SEGA Genesis Did It Better Part IV
by Polly

You honestly can't tell me you didn't see this one coming after its passing mention in the previous article. And if you don't already know my opinion concerning the SNES' Contra III: The Alien Wars, then in the words of one Thom Yorke, "You have not been paying attention." Or, "YOU A NOBBY A TENSHI!" depending on what night you see him and if he remembers what he originally wrote.

I heard about this one a few months before it was released by reading about it in an old issue of Sega Visions, if anyone can remember that old rag. I was completely shocked that my beloved Contra would appear on the opposition's console. Contra was a game of my youth that I'd always associated with ol' Nintendo. So to me, this was quite a shock. Quite possibly more shocking than if you'd have told me that a little over nine or so years later Sonic would be appearing on the Nintendo GameCube. I wasn't upset, though. I was fairly excited. More Contra! Umm, FUCK YES!

Contra: Hard Corps is fucking awesome. How awesome? Well I just said, "fucking awesome," numb nuts. Stop asking stupid questions.

Keeping in line with the standards they set with Castlevania: Bloodlines, Konami continues to graphically push the Genesis places it'd never gone before with Hard Corps. This game employs many of the special effects and magical 16-bit witchery that Bloodlines used, including faked 3D rotation, scaling and distortion, and large jointed and segmented sprites that help bring a new range of motion to the 2D world they inhabit. It also brings with it the speed from Sonic The Hedgehog, a very neat looking morphing effect on the character select screen I'd never seen anywhere else before, and a giant robot chase scene that makes the SNES' Mode 7 look more flat than it actually is just to name a few. Hard Corps can be quite a trip to look at simply because everything is happening so fast and seeing all these crazy aliens whizzing around the screen and doing things you've likely never seen the Genesis do before can be a bit jarring. At least it was back then. Along with the brilliant special effects, everything else in the game is up to standard for the franchise with all the detail and variety you'd expect to see over the course of a Contra game.

And, son of a bitch, get a dose of that soundtrack! Simply the best hardcore, up tempo tecnho pieces you'll hear on the Genesis. The in-game tunes are some of the best hot-blooded action accompaniment you'll hear, sounding fast and futuristic, but managing to tie in brilliant melodies that can easily get stuck in your head if you're the type to let that happen. Not surprisingly, the genius behind Bloodlines' excellent soundtrack, Michiru Yamane also had a hand in the game's sound creation. Hard Corps also features some voice samples, which seem a little tacked on and really don't sound all that great being crushed through the Genesis' tiny sound processing. It's a nice touch that my character screams when they die, but I'd have liked an option to turn them off and have traditional Contra-like sound effects.

Did I mention that Contra: Hard Corps is fucking awesome? I did? Okay, then. Just maing sure, because it is.

Hard Corps is different right off the bat in that you're not immediately thrust into the action. As soon as you start the game you have to choose a character to play as. It's not just red guy and blue guy anymore, folks. You now have four characters all with varying abilities and entirely different weapon sets. That's right, I said weapon sets. While it's not a totally new idea for the series (even though Contra Force introduced it, it wasn't deveoped as a Contra game), it's handled very well here for the most part. Ray's weapons are primarily throw-backs to older Contra favorites (including a spread shot), Sheena (FUCK YES, FEMALE CONTRA REPRESENT) is a good mix of speed, utility, and power, Fang is all-out power all the time, and Browny's set can only be summed up as "Kill Fucking Everything Really Fast." Almost all the weapons are fairly balanced, except maybe Browny's "Kill Fucking Everything Really Fast" set. Don't believe me? Give Browny's Yo-Yo weapon a go on almost any boss and watch him make it look like this game is a cake walk. Other than Browny's slightly out of balance set (which could argued as fair, given his short size and inability to hit most targets without jumping) all the weapon sets are an interesting mix of old Contra favorites and new interesting toys to play with. They're all good for something, but not one that's definitely good for everything. Your plain ol' unpowered peashooter is a pretty good fall-back too, in case things go dreadfully wrong (and they will!)

(I like parenthesis!)

(No, really!)

This Contra deviates a bit more from the typical formula established by the series by introducing the element of a storyline. Granted, it's nothing more than you'd find in a popcorn action flick, but it's neat because it's there to give the player some choices. The choices you make will affect how the game plays out for you and what stages you see. Providing you survive the entire mess, you'll have a chance to see one of the game's six endings depending on your choices. A brancing storyline that always reveals new areas until you've exhausted every optional route adds a great deal of replay value. You'll be with this one for a while... If you're man enough.

Hard Corps takes one of the great ideas from Contra III and goes all-out with it. Rather than focusing entirely on run and gun stages with a mild sprinkle of bosses, this one is a literal boss-fest. There are a few stages that are built entirely around boss fights. It's a bit different than what's expected, but the results are no less fun. The bosses are typically HUEJ! XBORX HUEJ! And they've got many, many, many ways to kill you. If they fail, they've probably got another two or three forms that'll surely find some way to snatch a few of those precious lives and continues. It's hard at first, but it all comes down to patience in learning exactly what you need to do and then having the gamer dexterity to perform it flawlessly each time. Once you learn, you move onto the next challenge and repeat the same process of learning a pattern and exploiting it. The game's only real fault is that it falls into this routine far too much.

The bosses are awesome, though! You'll likely be impressed with some of the things you see these nasty alien fuckers do and how they react. That's another one of the more amazing parts of the game. How some bosses react to the player. With some bosses, you're literally your own worst enemy if you go in with guns blazing, as they've got some nasty reaction in the form of simple physics or something else you'll have to take your finger off the trigger and think about. Maybe it's not as impressive as I think and I'm just easily impressed. Or I'm just biased as fuck. Who knows?

Bottom line: This game is fuckawesome. I'll close with the same statement I used in my Top 25 list about this game:

You should be ashamed if you're an action gamer and you've never given this game a whirl. You little fucking girl.

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