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Metal Slug 7

It was inevitable, really. Not surprising in the slightest. Given General Morden’s record, who couldn’t have seen this coming? You’d think a man like him would be able to learn from his mistakes. Or just give up, at least. But no, that’d be too easy. After getting his ass kicked so many times, the infamously inept villain of the Metal Slug series is back and looking for some revenge. His desire to continue his mission for world conquest is understandable; you’d be confident too if you somehow stumbled across an army of super-powered soldiers from another dimension. Armed with plenty of advanced weapons and a practically endless supply of expendable troops, Morden is poised for yet another crusade against the forces of good. Since no one else will take him seriously, the Peregrine Falcons Special Forces Unit has been called back into action.

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It’s a fight that veterans of the Metal Slug series know all too well. All four the original heroes are back in their full 2D glory; while the DS graphics aren’t up to par with those of their arcade-based predecessors, these characters still maintain a level of charisma that few characters can match. Marco, Tarma, Eri, and Fio come packing their usual tools of the trade; grenades, shotguns, flamethrowers, Heavy Machine Guns, Bouncy Balls of Death, and plenty of other devastating weapons are at their disposal. They can even toggle between their default guns with whatever they might pick up long the way. But since that might not be enough to take down Morden’s legion of goons, they’ve brought back their trump cards: Ralf and Clark. These heroes of The King of Fighters and Ikari Warriors fame make their much-welcomed returns from Metal Slug 6. They’ve even retained their awesome abilities; not only can Ralf take two bullets before keeling over, but he can punch through tanks. With that brand of pure, unbridled manliness, the Peregrine Falcons are more than prepared for whatever Morden can throw at them. But since it only takes a mere flesh wound to leave these guys writhing in their signature death animations, you’ll have to make sure they get the job done.

If you’ve played any of the previous Metal Slug games (and shame on you if you haven’t), this should all sound familiar to you. That’s probably the biggest problem of Metal Slug 7: its lack of originality. Yes, there are a handful of new foes with spiffy laser beams and hoverpacks, but they’re essentially the same old flunkies you’ve been slaughtering for years. The vast majority of the enemies have been swiped from the previous installments; they still taunt the bearded POWs when they think you’re not looking, scream in terror when they see you charging their way, and get blown away with the same spray of blood and intestines. The tanks, planes and war machines still sport the mock swastikas and the rusty gears. The levels incredible – smashing through enemy lines with a skyscraper-sized mecha or storming aboard a freight elevator with dual machine guns never gets old – but they are brief and somewhat unsatisfying. While Metal Slug 7 is one of the most demanding run-and-gun games you’ll ever play on the DS, it’s not nearly as obscenely difficult as its predecessors. The easiest setting even gives you infinite Heavy Machine Gun ammo. Fans of the old titles will definitely be disappointed by this game’s lack of staple features of the series. There’s no way to change your character into a monkey, zombie, or anything else. Where are the branching paths, the intense pacing? There aren’t even any Mars People.

How blasphemous, indeed.

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The game tries to make up for such shortcomings with the inclusion of the Combat School. This gameplay mode is geared towards all those hardcore Metal Slug fans that will be able to breeze through the main campaign and left looking for more. While it’s structured around the same seven missions, you won’t have to beat them in succession. Instead, you’ll be able to pick particular levels and attempt to beat them with certain limitations or criteria. Anyone can plow through the first stage with a Heavy Machine Gun and some grenades. Not everyone, however, can get through that same stage with only a set number of extra lives and a severely limited supply of gun rounds. The same goes for all those diehard bosses that’ll routinely maim your characters; without your usual crutches to keep you alive, the Combat School serves as a real test of your prowess on the 2D battlefield. Since you’re scored and graded on your performance, perfectionists will have quite a time trying to figure out the best way to tackle the various challenges. The great part about mode is how accessible it is; unlike the campaign with its ridiculously high learning curve, the Combat School will let you fail miserably (which you probably will, regardless of how good you think you might be) and retry at the drop of a hat. If anything, it’ll keep you coming back for more long after you’ve conquered everything else the game has to offer.

It’s not that Metal Slug 7 is a bad game. Far from it. As far as the DS’s library goes, it’s only outdone by Contra 4 in terms of sheer run-and-gun gameplay quality. Nor is this game a mediocrity-fest that plagued a couple of other games in the series; it definitely ranks among the best installments. This title does all the right things in terms of challenge, weapons, character options, and level designs. The problem is that it rarely goes beyond what’s been previously established; aside from a few insanely awesome boss fights and a handful of fancy new throwaway underlings to ravage, nearly all of your foes have been plucked from the older titles. Don’t let that stop you from importing this game, though. In fact, it’d be surprising if all of you hardcore fans haven’t given this a whirl already. Combat School challenges aside, Metal Slug 7 has everything that made the series great in the first place. So do yourself a favor and play this. General Morden deserves another ass-kicking.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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