Publisher: SNK Playmore
Release Date: May 15, 2005
Walk into the dark corner of almost any arcade anywhere in the country, and there's a good chance you'll find a Metal Slug machine. You might see me there, playing a game of Metal Slug, even among newer, more complex games. I'll smile and invite you to put a couple of quarters into the machine. You might have never played Metal Slug before, but from that day forward, whenever you walk into an arcade, you'll always put a few quarters into the beat-up machine branded with an SNK logo.
Metal Slug, as a series, has not changed since the first game. A couple of new characters, some new guns, and, of course, new Slugs to ride around in, but if you're reading this review to find out about the hot new features of the games, you can stop. There's nothing new here. Well, actually, in Metal Slug 5, you can do a slide maneuver. Just duck and press the jump button, and you'll slide…you don't really need to do it that often.
In both MS4 and MS5, you press one button to shoot your gun, one button to throw grenades, and one button to jump. You can get different guns, all of which have a limited amount of ammunition; sometimes you'll blow up an enemy tank and be rewarded with fresh roasted turkey, or perhaps some watermelon, dim sum, or … a sleeping cat. Pass over any of these objects and you'll get points; eat enough food, and you'll become very fat, which makes your weapons and grenades very powerful. Yes.
These games are 2D, by the way, in case you didn't know that.
The attraction of the Metal Slug games lies in the fact that they're fun, humorous, and easy to play. The object of the games has always been to run from one end of a level to the other, annihilating wave after wave of enemies. These enemies will hilariously explode, catch fire, be utterly mutilated, and impossibly well animated. After half an hour, the destruction and chaos is over. You can turn off your television and resume life, moving from one end of the day to the other.
I completed both MS4 and MS5 on the same day, with my older brother. There are some things that you should never do alone; I never play Metal Slug games alone. We started to play, and instantly, it felt like four years ago, when we'd play Metal Slug 2 on his Neo Geo CDZ. "Nothing's changed," I thought to myself. Sure, the graphics are a little less polished, and the levels aren't quite as well planned, but it's basically the same. You can't really blame the development team for the few flaws present in MS4. It was, after all, made during the whole transition that SNK went through with Playmore, and none of the original team had anything to do with it.
The music in Metal Slug 4, oddly enough, is the best in the series. It's very much Metal Slug music, but with tons of shiny happy techno beats thrown in. There's even a song that has this Darkstalkers/Castlevania-style piano mixed in with the pounding bass. It's energetic, and I like that because it's a good shot in the arm that keeps you going. The music in Metal Slug 5 is good too; it's more like the music in the older games, but although MS5 is a tad bit better as a game, I find myself wanting to play MS4 more because of the amazing songs composed for it.
Metal Slug has been one of the few constants in my life. As much as I've changed and watched the people around me change, I've always been able to speed through a game of Metal Slug or drop a few quarters into the machine at the arcade. I guess it's a little strange that I can correlate important times in my life with times that I happened to be playing Metal Slug, and I guess that's why I'm so offended that MS 4&5 both have infinite continues, with no option to turn them off.
I don't have infinite continues. If I say something stupid to that cute barista at the local café, (which is not a Starbucks, thank you very much) or when I order that sketchy region zero DVD from Hong Kong that ends up not working, I've made a mistake. Yes, I can continue, but this time, I can use what I've learned to make sure I don't mess up again. This is much like memorizing a level in a Metal Slug game; there are always surprises, but for the most part, I won't make the same mistake twice. The idea of having infinite continues, however, is ludicrous. It gives me no reason to memorize levels, it gives me no reason to learn from my mistakes, and in the end, it gives me no satisfaction. It's a fun diversion while it lasts, but once it's over, I feel nothing.
Having infinite continues is a much lesser sin compared to what occurred in Metal Slug 3 for the Xbox. Metal Slug 3, the last Metal Slug developed by the original team, and a damn fine game, was destroyed by the localization team when they decided that, if you were to run out of lives on a given level and had to use a continue, you would start all the way back at the beginning of the level. Good job guys. Thanks for destroying the one constant in my life.
As I mentioned earlier, these games are funny. The act of slaughtering thousands of humans, robots, zombies, mummies, and noble giant squid is funny. The sheer amount of chaos and destruction is hilarious; it's like the craziest anime you've ever seen, except it's probably animated better. Heck, even the instruction manual for Metal Slug 4&5 is funny. Of course, there are some people out there…some people who don't get humor, who will mistake the hilarity that is the instruction manual for a poor translation job.
No…no. This, is a poor translation job right here:
"Seek the true tone to form our will.... Doubt Faith!"
Now, go ahead and look at the instruction manual for Metal Slug 4&5, go ahead, don't be shy! See the difference?
In the end, there really isn't a whole lot to say about Metal Slug 4&5 that hasn't been said before about the other games in the series. If you've played one of the previous the games before and you liked it, then you'll want to pick this up. If you're reading this review, having never played a Metal Slug game before, then all you need to know is that it's an insanely over-the-top 2D action game in which you play the role of a commando who kills a lot of people.
A couple of weeks ago, an ex-girlfriend and I talked for the first time in almost a year. She's barely 19 and is getting married; I'm not exactly sure that everything is going to work out for her. It's a day I'll never forget, and it's also the same day that I'd gotten Metal Slug 4&5. It doesn't really surprise me that the game that's stuck with me all these years was there for me again on that day, which reminds me of a certain song by the Pixies, as it sails along with my life, riding on a wave of mutilation.