I played the latest Contra game - the one without Contra in the name - at Comic-Con. It was too easy, but that was by design so that cream puffs like me could enjoy Hard Corps: Uprising without dying too quickly.
I made it through the first stage, losing only three of my 10 lives by taking too many bullets, drowning in quicksand once or twice and being crushed by giant robotic bosses. When you play Hard Corps: Uprising later this year, however, don't expect a cakewalk. Expect bullet-filled screens, level memorisation and a few new additions to the Contra arsenal.
The game's associate producer Kenji Yamamoto did say that Konami and developer Arc System Works are trying to make the run and gun series a bit more friendly to new players. The new art style might help. Anime-like illustrated characters may help accomplish that.
Many Contra mainstays are still intact in Hard Corps: Uprising, like floating pods that travel in waves and drop Spread Gun and Machine Gun power ups. There are levels in which players will ride on bikes, chasing and being chased by big deadly machines.
There are also things less common in Contra games, like the ability to do a speed dash on the ground and in the air. There is an ability to reflect bullets with a parry move. There's a homing laser and a powerful, explosive-launching Crash Gun. You can increase the power of your special weapons by collecting multiple drops of the same power up. You can double jump. You have a life bar. And characters Bahamut and Krystal replace the big, muscle bound action heroes of other Contra games.
If some of that sounds like a bad idea to you, note that things like upgrading your character's health over time and the option for a life bar are features of the game's Rising Mode. If you want to play Hard Corps a little more hardcore, play it in Arcade Mode.
You may also run into classic Contra characters like Bill and Lance, given the "no comment" that Kenji Yamamoto offered when I asked if the pair would make an appearance in the game.
The additions to the Contra formula along with the wildly different visual style are at least refreshing. The possibility of hardcore, bullet-reflecting gameplay in a Contra game is exciting. Hard Corps: Uprising plays better and looks better than I was expecting, with lovely looking backgrounds and nicely detailed, well-animated characters side-scrolling across them.
Credit to Konami and Arc System Works for doing something different while offering the hungry Contra fan something to nibble on. Hard Corps: Uprising will be out later this year on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. We'll see if we're up to the challenge then.