HC1.jpg['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal early '90s systems. This week's column profiles Konami's seminal Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis, released in September 1994 in the U.S. and Japan, and in October 1994 (as Probotector) in Europe.]

An armored personnel carrier drives through a barricade of men with guns, and a mechanical spider. Screeching to a halt; a wolf man with a gatling gun in place of a right arm, and a three foot tall robot with a gun as tall as he is, are launched out of the carrier. Enemies pour in from all angles as the mismatched duo make their way across a city and up the side of a knocked-down building to fight a cyclopean robot.

This is just the first 3 minutes of Contra: Hard Corps.

Created by the mind of Nobuya Nakazato, Hard Corps is the start into a spiral of insanity for the Contra series. Still the current director of the games, Nakazato is credited with; The Alien Wars, Shattered Soldier, and Neo Contra as well.

HC3.jpgDuring the early nineties Konami had firmly planted its main franchise titles on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

In the mid-nineties they decided to let their hair down with these same franchise games on the opponent system, the Sega Genesis, resulting in some fantastic new ideas. Hard Corps was allowed to take the already alien series of heavy action into the deranged world of biological experimentation.

Set five years after the Alien Wars a law enforcement group, the Hard Corps, is sent out to restore peace to Neo City. Starting the game, a choice of four playable characters becomes available while a tune amusingly similar to Baby Got Back plays. The motley crew to select from includes; Ray the human machismo, Sheena the ironclad amazon, Brad Fang the wolf man, and Browny the dwarf robot. Each character has a different array of weapons at their disposal, all creating unique gameplay.

hc2.jpgHard Corps introduced branching stages and paths to the already classic Contra series. Help the research lab, or follow your nemesis Deadeye Joe? Based on the decisions you make throughout the game, different angles of the story will unfold and your path to the end will change. There is also some hidden wackiness off the beaten path, including a neat homage to Castlevania.

The only drawback is the level of difficulty that the game slaps you with right from the start. After a bit of practice and some memorization this can be overcome with little problem. Contra: Hard Corps, as an entire package, is easily one of the greatest games in the Genesis’ library and has the best music that the FM modulator ever put out.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]