Metal Slug Anthology
It’s not easy, being a European fan of the Metal Slug series. Not only does it cost a fortune to amass all the games in the series, but most of them weren’t even released here in the first place. The only option remaining is to spend hours, days, weeks even, trudging through the murky depths of various internet auction sites and just praying that you stumble upon one of the games you’re missing without having to spend the cost of a second-hand car to buy it. Thankfully, the wait is now over! Those lovely people at Ignition have assembled all the Metal Slug games into one neat package, squidged the proverbial sweet and oozy icing onto the proverbial cake, and entitled it Metal Slug Anthology. What’s more, at the positively bargainous price of £14.99, you won’t even have to sell a kidney to lay your hands on it. If that doesn’t have you singing Handel’s “Messiah”, I don’t know what will.
Released to coincide with the series’ tenth anniversary, it’s hard to believe that the Metal Slug games have only been around for such a comparatively short period of time. The entire series is comprised of side-scrolling platform shoot’em ups, and is perhaps the most well-known, and well-loved, example of games of this type. The legacy of these games is so deeply-ingrained in gamers’ minds even now, that it’s difficult to imagine a time when they didn’t exist. So why has the series remained so successful?
The main thing that the games contained within Metal Slug Anthology did so uniquely well, was their delicious lack of depth. No complex and involving storylines, no complicated missions. Just run and shoot, and try not to die too often. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be interested in games of this kind, but the beauty of this series is that it’s completely unpretentious. It also does the player no favours in terms of difficulty – joyously, the original (uber-hard) level of difficulty has been retained, so if you want to avoid dying at all, you’ll have quite some task on your hands. Although this can be rather frustrating at times, it never really becomes too much of a chore. The fact that it isn’t ridiculously easy actually makes the games more compelling to play, and it’s refreshing to see that this aspect hasn’t been watered down for the modern day audience.
The quality of a compilation depends largely on the quality of the games contained therein, and whilst it’s true that Metal Slug Anthology won’t appeal to everyone, those who enjoy blasting the living heck out of anything that moves will find little to fault about this. The ports are flawless, the gameplay contains all the ingenuity of the original releases themselves, and with seven incredibly difficult games to get through, it’ll take even the most skilled player quite some time to play through this title. Helping you along are a series of gun power-ups (although these show up with startling irregularity!), and a number of vehicles you can hop into for fast-killing action. For every power-up though, there’s a screen where you’ll be hit by an assault of a daunting array of enemies all turning up to grab a piece of you at once, leading to yet more deaths and bouts of hardcore swearing action. Fortunately the graphics work extremely well, keep up with the action sublimely, and never really hit the slow-down problems of other high-profile compilations.
The graphics are 2D in all of the titles included on this compilation. Although particularly for the latter half of the series’ existence 3D graphics would have been possible, the titles retained a level of uniqueness simply by being 2D (therefore side-scrolling) rather than 3D. While many other similar games preferred to move to 3D as soon as it became possible to do so, the Metal Slug titles stuck with 2D, and this has since become synonymous with the series. This means that the player is afforded a level of clarity in gameplay that otherwise may not have been possible – rather than switching to 3D graphics and losing the momentum, these games stuck with 2D and were able to retain some seriously high quality as a result. It’s not always a good idea to use more advanced technology as soon as it becomes available, and here this is more obvious than ever before, particularly looking back on the history of the series.
Beyond the surface, you’ll find a set of imaginative and extremely well-developed ports of games that did very well in other countries, but didn’t get the recognition in this part of the world that they deserved. Due for imminent release in Europe, let’s just hope that the Metal Slug games do well this time around! Lord knows they deserve it for this astounding title.