Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: February 20, 2007
Just ... no.
This is one of the biggest gaming blunders since the inventions of the infinite combo in fighting games, the Dusty Desert puzzle in the next-gen Sonic the Hedgehog, or the Soul Calibur sequel.
Metal Slug is one of the world's most renowned video game series. Alongside Contra and Gunstar Heroes, it's always stood for great running and shooting action. It's chock-full of humor, contains a massive load of sprites, and runs like a dream on the Neo-Geo, a 16-bit arcade system that was all the rage in the 1990s.
A decade later, we all carry systems with power that surpasses the Neo Geo in the palms of our hands. Think about it. The Nintendo DS lets us play Super Mario 64 on tiny screens during our morning commutes. God of War, meanwhile, is coming to the PSP. It's incredible to think just how far technology's come ... and yet, these powerhouse portables can't bring us games from 10 years ago?
Metal Slug Anthology is unplayable on the PlayStation Portable and does not in any way deserve your money. I know it's tempting; the PSP's controls, for once, are perfect for the series of games, and their arcade format makes them prime candidates for portable play. It's the same philosophy that made Gradius Collection such a prime fit for the system. Still, if you value your sanity, don't get this anthology. Spend your cash on the Wii or PS2 version instead.
Look in the instruction book for this game, and you'll find that they used emulation to get these games working on the system. Without going into too much geek speak, emulation of a source system, even a low-level one, requires a much larger amount of resources on the target system. The PSP certainly has the horsepower to emulate a 16-bit system; however, it lacks in memory compared to consoles of this generation, or even the previous. Even worse, the ever-present PSP operating system uses a chunk of this memory even when games are running.
This means that Metal Slug Anthology must constantly, constantly move new information from the disk to memory, purge the old, and then repeat the process over again. Emulating the innards of the Neo-Geo on the PSP, using native games that are hundreds of megabytes in size, is like trying to fit a gallon of orange juice into a baby bottle. The result? Metal Slugs 1 through 5 stutter along. There are load times for menu screens, as if it were a polygon-based game on an old system. It's worse than the hardships we suffered trying to play Capcom's 2D fighters on the original PSX. Once you load up a game, you're practically stuck there.
Metal Slug 6, which is ported from to more advanced hardware, is even worse. Imagine playing a fast-paced run-and-gun action game ... which has to load the next few screens of the stage every 30 seconds or so — sometimes less. You can't, can you? Play Anthology for the PSP and become horrified as it becomes a reality before your very eyes! It hurts even more than the older games because Metal Slug 6 was a true evolution for the series, featuring the carrying of multiple weapons, a super bar, a melee attack button, and Ralf and Clark from the Ikari Warriors games.
On the plus side, if you ignore these immensely glaring detriments to gameplay, the games presented here really are "arcade perfect," and if you force yourself to ignore the massive amounts of loading, one's dream of playing portable Metal Slug is almost achieved. No sprites are compromised, none of the animation or music is cut, and the programmers even went out of their way to provide credit limiters for the truly hardcore who like to beat these games on as few credits as possible. Everything looks and sounds as it did in the Neo-Geo's heyday, which is one advantage of going the route that they did. It even supports two player co-op via ad hoc. (This would be the part where I complain about lack of infrastructure, but honestly, it looks like the PSP's loaded for bear as it is here.) This version of the Anthology also contains all of the features and unlockables as the console versions, down to the extra soundtracks and art.
In other words, you can tell that this was meant to be a love letter to fans, unfortunately ... well, I'm not about to repeat myself. I want to be able to actually play this very badly. I really wish I could.
While I can applaud the approach taken to bring "arcade perfect" versions of the Metal Slug games to this system, I also believe in hedging your bets and picking your battles. If the PSP weren't powerful enough to handle the Slug games, then this port should have been forgotten altogether, or other means should have been found to get it to run smoothly. Perhaps a mode for people with large memory sticks could have been included, much like the N64's expansion packs; someone with a 4GB card could have experienced these titles to the fullest.
Metal Slug Anthology was supposed to be one of the portable system's A-list titles. Instead, due to reasons that probably couldn't have been helped, it ends up being one of the system's biggest jokes.
General Morden would be proud.
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