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Xbox Review - 'Metal Slug 3'

by Geson Hatchett on June 17, 2004 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In addition to everything that made the arcade original a worldwide hit, the Xbox version of METAL SLUG 3 will have some brand new features and original missions accessible once you've cleared certain conditions. Players can choose from over 10 new slug vehicles exclusive to METAL SLUG 3, including the Slug Copter and the very unusual Elephant Slug, which comes complete with a trunk-spray weapon.

Genre : Action
Developer : SNK
Publisher : SNK
Release Date : May 26, 2004

Buy 'Metal Slug 3': Xbox

This is an interesting situation, no doubt about it.

In one corner, we have the Microsoft Xbox; the most powerful videogame console on the market. It is home to Halo, Jet Set Radio Future, and other feats of three-dimensional, polygonal, visual, and aural glory. Surround sound, bump-mapping, anti-aliasing; if it’s a graphics industry buzzword, chances are the Xbox has it, or can emulate it via good coding.

In the other corner, we have the SNK Neo-Geo. It hit the market in the early ‘90s. It has 16-bit graphics, and 8-bit sound. Few systems can match its awesome ability to manage low-resolution, two-dimensional sprites. However, everything else about it is considered “outdated” and “obsolete” by the industry—sound, graphics, the fact that slowdown still exists if there are too many objects on the screen—everything.

When one thinks about it, the last place you would expect to see a Neo-Geo game would be on the Xbox—yet, here we are. It’s a brave new world out there, my friends, one that poses many questions. Can these two systems peacefully coexist? Does a Neo Geo game have any business appearing on the Xbox? Can it stand up to its aesthetically superior competition? Is this blatant pandering meant to take advantage of the retrogaming craze?

The answer to these questions is quite simple, actually: it doesn’t matter. The game is fun.

Metal Slug 3 puts you in charge of two special weapons experts/commandos, out of a presented team of four. An evil madman is threatening to take over the world, and apparently, the military just isn’t good enough to send in. Enter your team, and the generation of Super Vehicles known as Metal Slugs. You and they have been known to take down this particular dictator before, so guess what? It’s time to do it again.

It’s easy to describe this game: first picture Contra (be it the original, or the recently released Shattered Soldier for the younger and/or more masochistic crowd). Now add some vehicles. Lots of them—subs, tanks, planes, camels, elephants… let your imagination run wild. Finally, inject about 10,000 CCs of comedy, and boom. You’ve got Metal Slug. The third installment continues this formula, and is looked upon by fans as the best in the series. There are segments that will have you laughing out loud, throwing the controller in frustration, or doing both at the same time—a rare feat for any video game on any system.

Gameplay is a snap; you shoot in up to eight directions, you toss bombs, you jump, duck, and crawl. That’s the extent of your controls. You can use either the D-Pad or the analog stick to control your character, and strangely enough, the analog stick is actually useful here—it’s great for smooth rotations when you want to spread a wide area with bullets. You will sometimes find extra bombs to toss, gun power-ups, or be able to ride the vehicles mentioned earlier in this review, each outfitted with their own weapons of destruction.

The object of the game is to stay alive, get to the end of the missions, kill everything in sight, and then beat the final boss. That’s it. Storyline addicts, what’s in the instruction booklet is all you get. Stealth aficionados, look elsewhere. Metal Slug 3 is twitch gaming, with the slightest amount of calculation involved.

The look of this game is as old-school as its concept, at least compared to today’s gaming generation. For anyone who remembers what the norm for a 2-D game is, however, this baby’s absolutely beautiful. You fight it out amongst a seemingly infinite number of detailed drawings, sprite animations, carefully penciled and colored backgrounds, and even elementary lighting effects. Sega’s Jet Set Radio and Capcom’s Marvel Vs. series used animation, rendering and drawing techniques that made it look as if the game took place in a cartoon—Metal Slug 3 joins their ranks with similar technique, and tons of animation frames to boot for every sprite in the game’s code.

This is one of those games you’ll want to play really loudly until you get a headache and just can’t stand it anymore. The music is nice, but what really stands out are the sound effects. Gunshots, screams, explosions, and odd, unexpected noises can be heard every other half-second, and they all make their presences known. Even the announcer isn’t too tough on the ears. Crank the volume up loud enough and you’ll find yourself back in that shady arcade you always used to go to—you may even be able to imagine the loud crowd and sticky buttons while you’re at it.

Metal Slug 3 contains the arcade game represented in its entirety (and even takes advantage of the Xbox’s processing power to make the slowdown in the arcade and Neo Geo versions a thing of the past, which is much appreciated), and two mini-games, which are actually more fun than they seem at first. Still, the real meat is definitely in the game proper.

This is good, because you’ll be playing quite a bit of it.

Make no mistake: this game is tough enough when you have a load of quarters in your pocket. It actually becomes scary when you’re limited to a certain number of credits for this home version—and it becomes downright angering when you realize that, exclusive to this port, each time you use a credit to continue, you’re dumped all the way back to the beginning of the stage. This the one point where SNK dropped the ball; unfortunately, it’s akin to dropping said ball off of the Empire State Building onto someone’s head, giving them a major concussion or worse.

SNK, please, if it’s not too late, when you release the fourth and fifth installments, take a page out of Treasure’s book (or that of any other game designer, for that matter). In Ikaruga, you’re allowed to continue at the exact spot where you left off, much like in the arcade version of this very game. Your credits are still limited, but there’s a special menu at the start of the game that lets you practice stages you’ve cleared, letting the player take their skills to the main game and save on credits that way. That would work, much better in my opinion, than a stage-select option coupled with a continue scheme that makes it nigh-impossible to beat the game without cheating and involving the second player somehow. The game’s missions are long, and the final one is a killer.

Currently, this game costs $40. If you have a friend, two controllers, or a mountain of patience, it’s worth the buy at that price. Otherwise I’d say get this used, or wait until it goes down to $30 or so—but you won’t have enough time to get through it by simply renting it. Oh, no. As lighthearted as this title is, it will mercilessly test everything you have as a gamer, and it will rest in your library quite a while before you beat it on your own and test out the extras. Either way, do yourself a favor, give this a play, and ignore its antiquated look. Your sense of fun will thank you for it.

Score: 8.0/10

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