(Konami for XBLA)
By Mike Delano
High-profile game industry mashups had trouble living up to the hype in 2010 (the Metroid franchise and Team Ninja? Mickey Mouse and Warren Spector?), but if Hard Corps: Uprising is any indication, 2011 should fare much better. Bizarre name aside, this HD resurrection of the Contra brand delivers on the high expectations generated by the brilliant pairing of the unparalleled run ‘n’ gun action of Contra with Arc System Works, the developer behind the similarly insane-o Guilty Gear series. Not only does Uprising stay true to the series’ tight gameplay, but it does so while showing off a gorgeous new graphic style, mixing brightly colored polygons with fluidly animated sprites into a visual feast that fits nicely among the current avalanche of fantastic-looking side-scrollers (Donkey Kong Country Returns, Shank). The 2D-to-3D transitions of some stages and enemies can be frustrating at times, but the customizable “Rising” mode makes it much easier and more rewarding to experience the entire game than the traditional, purist-appeasing “Arcade” mode. And by the time you’ve blasted your way through all of the incredible multi-part bosses, you’ll be reminded how lazy this genre has been since the first few Metal Slug games, and welcome back the king of the 2D shooter.