TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Sega Genesis’ ‘Contra: Hard Corps’ gives Nintendo games a run for their money
It’s no secret to those who know me (or those who read this column regularly) that I’m not a really big fan of the Sega Genesis. Now before you come at me, bro, just know this largely has to do with not having the console as a kid and being a huge RPG fan during the Console Wars of the 1990s, in which the Super Nintendo, not the Genesis, had more for my appetite for such adventure.
That being said, it was odd to see a “Contra” game on the Genesis, in the same vein as seeing a “Castlevania” game there, and for me it was the fear of not continuing the traditions set forth on the original NES. So what is “Contra: Hard Corps” on the Sega Genesis like? Well, let’s ready our weapons and find out!
“Contra: Hard Corps” (Sega Genesis, 1994)
While it doesn’t have the crispness and clarity of the SNES take on “Contra,” or even the NES for that matter, “Contra: Hard Corps” does possess an original score that continues the tradition of heart-pounding, white-knuckle action that gamers have come to know and love from the franchise. In a way, it’s kind of refreshing that developers and composers didn’t rest on the laurels of what was already on the table as far as “Contra” music goes.
There were updated versions of little ditties here and there but, for the most part, we are getting all new songs for this game, and that’s pretty awesome. Most of all, this is a soundtrack that fits so well with those that came before. It feels slightly different, but totally “Contra.”
Graphically, “Contra: Hard Corps” is comparable to “Contra III: The Alien Wars” on the SNES, but I have to admit, the usage of this technological advancement from the days of the 8-bit NES were superb. While both 16-bit offerings pack a punch of action, I felt like “Hard Corps” doesn’t give you a moment to breathe, bombarding you with some of the most intense graphics for bosses (some pretty cool mini bosses too), as well as level designs that truly capture that futuristic feel of the game.
The leap in graphical work in this game from its predecessors in the 8-bit era further emphasized the fact that “Contra” games going forward were going to feel almost like a mini movie with the explosion button held down nearly the entire way.
What sets “Hard Corps” apart (and slightly ahead) of “Alien Wars” on the SNES are the little things that you didn’t think you wanted in a “Contra” game at the time, and yet they definitely belong. The first of these is the ability to choose between four characters, not two, as our heroes from the prior games are replaced with a task force of four unique members for this gritty adventure.
The game is not entirely played on foot, but on vehicles in certain levels, and speaking of levels, this is not a strict linear game. There are branching levels that you make decisions on during certain points in the game. The dialogue, while somewhat campy, is also cool to see, but this isn’t all.
Lastly, you can do a slide move in this game that makes you invulnerable and can take out some enemies in addition to toggling between two shooting styles, one which allows free movement and the other that keeps the character still while they aim in one of eight directions.
Over the last few years, “Contra: Hard Corps” has grown in popularity and thus has increased in value, with loose carts running close to $50 and complete copies running around $110! Is it worth it? Well, I can’t decide that for you, fellow gamers, but I can tell you this – “Hard Corps” is a new direction for the franchise in a way, while still remaining true to what works. It’s challenging, at times brutally difficult, but if you’re a fan of the “Contra” series, would you want it any other way?
Well, that does it for me. Join me next time as we wrap up our look at the “Contra” series with the most expensive piece of the NES “Contra” collection, and yet… well, you’ll see as we finish up with “Contra Force” on the NES!
Until then, keep fighting the good fight, and, as always, game on!