Metal Slug Anthology
Thereís a man dying in front of you. His gut has been shot wide open; heís feebly struggling to keep his innards from slipping out onto his uniform. His camouflage used to be green to blend in with the jungle around you, but the blood seeping through the fabric has blown the manís cover. This guy is just another nameless soldier fighting for a greater cause; his country will list both him and his fallen comrades as mere statistics once the fighting is done. Somewhere back home, he has a life. A lover. Maybe some kids. Heíll never get to see any of it again. The last thing images in his mind will be of men murdering each other and bodies lying in the dirt. The flies will feast on his corpse, and whateverís left will rot in this terrible heat. But this soldier isnít dead yet; his bloodshot eyes drift up towards your face in a look of pure desperation and agony.
Accordingly, you aim your gun at his forehead and finish the job.
For Marco Rossi and Tarma Roving, the heroes of Metal Slug, moments like these are all too common. Theyíre part of the elite Peregrine Falcons Special Forces, a unit whose goal is the elimination of a military dictator named General Morden. This Saddam-esque maniac has amassed an army unlike anything ever seen on American soil; the sheer amount of heavily armed soldiers, highly advanced tanks, and comically oversized boss mechas make for a truly terrifying display. Armed with nothing more than a bunch of guns and grenades, our heroes must march into enemy territory and shoot the Hell out of anything that gets in their way (and save a bunch of shaggily bearded POWs to get more equipment). Forget about stealth, tactics, and everything youíve ever learned in a shooting action game; your main priority is to stay alive and keeping mashing the fire button for all its worth. Thousands of graphically wounded enemies, burning tank wreckages, and countless continues later, you might just be able to seize the day. With so many enemies on the screen at once and destructible urban landscapes abound, youíll have quite a time blasting through this mess of bullets and chaos without getting killed.
“Forget about stealth, tactics, and everything youíve ever learned in a shooting action game; your main priority is to stay alive and keeping mashing the fire button for all its worth.”Metal Slug 2 took this basic run-and-gun gameplay style and modified it further, but at the expense of the gameplay. Marco and Tarma now fight alongside Eri Kasamoto and Fio Germi, creating the gunslinging quartet that are usually featured in future Metal Slug games. General Morden is back in action as well; not only does he have all his inept cronies from last time, but heís actually made an alliance with a bunch alien Independence Day rejects in a bid for world domination! Accordingly the screens of Metal Slug 2 are filled with more crazy enemies than ever before. Aside from more conventional weaponry, our heroes are now able to wield laser guns, Molotovs, and mortars, making the combat even more chaotic than ever before. Thatís on top of the new character transformations available; a character could become fat if they acquired too many food pickups, or turn into a pistol-wielding mummy if attacked by certain enemies. Unfortunately, such fast-paced mindless bloodshed came at a price; with so much stuff going on the screen at once, the gameplay slowed to a crawl, effectively sucking the entertainment out of the game. Such issues were rectified with Metal Slug X, which kept the speeds normal and re-imaged the levels in different colors and settings.
The aliens are continuing the rampage across planet Earth, and the Peregrine Falcons have to up their game (and team up with an unlikely ally) if they hope to save humanity. This game features the basic frantic shooting and bloody crusades of the previous titles, but thrives more on transformations, weapons, and variations. Our heroes can now turn into zombies (complete with ability to shoot bloody streams of burning acid out of their mouths!), explore the murky ocean depths, and even blast into the stratosphere to protect their home world. Thereís nothing quite as awesome as watching a squid alien slowly roast to death under a brief blast of your flamethrower, or hear them squeal and spill their green innards after a taking few well-placed bullets. Several new vehicles are available for commandeering, be it a submarine, a rocket ship, combat chopper, and even ostrich (yes, as in the giant bird that canít fly) toting a pair of laser cannons. In a series first, many of the levels take branching paths, allowing you to explore different areas to find new powerups and enemies. With giant enemy crabs, evil clones, and an entire armada of UFOs out for your blood, Metal Slug 3 is the brutally bloody epic that set the standard for later titles.
“But with the advent of Metal Slug 3, things go from slightly crazier to an all-out madness.”Unfortunately, such a standard was never met in Metal Slug 4. The game takes everything that fans held dear to the previous installment and essentially chucks it out the window. Tarma and Eri, two of the fiercest gunslingers to ever set foot on the battleground, have been reduced to nothing but making glorified cameos. Some trainees named Trevor and Nadia have replaced them, but the newcomers have no charisma whatsoever. While the previous game prided itself on trying different things and new approaches to an established gaming formula, Metal Slug 4 essentially recycles the same sprites and levels as the first three games. Youíll gut the same roving bands of enemies for the umpteenth time and send the same city streets awash in blood and guts. Even the multi-branching levels have been replaced with a bunch of brief, linear areas that offered little in terms of exploration. What happened to the overwhelming presence of enemies? Why are the bosses so damned cheap, even for SNK standards? Why does everything feel old, reused, and watered-down? Aside from being able to dual-wield a pair of semiautomatics, this game offers nothing new to the series and suffers accordingly.
Metal Slug 5 attempts to make up for such shortcomings by completely scrapping the Morden/Alien-centric storyline in favor of paranormal and anti-terrorism motifs. Gritty urban landscapes and epic crusades across desolate battlegrounds have been replaced with steamy jungles, Temple of Doom-esque pyramids, and beautiful coral reefs marred with the blood and guts of all the giant squids youíll have to slay. All of the shotguns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and the rest of the weapons from previous games are back in action, as well as Eri and Tarma. Mordenís rebel soldiers, however, have been replaced with grizzled mercenaries and fanatical priests. Though the classic ability to transform into different forms has been reduced to you turning into a diaper-clad chimpanzee, the game makes it up to you with yet another set of new vehicles. There are few things more satisfying than commandeering a Volkswagen Beetle and going Mad Max on your hapless foes. Despite such a fresh take blended with classic gameplay, the levels prove too short, linear, and easy to be truly fun.
“Youíll gut the same roving bands of enemies for the umpteenth time and send the same city streets awash in blood and guts.”The series doesnít get its groove back until Metal Slug 6 comes into play. This installment hails the return of the Alien Invasion storyline, but with a big twist: yet another extraterrestrial race has shown up to kick everyoneís ass and enslave both humans and Mordenís alien buddies. These new guys donít mess around either; their armor-plated shells can withstand multiple hits, the bosses are more massive and harder to kill than ever before, and the sheer number of enemies on screen at once is mind-boggling. You havenít experienced Metal Slug until youíre stuck on a platform facing an onslaught of twenty-plus diehard alien bastards and mashing the attack button for all youíre worth. Never mind about the 50-foot robot flinging busses at you, or the mind-control parasites that can infect your teammates. In order to even the odds, the Peregrine Falcons have included two more characters for their roster: Ralf Jones and Clark Steel of King of Fighters and Ikari Warriors fame. These two guys provide an excellent example of a new feature for Metal Slug 6, the character attributes. While the classic characters get more ammo but reduced firepower, etc., Clark can perform his signature finishing move on his hapless adversaries. Ralf can even take two bullets to the gut before going down (which is unheard of in the corpse-ridden Metal Slug universe), and even use his manly fighting skills to punch tanks into submission. With long levels filled with brutal challenge, tons of enemies and blood and guts spattered everywhere, Metal Slug 6 reclaims the glory that the first three games enjoyed so well.
Thus, these seven games (counting X as separate) comprise the Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii. All of the games retain their arcade-based charm, sans the small fortune of quarters youíd have to spend after getting killed for the twentieth time. Everything is as vividly portrayed as the originals, be it the Golden Gate Bridge slowly crumbling under the weight of the oncoming alien forces, the Spaceship Yamato wannabe battleship battle that spans across an entire harbor, or even Mordenís main henchman getting randomly eaten by a killer whale. The games donít spare you from the gushing blood, spewing alien organs, or burning bodies flailing about; it is brutal, messy, and morbidly beautiful all at the same time. The simplicity of the gameplay is reflected with the controls; buttons for jumping, shooting, walking, and aiming are all that are needed. Instead of designating a button for grenades, however, the game forces you to flick the WiiMote, which essentially makes you vulnerable as you get your fingers around the default controls. The anthology allows you to try different variations involving the Nunchuck attachment as well, but the default controls tend to work best. Considering the amount of unlockable artwork and music available, youíll have plenty of reasons to put up with the controls and play through everything at least once.
“All of the games retain their arcade-based charm, sans the small fortune of quarters youíd have to spend after getting killed for the twentieth time.”The Metal Slug Anthology is a godsend for the fans of the series. For too long, the epic crusades of the Peregrine Falcons have gone unnoticed. Even Metal Slug 6 received limited release and acclaim stateside. Thereís nothing complicated or technical about these games; you go in, you keep shooting stuff until it explodes, and try to stay alive for more than ten seconds. The sheer amount of diehard enemies, unfriendly fire, and over-the-top boss battles make the game a true 2D spectacle. Marco, Tarma, Eri, Fio, and all their allies are truly the unsung heroes in gaming today. Thankfully, we can celebrate their mighty combat prowess and the mindless slaughtering of all their enemies. Though the controls made not be as perfect as their arcade brethren, they function well enough to get you through even the toughest times. This anthology features the best, worst, and everything in between that the Metal Slug series has to offer. And after all these years, itís still a ton.
Eight out of ten
- Seven of the greatest games that SNK has to offer that remain true to their arcade roots.
- WiiMote Controls could have been handled slightly better.