Ask any hardcore arcade shooting game fan from the mid to late 90’s to name the franchises that consumed most of his or her quarters, and Metal Slug would be at or near the top of virtually every single list. SNK’s franchise has engulfed arcade quarters for over 10 years now, with sequel after sequel of finely tuned 2D shooters. Now in Metal Slug Anthology, SNK has packaged seven titles in the series on one UMD. The result is a compilation that’s a must-own for any shooter fan.
While this collection does not include every single Metal Slug title released to date, such as GBA spin-offs, it does include the original Metal Slug up through Metal Slug 6 in essentially arcade-perfect form. It even includes Metal Slug X, a remake of Metal Slug 2 that uses the Metal Slug 3 engine, along with a number of extras.
It’s not hard to understand the appeal of Metal Slug, as its gameplay is simple and straightforward. Run from left to right, and shoot everything in sight with one of several different types of weapons. Each level is frantic, with dozens of enemies throughout, typically followed by a huge boss (or bosses) at the end. One of the things that differentiates the series from other shooters like Contra is the fact that much of the environment is destructible, which when destroyed will open up alternate paths, damage enemies, or reveal power-ups. This only adds to the frantic nature of the game.
The series also has a very unique sense of humor, with enemy soldiers enjoying leisure time before encountering the player, and various hilarious animations and interactions with the environment. Points can be earned by collecting things like farm animals and other wacky objects, with a random feel to that as there’s no clear consistency in exactly how many points a specific kind of object is worth. All of this adds up to a very fun and lighthearted experience.
Of course, I’ve simplified the entire series just a bit, but each of the seven titles in the series represented here really isn’t that different from the others. Metal Slug 2 added the ability for characters to transform into different forms, including a mummy (which slows down the player and removes special weapons) and a fat version of the character. Later titles in the series added additional transformations, and of course each new installment also has a variety of new weapons, power-ups, weapons, etc. as you’d expect in any sequel. In the end though, the player is still playing the same basic game in each installment.
Compilations usually include various extras, and Metal Slug Anthology is no different. Each title can be played in “original pixel” form, 4:3, or even stretched to full screen. I actually prefer to play in full screen, as the sprites generally scale well with only minimal loss of visual quality, but purists may want to stick with 4:3 or the smaller original pixel form. There’s also a gallery covering the history of the series, including unlockable wallpaper, art galleries, music, and even a text interview (sadly no video) with members of the original Metal Slug team. It would be nice if some of this stuff was unlocked from the start, as it takes a long time to accumulate enough tokens to unlock most things, but once unlocked it’s a pretty impressive assortment that keeps the player at it for a while.
The only thing that hurts Metal Slug Anthology’s value is that it is so limited of a collection. In compilations like Namco Museum there’s usually something for almost everyone, but even shooter fans may not find a lot of value here if they aren’t particular fans of the franchise’s unique style and sense of humor. To the target audience though, Metal Slug Anthology is an incredible value.
Posted: 2007-12-07 19:08:52 PST