Metal Slug Review

Metal SlugMetal Slug (Available on Neo Geo MVS/AES/CD)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Run and gun shooter
Publisher: SNK
Developer: Nazca Corporation
Release Date: April 18th, 1996
Meg Count: 193 Megs

Parent Talk: Metal Slug has been rated T for teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board because of violence and blood.  The default blood color is white when you play in US mode, but you can switch that via the Soft dip settings in Test Mode.  Regardless of the blood color, the death animations can be a little much for young children.  Enemies get impaled, burnt alive, explode, etc, however the animations are often humorous more so than they are grotesque.

Plays Like: Have you played Contra before?  Ok now imagine the world to be far more animated and alive, with tons of little touches everywhere from unique death animations, to obscure background details.  This was one of the games that showed 2D still had a lot to prove in 1996, while the rest of the industry was moving towards 3D polygons.

Review Basis: This is one game I’ve completed dozens of times in the arcade, and through the various home ports.  Whenever I used to see the ‘ol big red cabinet I’d stop by to see if Metal Slug was installed.  If it was, I’d gladly spend a few bucks on the game before moving on to something else.  There’s just something special about this game that has always brought me back for more.

Ports: Metal Slug has been released on a wide assortment of platforms from the PlayStation 2 to the Wii, PSP, Vita, and many, many more.  If you’d like to play the game, check and see if it has been ported to your home or portable system of choice.  For this review, I’m tackling the original MVS version.

Price Check: Metal Slug on the AES is one of the most sought after games on the system, but only a few copies were ever made.  As such it commands insanely high prices, often in the thousands.  Thankfully the MVS and CD versions are significantly cheaper.  It’s not uncommon to see the MVS version selling for $40 USD or so.

Metal Slug is one of those games that holds a very special place in my heart.  It was released in 1996, towards the end of the arcade scene’s popularity in North America.  At this point in time developers were moving away from 2D for the next big thing, 3D.  Games like Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter were making a killing in the arcades.  In 1994, a small team from within Irem broke free to form Nazca Corporation.  Information about this team is scarce because after they made Neo Turf Masters and Metal Slug they apparently were absorbed into SNK itself.  The only concrete info we have is that this original team worked on the first three Metal Slug games before being disbanded during SNK’s bankruptcy.  Whatever the case may be Nazca created one of the very best Neo Geo releases of all time, and were highly successful in showing that 2D still had a lot left to offer.

Metal Slug1The Great:

Humor and action never felt so good.  Contra was a phenomenal game and lead to a wealth of clones.  None were able to ever match its brilliance, that is until Metal Slug came along.  Nazca took what they had done before on other run and gun style games, and added something very unique, humor.  Everything about Metal Slug is over-the-top and ridiculous.  It was like going to see a cheesy b-movie that knew it was cheesy.  Aren’t those the best types of b-movies?  Vehicles are able to jump, enemies make the most ridiculous faces when they got shot, and background animations are hilarious.  I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled onto two unsuspecting enemies just standing around talking to one another, and when I shot one of them the other one ran away screaming.  Classic stuff.  The gameplay is also extremely fun and challenging without ever coming across as cheap.  You have access to a wide assortment of powerful weapons like the flamethrower, heavy machine gun, and rocket launcher.  There are also grenades, which help for those particularly tough spots or boss battles.  There’s even the Super Vehicle 001, or special terrain tank known as a Metal Slug which makes you feel like a total bad ass.  Don’t feel like shooting, use your knife to get up close and personal.  This mix of humor, and excellent gameplay are what helped make this game so special, and why after 18 years it remains a fantastic game to play.

Metal Slug2The Good:

+ While there’s not much of a plot, what’s there is classic.  General Morden has ceased control of the world’s governments, acquired the new mobile super vehicle called the Metal Slug, and is wreaking havoc.  Cpt. Marco Rossi and Lt. Tarma Roving of the Peregrine Falcon Strike Force are sent in to stop him by any means necessary.

+ Collateral damage is one of the game’s highlights.  Not only are the environments highly destructible, but it’s often necessary to blow everything up in order to gain power-ups and free prisoners of war, which also drop power-ups, or point bonuses.

+ Six diverse levels that get progressively more difficult as you advance.

+ One cannot talk about Metal Slug without talking about the superb audio visual presentation.  The graphics were ahead of their time for 1996.  At this point in time pre-rendered graphics had hit the scene with games like Donkey Kong Country, and it was so nice to see SNK stick to their guns and produce a full-on sprite-based 2D action game.  Little details such as seeing Marco’s breath, all the various death animations, and so much more put this ahead of the pack.  Don’t even get me started on those awesome boss battles.  The sound effects were also extremely well done, especially all the voice samples and screams.  The music was fitting, and the soundtrack contains many memorable themes.

+ Co-op makes everything better.  While we’re all spoiled by online coop today, nothing will ever quite match having another person beside you cursing and swearing as you make your way through the various levels.

Metal Slug3The So-So:

+/- There are periods where slowdown occurs although it’s more than manageable.

+/- Yet another SNK run and gun shooter without having the ability to shoot diagonally.  This was a trademark of SNK and makes the game more difficult than it should be.  Thankfully when you find yourself a Slug you can shoot in 360 degrees.  The same is true for the machine gun turret on the final stage’s barge.

Metal Slug4The Lowdown:

Metal Slug is a quintessential Neo Geo game.  For many fans it’s just as important to the platform as The King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, and a number of other fighters.  Personally, this is the one game that showed me what the Neo Geo was all about.  It was about taking chances, doing things others had done before but tweaking them in such a way to make them feel original and unique.  Metal Slug was just the beginning of SNK’s premiere run and gun series, and where they would go from here was just as over-the-top and crazy as this game.  Metal Slug remains a game you can pick up and play at a moment’s notice, and if you invite a buddy over, watch as the time flies by.  If, like me, you own the entire series, playing them back-to-back is even more intense.

Final Score: 9/10

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