn't much care for these but eventually they grew on me and now the first level song always gets me pumped. I loved the techno remix of the classic Castlevania theme, that was a nice touch. 

Sound effects are also a bit hit and miss, the explosions sound loud and distorted but it works really well, the gun effects however sound kind of weak, though the absolute worst are the voice overs, all of them are scratch, distorted and sound sped up, it's just weird to listen to.

Overall Contra: Hardcorps is an amazing game, it's fast, furious, full of content and replay value, it's Contra on steroids and it's the best run and gun game on the Genesis.

Trivia: Did you know the PAL version of Contra: Hardcorps is simply called Probotector and replaces all of the characters with robots? It also removes at least one of the endings. Now you know why I imported this version.

- The action is fast and extremely addicting
- A lot of gameplay variety
- Tons of content and replay value with 4 characters and 6 endings
- While I didn't care for it at first, the soundtrack really grew on me
- Nice colorful graphics with some very impressive 3D effects
- Great weapon control

- Character sprites are small and could've used more detail
- Some of the sound effects are pretty weak, voices sound really scratchy
- The music and overall graphical style is a big departure from earlier Contra games

Final Grade: A

For the most part I like the boxart here, you see one of the characters firing an exaggerated gun at giant robot, the colors and detail on the characters and backgrounds are quite nice but what is going on with his legs? They're bent in an impossible position, how is he even standing? It's like he's made of a soft rubber.

The manual is definitely above average by Genesis standards, it tells you a bit of the backstory, teaches you how to play the game and even has a few character profiles. All of this is supplemented with either screenshots or character art, unfortunately they're all in black and white. I also have to wonder how Sheena's design got past the censors, I've seen bikinis that cover more than what she's wearing.

Overall not a bad a packaging at all, I'm glad it came in a plastic box rather instead of those cheap and flimsy late Genesis cardboard boxes

Packaging Grade: B

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you updating your blog more frequently! :)
    Great review, all those secret levels and different endings turn this contra into something quite original when compared to past entries.

    Also, gotta love that box art!

    Miguel C.