Contra: Hard Corps is a hidden ura-Treasure gem
Contra: Hard Corps looks and feels exactly like a Treasure game, before Treasure was born. A great solo or two player co-operative experience, hyperquick pace, relentless action, boss fights galore, kaleidoscopic visuals, wacky and inventive designs – these are the hallmarks of Treasure game design. These qualities shine so brightly in Treasure games like Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier, and it turns out these are all are present in the Megadrive/Genesis’s sole entry in the Contra series, Contra: Hard Corps. Continue reading
Run ‘n’ gun history, part 1: Gunstar Heroes (Megadrive) vs Contra III (SNES)
Cuphead has inspired me to reflect on my personal history with this wonderful genre. We’ll be covering heavyhitters like Contra, Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug, as well as some more obscure entries. Introducing the classic sidescrolling run ‘n’ gun:
I grew up in the 32-bit era with only limited exposure to the 16- and 8-bit systems. As a result my first encounters with traditional run ‘n’ gun games were via the Wii’s Virtual Console. Here, I played two of the most iconic run ‘n’ guns ever made – Contra III and Gunstar Heroes. Let’s kick off this trip down memory lane with a by now classic debate, a mainstay of 16-bit console warring. Contra III vs Gunstar Heroes: which is better? Continue reading
Cuphead (Switch): We’re all mugs now
This is one I’ve been waiting for, for many years it turns out. Not specifically for Cuphead per se, but for a follow up to my beloved Gunstar Heroes. Continue reading
The melodic music of Konami shooters
For the past several weeks I’ve been in thrall to the Gradius series. The strategic power-up selection, the challenging levels, and the reward of downing a powerful boss – it’s a joy to play these games. Alongside Gradius there are also spin-offs that share the same DNA, most notably Salamander/Life Force and Parodius.
This post is dedicated to these games’ amazing tunes, all courtesy of Konami’s esteemed composers. Konami are perhaps best known music-wise for the Castlevania series. but Gradius is a neglected well of wonderful melodies and beautiful tunes. It’s unfortunate that Konami neglected the series after the mid-2000s, and that Gradius never had a talent like Michiru Yamane attached to the series to expand and extend its unique musical identity into the present era.
What makes the music of Konami’s shooters so special? TV Tropes has a great phrase that explains:
The bulk of Gradius’s most crowning songs accurately convey some sort of cosmic wonder.
This is a great way to kick us off, so I suggest we see how this bears out in practice! Continue? Continue reading
Breaking the space-time continuum in Gradius V (PS2)
Reputed to be one of Treasure’s best games and one of the most ambitious shmups of all time, Gradius V is the stuff of legend. Expensive and difficult to track down on its native PS2, thanks to the PS3’s online store it is finally within easy reach for PS3 owners. And at a cheap price too! Having sunk my teeth into it at long last, I’m happy to say that in my opinion this game’s glowing reputation is justified.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gradius V is the way it shakes up the conventions of the traditional 2D shooter genre. When I wrote about Shienryu on PS1 in my most recent shmup review, I concluded that it was competent in all areas but inspired in none. Gradius V is similarly competent, retaining the tried and true gameplay mechanics of the Gradius series, but this fifth entry is also incredibly inspired, adding puzzle elements into a genre that is generally much more taxing on your thumbs than your brain. Continue reading