Before DICE was fired up in the giants that is Electronic Arts they went by the name Digital Illusions and made entirely custom games for completely different publishers. One of them was Psygnosis and one of the projects was hardcore. hardcore was supposed to come to Commodore Amiga (and probably CD 32), SEGA Mega Drive and SEGA Mega CD. hardcore must have been close to gold status and the gaming magazines (including Sega Power) had started the shark. Then the plug was pulled out; the publisher got cold feet.
Releasing a two-dimensional run ‘n gun game in the same era as the impending polygon revolution with PlayStation in the front had in itself been a bold step. However, it wasn’t a publisher Psygnosis intended to take, and so it ended up hardcore in the dark for 25 years.
In 2019, the publisher came Strictly Limited Games over source code and materials to hardcore. They let the game polish up and released it as ultra Core together with the aftermarket console Mega SG. Since then, the game has received a physical edition each for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch as well as a Mega Drive- / Genesis-compatible cassette release. Now the game is released on digital fronts, to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and (eventually) PlayStation Vita.
It is noticed directly ultra Core what kind of game it is talking about. From the title screen with its approaching, pulsed FM sound to the first rocky tones, there is no doubt that this is a game with lots of pangpang. The closest relative of ultra Core should be the Turrican games. It’s a very flattering parable, and ultra Core is even an even stronger star in run ‘n gun heaven is the majority of games in the Turrican series.
It is with great pleasure fans of the old school settle down ultra Core, which may appear. The trajectories contain lots of secrets, trapdoors, tough platform jumps – and of course plenty with destruction-hating enemies, determined to empty your life meter. An observant and accustomed player can easily see patterns in the design and decide everything from hidden passages to enemy patterns at a glance. The remaining players are allowed to learn for themselves without pardon as extralife and continues to end.
It’s just in ultra Cores embrace of the design type “learning by doing” as the largest stock in the game. Although the game comes with a password system (so oldschool!), It is rarely used. After all the continuation is over, it is still GAME OVER and usually just as good to start over. Everything to get better prepared for the last place of death this time. The fact that the password is 16 characters long and should be put into a fairly slow and dry menu obviously weighs in a bit in this fact; the whole system is pretty redundant in a game like this. A valid password remembers what path you are on, how much ammo you have, what weapons you have and their levels. In addition, it also (unfortunately) remembers the number of extra lives and continues you had when you got the password.
ultra Core is, as I said, a run-shoot-pangpang game with non-stop action and explosions almost constant. This pace is interspersed with a lot of platform jumping, of which the hardest leads to obscure secrets. These consist of coins, extra lives, extra time, smart bombs as well as weapons and upgrades. The game’s currency, coins, you can buy life, ammunition and smart bombs for. Smart bombs are effective all-destroyers that cleanse your screen from enemies and destroyable terrain. Extra time is important if you are the kind of player who enjoys exploring.
The paths in ultra Core are relatively large. Exploring all angles and springs takes their time. Fortunately, extra time is not too uncommon to find, and with replay you will soon learn where all the time-honored goodies are hiding. In addition to the rewards mentioned above, you can also place the rhubarb on up to six different weapons, all of which can be upgraded twice. However, everyone except the starting weapon eats different fortifications of the ammunition, so it is important to choose their battles.
Speaking of choosing is ultra Core not very good at doing it for the player. An upgrade is always automatically applied to the weapon you are currently using. If this is fully upgraded, the effect lapses completely; you have picked up the upgrade unnecessarily. Switching weapons is also unnecessary. One button (X on the Switch) selects the next weapon in a fixed order. No major problem – though ultra Core had given you the option to change button commands that you please. Unfortunately, despite its reasonably versatile versatility, the control scheme is set in stone. However, a big plus should the developers have because they have included two-lever control. Jumping with the R-button while the thumbs are on each lever takes a surprisingly short time to get used to (this I thank the game bleed for).
Hülsbeck would have been proud
It is not only the visual and mechanical that brings together ultra Core with its genre equality Turrican. The similarity goes again in the music – and what music then! ultra Core delivers not just one, but two spectacular soundtracks! For the original FM synth in all its glory stands the Swede Olof Gustafsson. It’s a raw, rocky soundtrack that really belongs on a machine like SEGA Mega Drive. When Strictly Limited took care of ultra Core however, they let them compose a whole new soundtrack. Together with about ten creators of electronic music, they complemented ultra Core with 18 new, extra tracks. And they sound if not impossible even better. What you want to hear during the game, you choose yourself in the audio menu from the main screen.
We have to go back!
All in all ultra Core a completely phenomenal experience for anyone who wants to look back on a very specific era and region of gaming history, namely European action games from the mid-1990s. There is much to enjoy for the enthusiasts and just as much for the beginners to learn. If nothing else, they can at least get a couple of real bangers to try.
ultra Core was released (digitally) on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on June 23, 2020. The game will also be released on PlayStation Vita. The price tag is about SEK 199. Strictly Limited Games also released (now sold-out) physical releases for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and SEGA Mega Drive. This review is possible thanks to a review code. The reviewed version is for Nintendo Switch.