Publisher: SNK PlayMore
Developer: SNK PlayMore
Release Date: December 14, 2006
You can't beat the intense 2D action that comes from Metal Slug, especially when you're enjoying it from the comfort or your own home. While all of the Metal Slugs have been released on a console at some time or another, it is refreshing to have them all on one disc. They may have been fun at the time of their original releases, but is the fun factor still retained with some of the older offerings?
Metal Slug: Super Vehicle 001 was the very first Metal Slug game in arcades. It is a very simple action/platformer with three actions: jump, shoot, and throw grenades. You go through the game killing enemies and saving prisoners who usually reward you with a new weapon, and you will also occasionally find a tank called "Metal Slug," which you can occupy and blast through enemies. The animation, one of the most acclaimed aspects of the Metal Slug franchise, still holds up today after 10 years, being one of the most fluid 2D games to date. This first iteration is the tamest of the series, with the craziest enemy being a bald, muscular guy with a huge machine gun – he actually appears in every Metal Slug game thereafter. It is not until the sequel that things start getting crazy.
In Metal Slug 2, General Mordon has made a pact with aliens to help him in his quest for world domination. This time, you can choose from four characters instead of two, and you will encounter many new crazy enemies, including mummies, undead creatures, and aliens. If you are attacked by a mummy, you will actually turn into one, which makes your character move much slower, and you can't use any weapons besides your default weapons. There are also new vehicles for you to use, like a camel with an attached gun, and a mech suit which used to fight one of the bosses. Metal Slug 2 was the only title where I actually experienced slowdown when there was a crowd of enemies, but it seems this is addressed and corrected in Metal Slug X.
Metal Slug X is simply an updated version of Metal Slug 2, and since it uses the game engine designed for Metal Slug 3, all of the slowdown issues are eliminated. Mummified dogs are included as new enemies, aliens and the laser weapon play a part earlier in the game, and concept art is presented during the credits. Very minor, and to some, unnoticeable, fixes were made to the title, but it was created with the game engine for Metal Slug 3, which many fans consider to be the best iteration of the series.
All sanity goes out the window in Metal Slug 3, which you realize when you begin the game on a beach with enemy crabs attacking. You also encounter zombies, which are similar to the mummies from Metal Slug 2; once you are attacked, you turn into a zombie, which makes you walk slow and only use the default weapon. However, one difference is that when you press the grenade button, you do a sweeping vomit attack which hits every enemy in front of you. There's also a great variety of levels and new vehicles – you'll find yourself underwater in a "Slug Mariner" and flying in space in an "Astro Slug." The space stage takes on the genre of a classic shoot-'em-up in which the alien enemies attack in predictable patterns and waves. Metal Slug 3 is one of the most extreme 2D games you will play with out-there themes and incredibly detailed level design. It is the longest game on the disc, but it will also be the one you revisit the most.
Unfortunately, Metal Slug 4 is a step down in the series. It still has some crazy enemies like yetis, creepy gnomes, and pirates, and you have the new 2x machine gun which is badass, but overall, the level design is just bland. There is nearly no trace of destructible scenery, and there is only one new "Metal Slug," which is merely an undead which provides no protection. You will have many forgettable boss battles, and while this is by no means a bad game, it is just dull and lacks replay value when compared to the other Metal Slug titles.
Metal Slug 5, however, is a definite improvement. It is a more exciting game to play (you start off driving cars with attached guns), and there are some added features, such as the slide move, which is executed by pressing down and jump. At first, this seems like a good idea, but it becomes distracting when you want to jump up and shoot down simultaneously. I found myself accidentally sliding on many occasions and thought the new move was more of a burden. Also, earlier games offered branching paths on each level, but MS5 includes little to none. Despite its drawbacks, however, it is an extremely fun game.
Metal Slug 6, if not the best title (Metal Slug 3 probably has that in the bag), it is clearly a close second. The visuals are much cleaner than the previous games, and it boasts six selectable characters. You can also switch weapons in Metal Slug 6, and it marks the return of the aliens, but this time, you will be teaming up with them against a greater force. When played on easy mode, most characters start out with a machine gun, making for a very fun experience.
The games are great, but seeing as this is a Wii title which was released during the launch window, there are bound to be some motion controls. Boy, they went all out with this one. Metal Slug Anthology boasts five different configurations using the Wii remote – none of which you will want to use. The most common one will probably be the horizontal Wiimote; you use it like an NES controller, but you have to flick the controller to throw grenades, or you can have the grenade as a button and tilt the controller to move. Sounds difficult doesn't it? It only gets worse.
Try holding the Wiimote vertically like an arcade stick to move, and then using the nunchuk to shoot and jump. In this configuration, you still have to flick the nunchuk to throw a grenade. Then you have the Wiimote-nunchuk combo, where you use the nunchuk to move using the control stick and then the Wiimote to jump and shoot – yes, you still have to flick something to throw a grenade. In the end, the controls make such a simple game more complicated than it needs to be. After playing around with all of these, you will eventually just end up using the GameCube controller, which still feels a little different because they don't allow you to use the directional pad for movement. After all of this, you wonder why the classic controller isn't supported for a game that seems perfect for it.
Speaking of perfect, these ports aren't "arcade perfect," as advertised on the packaging. For one thing, what Metal Slug game do you know of that has loading screens in the middle of a level? None? Yeah, me either. Also, with many of the bosses and almost all of the destructible environments, there is no flashing when you cause damage, which means on some bosses, you won't even know if you are hitting its weak spot unless you watch your score to see if it changes. This can become very frustrating and definitely negates the claim of "arcade perfect ports."
However, the replay value on Metal Slug Anthology is very high. First off, you can play through the game with unlimited continues (and, of course, with a friend), so you can trudge through areas that may have seemed impossible in the arcade while you were fumbling in your pockets for quarters. Additionally, every time you beat a game, you earn tokens which can be used to purchase music, concept art, and even an interview with the creators. While it definitely could have had more content, the game will keep you busy for a while – especially for fans looking for a challenge.
Clearly Metal Slug Anthology has some of the most fluid 2D animation of any game, and it is not lost with time. From a tank exploding to the most minute details like reloading a gun, you can see it all happening because of the great animation team. The soundtrack is one that will stick in your head and only leave you coming back for more.
Metal Slug Anthology is a great collection for anyone who ever liked a Metal Slug game. All of the arcade greats are here, although it is plagued with load times, arcade-imperfect porting, and unnatural-feeling Wiimote controls. With such a massive collection, there should have been more extras, but with seven games on one disc, it is definitely something that should not be missed by fans.
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