Contra: Hard Corps Sega Genesis Review

Contra: Hard Corps Sega Genesis Review

By: John C. Mayberry

I remember my first exposure to this series was going to Blockbuster Video, and renting Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super Nintendo The first time I put that game on and played it I quickly realized one quickly I was ill-prepared for how hard it was, but found myself replaying it despite it’s difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, if done right increased difficulty is not always a bad thing. The one hit deaths can be annoying to some, sometimes to the point of a controller suffering the cruel fate that all controllers do when faced with the sudden wrath of a player’s vengeful frustration. Many others view it as a challenge to jump, dodge and shoot their way through every constantly oncoming obstacle in every stage without taking a single hit, which definitely earns them their bragging rights amongst friends and other gamers alike.

Contra: Hard Corps is a unique addition to the series, most notably because it is the one and only game of the series to appear on any Sega system. The story, set five years after the events of Contra III, depicts a group of four members of a special task force put together to deal with the rapid increase of illegal activity in the wake of the alien wars. When deployed to the eliminate the threat of reprogrammed, unmanned robots the team soon discovers a larger plot to steal the Mother Alien’s DNA in a plan to overthrow the world government.

A single player and co-op multiplayer game, you can choose between one of four members of the task force, soldiers Ray and Sheena, the robot Browny, and Brad Fang, a humanoid wolf creature sporting cybernetic arms and shades (yes, you read that correctly). Contra: Hard Corps indeed has all the classic features of its predecessors, from the dreaded one hit deaths to the run and gun gameplay we’ve all become familiar with, in addition to a few new ones, such as the ability to perform a slide maneuver, being able to interchange between four different weapons, and is one of the earliest examples of a game with a multi-path story on home consoles, which was not common at the time of its release. Although still notorious in its difficulty, Contra: Hard Corps has proven to be a worthy addition to the long-running game series by not only retaining everything that’s made the series memorable but also enhancing the experience with new features to guarantee it will remain a gem of the 16-bit era of gaming for future generations of gamers everywhere. So how’s this going to go guys, do you think you can make it through the game without taking a single hit? Then dig that genesis and your game collection out of your closet, set it up and get to playing now. You will not be disappointed!


  • Extra features added but still feels exactly like the classics – The gameplay does not deviate much from its original design yet still manages to be engaging by adding new features without sacrificing anything that makes Contra great. Sliding enhances your ability to dodge oncoming attacks. Also, unlike previous games in the series, you’re taken to a briefing room in between levels which further expands on the game’s story. Not only have new weapons been added as well, but you also get to interchange between four different ones, each suited for different situations.
  • Select your path –Yet another new feature to the series was in how the story progressed by giving the player the choice of which path to choose, a characteristic not common among run and gun shooters like Contra but a welcome addition nonetheless. Depending on the player’s choices it is possible to receive one of 5 different endings, enhancing replay value.
  • Character selection – Instead of players 1 and 2 being automatically set for the player, which was usual for the series, you have the option of choosing one of four task force members. Each member also has abilities unique to them which will test a player’s ability to strategize about how to approach certain enemies.


  • Difficulty – The only minor issue I saw with the game’s difficulty was that there was only one set difficulty level. The lack of options available to increase or decrease difficulty somewhat decreases the replay value as there is no challenge to surpass, and is likely someone will forget about it for a little while once they’ve played through and seen all possible endings.
  • Character/Enemy Design – The look of Brad Fang, Browny, and a few other enemy characters may come off as inconsistent with the series, and maybe a little goofy since Fang is basically a werewolf with robotic arms and sunglasses, and Browny resembles something similar to Wall-E, but with legs. The enemy designs are a bit inconsistent too in that you don’t see or get the same H.R. Giger vibe you do other enemies in the rest of the series for about the game’s first half.
  • Character Weapons – Although innovative for the Contra series, some of the weapons each character has don’t adapt to all situations. You will likely find yourself using the same weapon for most of the game since the others in your arsenal just aren’t as effective.
  • Level Design – A possible reason for why some character weapons are not always effective. To build more of a challenge the game’s levels could have been designed with obstacles and enemies that would require certain weapons to eliminate, but you just don’t see that here.

OVERALL RATING – 8.5 out of 10 – Contra: Hard Corps is a fun time if you ever get the chance to play it. This Genesis gem has everything the previous games do and builds onto it in a way not commonly done for games of that era, helping to pave the way for gameplay features that are still used to this day. Aside from minor issues, this is a game that no Contra fan or any classic gamer wants to pass on.