Contra: Hard Corps is a side-scrolling run-and-gun style video game released by Konami for the Sega Genesis in North America and South Korea in 1994. It was also released for the Mega Drive as Contra: The Hard Corps (魂斗羅 ザ・ハードコア Kontora Za Hādo Koa?) in Japan, and as Probotector in Europe and Australia.
Set in 2641 AD, five years after the "Alien Wars", and three years after the deaths of Black Viper and Emperor Demon Gava, alien cells kept at a military research facility are stolen in a terrorist attack. The Contra Hard Corps, comprised of Ray Poward, Sheena Etranzi, Brad Fang and Browny, are assigned to the investigation. They discover that retired Major Bahamut is implicated, and that he has conspired with Dr. Geo Mandrake to create a biological weapon using the stolen alien cells, as a form of leverage to overthrow the present government. Through their efforts, the Hard Corps manage to thwart Major Bahamut’s plans and restore peace once a more.
The game follows its predecessor in many aspects and also introduces several new gameplay mechanics:
- Although Contra Force is technically the first game that allows the player to choose other characters, Contra: Hard Corps is the first legitimate Contra game that allows the player to select their character at the start of the game and when they use a continue.
- Player characters have four main weapon slots. These generally range from a standard machine guns, homing missiles, grenade launchers, etc., with a fifth slot reserved for bombs.
- Every character has their own particular weaponry, with variations of the same type of weapons for different characters or all new ways of firing.
- Characters come with a sliding move which renders them temporarily invincible. In addition, certain characters have special moves particular to them (like the ability to hover).
- The game is story-driven and there are multiple paths the player can take; these are generally chosen by taking a decision at the end of certain stages. Depending on the paths taken throughout the game, a different ending will be awarded.
- The game is distinct in having dialogue in the form of mission briefings and exchanges between characters. This was not typically common in Contra games, which were usually only gameplay-oriented (although the Famicom version of Contra had cutscenes between levels that told the game's storyline).
- Autofire returns and the weapons are represented with mini-blimps.
- The game provides 5 Continues (4 in the European version).
- The game does not have top-view stages but replaces them with other events or missions, like running toward the screen while being chased by a giant robot, or riding on different vehicles whether it is on land, sea, or air.
- Ray Poward: A blonde-haired, blue-eyed male soldier. Born and raised among the filth and pestilence of the city’s slum, Ray at one time was the leader of a bunch of rowdy, delinquent youths. Recruited by the Hard Corps for his unsurpassed combat skills and superb instincts, his cool exterior hides a burning lust for battle. Ray is a central figure in the Hard Corps.
- Sheena Etranzi: A blonde-haired, blue-eyed female soldier. A fierce warrior whose abilities go far beyond those suggested by her appearance. Especially skilled in guerrilla tactics, in jungle combat she alone is said to be the equal of an entire squad.
- Brad Fang: A wolf-like humanoid who wears shades, a bullet strap over his left shoulder and sports cybernetic arms with a battling gun on the left. The ultimate fighter - created using the latest in genetic engineering and cyborg technology. Always calm and collected, he is well-trusted by the members of the force. He is best at close range, hand-to-hand combat.
- Browny: A small-sized combat robot. Officially known as CX-1-DA300 Combat Robot, the members of the force refer to him as “Browny” because of his warm personality. His ability to link up with numerous data systems makes him an unsurpassed intelligence tool. What he lacks in height, he makes up with the ability to hover in mid-air.
- Major Bahamut: The primary antagonist of the game. A hero of the Alien Wars, he planned and failed to overthrow the government in a coup d'état two years ago. He went into hiding until now, where he re-attempts at overthrowing the government by stealing the alien cells and making biological weapons. Depending on the choices made, Major Bahamut takes on a different form depending on the path the player takes. In one path, Major Bahamas even offers the player to side with him in ruling the world.
- Deadeye Joe: An evil terrorist who has had most of his body converted to cyborg parts. Combat is his only source of pleasure. A truly dangerous character. He mans a variety of machines when confronting the Hard Corps.
- Noiman Cascade: A skilled hacker who infiltrated the military’s computers. He will do anything to put a stop to the Hard Corps. He uses virtual reality as his primary stage for conducting his attacks, in which he takes on several forms.
- Dr. Geo Mandrake: A genius working in the military’s genetic engineering labs. He was apparently involved in the development of biological weapons during the Alien Wars. It is revealed that is an ally of Colonel Bahamut. He suffers a terrible fate by his own creation in the game.
- Commander Doyle: The leader of the Hard Corps. He provides the team's mission objective at the start of the game.
- Mysterious Character: Is a character that is found on the roof in Level 3.
1. City Battle
Go after Joe
Surrender and fight later
5. Space Showdown
Fight to the end
6. Alien Space
Rescue the Research Center
2. Air Combat
Surrender and fight later
6. Big Battle
Fight to the End
- Boss: Dr. Geo Mandrake
6. Sea Struggle
- Bosses: Takedda Robot
All paths levels
Mysterious Character Challenge
- The Japanese version of the game includes a health bar and infinite continues. This was removed from the American and European versions.
- In Stage 3, just before breaking the first door, the player can actually climb up the wall and find the Mysterious Character. He will ask if they want to fight in the arena; saying "Yes" will have the player entering a small boss rush course comprised of three special minibosses, one of which who resembles both Simon Belmont from the Castlevania series (also by Konami) and Masato Shimon.
- After all three bosses have been defeated, the game will end and the player will be awarded a secret special ending.
- In Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX, the top-view stages (Stage 2 and 5) from the original Super NES game were replaced with two stages from Contra: Hard Corps (the Military Train and Big Battle stages).
- The Huge Robot boss appears on the American cover artwork for this game.
- If choosing the options "Rescue the research center" and "Fight to the end", before the final boss, Colonel Bahamut will invite the player to join him. If they agree, a "bad ending" will be awarded. This ending was censored in the European version of the game, Probotector.
- Several bosses seem to be inspired by the 1982 horror film The Thing by John Carpenter.
- Contra III: The Alien Wars — Previous installment in the Contra series and frequently referred to throughout the Hard Corps subseries.
- Contra: Legacy of War — Sequel to this game (not part of the official timeline).
- C: The Contra Adventure — Sequel to Legacy of War (not part of the official timeline).
- Hard Corps: Uprising — A prequel to this game.