For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?
My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
10: Contra: Hard Corps
Genre: Run & Gun.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Contra: Hard Corps is what happens when a series well known for its arcade style roots evolves itself into a full fledged console title. This is not your simply Contra Run & Gun game, its the basic popular formula, with some of the best production values in the Genesis library.
And that's a big reason of why Hard Corps may be both the best Contra game, and the bust Run & Gun on the system.
"Welcome to the virtual zone. I hope you enjoy yourself"
As the first Contra game to have four playable characters, the game immediately announces its intention to surpass all other Contra games. Given the same art style, but bigger, the same combat but better; you can be easily convinced that it is.
However, the biggest draw of Hard Crops is its anachronistic dedication to actually telling a story. Gone are the long winded introductions at the beginning of the game. You know, the ones that imitate the beginning of Star Wars and simply puts in all of the story up front, never to be mentioned again.
Here, there is an actual story being told, and it is revealed through scenes between levels, as well as in stage conversations with the bad guys. Its basic, but it is especially rewarding given the game actually has multiple endings.
Unlike Die Hard, not all paths involve running away from a wall of flame
These endings are accessed through branching paths, depending on decisions you make through the story. In this addition by itself, Hard Corps is head and shoulders above almost all other action games in its story telling attempt.
One glaring omission however is that the story doesn't change at all depending on the character you choose. I think it would have been very simple to just change little lines of dialogue to reflect the character you are controlling. Otherwise, you get the Helicopter pilot apologizing for being late to Sheena, saying: "Sorry, Bro".
Story with Branching Paths: +4
Doesn't Change with Characters: -2
"Now begins the horror"
With four characters to choose from, and four basic endings (there are two hidden endings), you are expected to play the game four times.
Two questions then are immediately raised:
Is it going to be different each time?
Is it worth playing four times?
The answer to the first question is yes. Due to both the character and ending change, you will be playing differently and in different levels (as well as shared levels between all paths). While all characters share the exact same classic control scheme, they are all different in both major and minor ways.
In minor ways, the characters all have different height, making for an easier or harder time dodging bullets. Also, their jumps and slide dashes are slightly different, making different strategies preferable or useless.
Brownie is the smalles target out of all the characters, also see that Robot in the distance, its coming for you
Their biggest difference is in their selection of weapons. Each of the 4 characters have access to 4 unique weapons, and these drastically change the way you approach the game. For instance, Fang packs the absolute max firepower, and yet is a big target. Hence, it is worth it to take more risks to simply minimize the time you fight bosses with him, and thus reduce the chance of getting hit.
In the other hand, Browny is a small and agile target, and his homing boomerang weapon can chip away at an enemy's health while you focus on avoiding their attacks.
The answer to the second question is no. It is worth playing through Hard Corps more than four times, simply because it is so much fun, and it is nice seeing how far you can get without using save points or other modern cheat methods.
Variety In Characters: +3
Worth Multiple Playthroughs: +4
"This will be your graveyard"
Unlike the way it does with the story and character choices, Hard Corps does not change the popular Contra formula very much. This is still a hard as balls Run & Gun game where you get killed in one shot. The genre is aptly named, because you are expected to hold down the gun button, and never stop moving.
It is definitely a challenging game, and many initially find it an insurmountable challenge. Other than the fact that you die with one hit, it is more difficult because you lose a weapon when you die. This means that while fighting an obnoxious boss battle, you could get hit, and then lose the only weapon suitable for defeating them.
Which is why, to get the best of the game, I would suggest playing it in a way that has a state save feature. Then, after getting acquainted with the game, play it without the training wheels.
Its suitable that the motorcycles in the game have NO wheels
Simply, being able to finish the game on the merits of your own skills is a hugely satisfying feeling.
In Hard Corps, you are fighting more bosses than actual fodder enemies, with each stage having one or two mini-bosses. These monstrosities are examples of great boss design, as well as a true test to your reflexes and pattern memorization. One boss' mode of attack is stacking play-like block, and having them come to life in bizarre ways to attack you. Another is the result of getting hacked into a system, in a way only 90's videogames understood hacking with.
Generally, the game's bosses are the culmination of Hard Corps satisfying difficulty curve, and with the exception of some of the final bosses, the game never feels unfair to the player.
Good Challenge: +3
Excellent Bosses: +4
Cheap Final Bosses: -2
"HA! Your existence means less than nothing to me, you FLEA!"
Taking cue from other Konami 16 bit games, Hard Corps is once again a technical achievement in its selected console. Both graphically and its soundtrack, this is a well produced game.
Starting with its graphics, each and every sprite pops really well against well crafted backgrounds. Take Fang's design for example. He looks every bit the humanoid wolf badass the designers probably wanted him to look like.
Of course, the many bosses of the game are what showcase its graphical muscles. Their larger than life forms nearly fill the entire screen, and there is much to be admired in their detail.
Even the game's mid-bosses manage to look really good, especially against some of the backgrounds
Fortunately, the music also complements the game's excellent graphics. The soundtrack is upbeat, moves quickly, and is suitable to the action. It manages to stick int your memory for longer than you might want, with the boss jingles in particular sounding in your ears as you prepare to sleep.
One annoying part about the music is how the other sound effects manage to frequently drawn it out. Since you will be constantly shooting your weapon, the firing sound itself will almost sound like an unwelcome instrument in each music track.
Great Graphics: +4
Good Soundtrack: +3
There are no two ways about it, Contra Hard Corps is possibly the best game in the series, and by virtue of that, is one of the best Action games on the Genesis.
Through its addition of branching path and multiple characters, Hard Corps compliments the standard formula of the series and adds to its appeal.
This is Fang, and he doesn't give a fuck
1- Based on my experience, I think both Fang and Browny make the game easier.
2- Ray and Sheena in the other hand are more similar to past Contra heroes.
3- Almost all weapons are useful.
4- Save your bombs for the final bosses, ONLY.
Another great action game on the Genesis from Konamai, who really had an excellent grasp of the genre in the 16 bit era. Not anymore, I would guess.
Next game in the series, in #8, is Shining Force II. I really liked the first Shining Force game, and I was looking forward to this one. If it is anything like the first, then I expect another great SRPG for the Genesis.
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