The Metal Slug series has always been a favorite among SNK fans, but is this franchise better suited for the arcade, or will it find a new home on the Xbox?
What people may not know is that Metal Slug 3 is actually a port from the four-year-old arcade game; subsequent sequels Metal Slug 4 and 5 are already out in the arcades. I’m not completely sure as to why SNK would port over Metal Slug 3 instead of the newest versions, however, the Xbox version remains mostly unchanged from its arcade brethren with only a few more additional modes of play.
Short Shelf Life
For those who’ve never played a Metal Slug game, it can be most closely compared with Contra in that it’s a side-scrolling platform action shooter. Everything lies within two dimensions. Why is a simple side-scrolling 2D shooter on the Xbox? Well, let me tell you?because it’s fun. The Metal Slug games may not have fancy 3D character models and environments, but they don’t need them. In fact, it wouldn’t be the same without the 2D structure.
Players can choose between four different playable characters as they travel through five nonstop, action packed, levels. They’ll go up against enemy soldiers, tanks, planes, mutant plants, submarines, and much more. Boss battles are huge, with each boss character taking up about half the screen. Players must shoot, jump, and dodge their way through each of the game’s five levels. And, though it might not sound like a whole lot of game time, you’ll be pleased to know that each level has many multiple branching paths. Traversing each of these branching paths will take the player through the game dozens of times.
Big Guns, Cool Vehicles And?Camels?
What would a side-scrolling shooter be without weapon upgrades? When the game first starts, the player is only armed with a simple hand pistol and a few grenades. However, many different types of guns can be found throughout each level. The Heavy Machine Gun will allow the player to fire off rapid-fire rounds. The Enemy Chaser will attack any onscreen adversaries like a heat-seeking missile. The Flame Shot will set enemies ablaze. The Shotgun provides a powerful, but typically short ranged blast. The Drop Shot will only travel along the ground. The game’s multiple weapons can assist the player through troubling situations and help keep the game exciting. In this Metal Slug, and the Slugs of the past, the player lacks the ability to shoot on an angle. This is a rather big inconvenience and the player will lose many lives because of it. Not being able to shoot at a 45degree angle is the biggest pet peeve about Metal Slug.
Weapons are not the only things players will use to stop marauding enemies. Just like all the Slugs before it, Metal Slug 3 has many types of vehicles. Apart from the obligatory tanks, planes, and submarines, Slug 3 will also have the player riding on the backs of elephants and camels. Each vehicle is a blast to use and will aid players in eliminating hordes of enemies.
Dietary Habits Of The Deceased
Besides killing endless swarms of enemies, it’s in the player’s best interest to save hostages. Hostages are characters tied up and in need of freeing. Once their bonds have been cut, the player must walk next to the hostages in order to provide freedom. The captive will show due appreciation for the help provided by giving over an item or weapon upgrade. Sometimes, freed hostages will even fight with you. On the down side, once you die, all your liberated hostages will be erased. Freed hostages can be checked in the options menu. To free them all, you must complete each level without dying a single time – which is no mean feat.
In some levels the player will physically change shape, for example: level two is filled with mutant zombies, if you happen to be hit by their attacks then you will become a zombie too. In this state your character will move slowly and cannot duck or shoot. The only way to return to normal is to find a health pack. Also, if you consume too many food items your character will become a fatty. Your fat character then moves laboriously and cannot do some of the things they can in their normal state.
Metal Slug 3’s difficulty is quite challenging. Levels four and five specifically will have the player swearing in frustration. Luckily, the game supports a two-player co-op mode for the campaign. This will help slightly with the difficulty factor. However, my biggest complaint about the game revolves around the idiotic continue system. When the player loses all of their lives, they are given the option to use a continue. But, when you do continue, you are forced to play through the entire level again. What is the point burning a continue if you have to start from the very beginning of a stage? Even when playing two-player mode, if one player loses all of their lives they must wait for the other player to complete the current level (or die) before continuing. This drastically increases the difficulty level. Even when playing the game on easy, veteran players are going to have a very arduous time.
The game has a pretty lame Xbox Live feature. After finishing play (whether you die or beat the game) you are given the option to enter your initials. The player is then able to post their initials on the Metal Slug 3 bulletin board via Xbox Live. However, this feature is rather weak seeing as the player can only post their initials and high scores. Elements such as elapsed time, accuracy, rescued hostages, and chosen character should have been added. The Xbox Live posting feature is relatively puny, and will only be utilized by serious Slug players.
Once the game is beaten, two new modes of play are unlocked. Fat Island will have you playing as fatties, while Storming The Mother Ship is basically little more than a fresh level. These are the new features specific to the Xbox version and, though thin on the ground, they offer a little more incentive towards the replay value.
Hey, Slug Lookin’
Metal Slug 3’s graphics portray 2D sprite-based characters at their finest. Each onscreen character is well animated and supports many different types of movement. It’s funny to watch enemy guards screaming in fear when they see your character charging forward. Plus, the blood factor is quite cool for a 2D game. Seeing as the Xbox can process some fairly heavy 3D graphical demands, it handles 2D sprites with ease. The game never suffers from slowdown, which was a slight problem in the arcade version. The music is well suited to the game and doesn’t weigh on the player’s nerves over time. The sound effects are also well done. The explosions from grenades and repercussions from machine guns place you directly in the field of battle. Like previous Slugs, when you grab a new weapon, a narrator will announce which gun you just added to your arsenal. This is always a nice detail in the Metal Slug series and stands out as a classic Slugism.
2D Or Not 2D?
The Metal Slug series has always remained a fun game to play. The gameplay of this action packed 2D side-scroller has only been matched by Contra. Unlike Contra, though, I think Metal Slug will remain in a 2D format. Metal Slug 3 should surely please gamers, but its insane difficulty will likely frustrate everyone who plays it. The Xbox Live feature seems like an afterthought, but the graphics and sound represent the evergreen glory of 2D gaming. The Xbox version has two exclusive modes of play that are unlocked after you beat the game, but they’re only minor enhancements. With all this said, I think the $40 dollar price tag is a little steep. If this game were $20 or even $30, then I could grant it a higher score. If you’re patient, then wait for a price drop before you grab hold of this game. Either way, Metal Slug 3 is a fun title and anyone who plays it will appreciate the classic 2D gameplay. However, the difficulty of the later levels will turn some gamers away; especially considering the weak continue system.