Metal Slug (NeoGeo) review
"Monotony never manages to get a foothold, though, as the ragtag enemy army manages to pack more depth than most RPGs. This quickly becomes evident when Marco is suddenly ambushed by a trio of enemy schooners while crossing a massive bridge shining in the moonlight. The sunbathing goons on the upper decks quickly decide to hold their noses and hop overboard, while another crony slams on an accordion-like pump as his dinghy begins to take on water. Yet another begins to scream like a little girl when he realizes that his worst nightmare is right above him, brandishing a shotgun."
A lone commando, donning his trademark red jacket and disheveled blonde hair, stands at the base of a snowy cliffside. Pressing forward without hesitation, he begins to navigate the precarious precipice, leaping over chasms in the path while demolishing any goons stupid enough to oppose him. After conquering a series of elevators, barriers and mammoth rolling snowballs, he looks back upon his trail of destruction and decides to take a break. He's earned it. Happy hour quickly comes to an end, though: a bald, unshaven, machinegun-toting muscleman barrels towards him, ready to unleash a limitless stream of bullets, bombs and beatings! As the two prepare to square off, the so-called Sgt. Allen imposingly lashes his ammo belt into the snow, and then utters those fateful words:
"Go home to mommy!"
And unless you're ready for the fiercest run-n-gun action game this side of Hard Corps, that's exactly what you should do. Not that it'll require much in the way of readiness: Metal Slug is as simple as they come. You can run, you can shoot, and if you're feeling especially adventurous you can chuck a few grenades. It also lacks many of the innovations of later entries in the series, such as the branching paths, ostriches, and zombie blood barfing that made Metal Slug 3 so endearing. These "omissions", however, actually end up working in its favor. Thanks to the lack of sideroads and resilient, enormous crabs, the first entry of the franchise is able to offer a breathtaking sense of intensity and precision that even its successors, let alone its competition, can only dream of.
Take, for instance, the fifth mission. Nearing the denouement of his quest to stop the neo-Nazi forces of General Morden, Marco glides deep into the heart an occupied Eastern European town. Upon his landing, a horde of miscreants stick their ugly necks out from every window, door, and outhouse in the land, and are less than happy to greet him. Left with no choice but to gun it, he indiscriminately pillages everything in sight while moving at a breakneck speed. Balconies explode, window-panes shatter, cars cave in on themselves, and all the while, battered green carcasses fly everywhere. The level of environmental interaction is obscene; from the lowliest insignia to the most fortified ocean-front battle station, everything can be mutilated, punctured, and otherwise ruined at your prerogative.
You won't just be doing it with a dinky little pistol, either, thanks to the donations of grateful prisoners you free along the way. Instruments of execution are plentiful, and range from the timeless boomstick to the limb shredding automatic rifle. My personal favorite, though, is the downright sadistic flamethrower. As you unleash the fires of hell upon all those who stand in your way, they don't just incinerate and die. Upon seeing that their judgement draws nigh, they let out a hearty scream and hoof it in the opposite direction. Should this Terminator-esque figure's attention fail to be diverted, every part of their body will instantly be engulfed in a pillar of flame, and in a vain attempt to save themselves, they'll scream and flail wildly while crumpling to the floor.
The unorthodox enemy behavior is undeniably a positive, especially since whether you're continuing the war in a murky jungle or passing through a crumbling canyon, the same mob of olive green soldiers is always there to stop you. Monotony never manages to get a foothold, though, as the ragtag enemy army manages to pack more depth than most RPGs. This quickly becomes evident when Marco is suddenly ambushed by a trio of enemy schooners while crossing a massive bridge shining in the moonlight. The sunbathing goons on the upper decks quickly decide to hold their noses and hop overboard, while another crony slams on an accordion-like pump as his dinghy begins to take on water. Yet another begins to scream like a little girl when he realizes that his worst nightmare is right above him, brandishing a shotgun.
Don't let me give you the impression that they hardly fight back, though; they most certainly do. Wielding an impressive variety of weapons and other tools, they work with vigilance to make poor Marco ancient history. Even in the opening segments, Morden's grunts strategically employ an impressive array of knives, pistols, chainguns, and tanks. By the end of the adventure, an endless wave of bombers, motorcycles, and anti-aircraft units will make Marco's life a living hell, not that the homing missiles, grenades, and sniper rifles do anything to help. While individually weak, the legions of enemy forces will assuredly rack up a multitude of kills. There are no cheap deaths, but it only takes a split second attention lapse for your character to come to a gruesome end.
Fortunately, Marco isn't the only fish for them to catch. At the sole discretion of your roommate, significant other, or friend who spends scary amounts of time in your home, Tarma might be allowed to enter the fray. A rugged man donning khaki pants and a badical eyepatch, bringing this soldier into the game shines a completely new light on the game. Everything moves along at double the speed, as the screen literally becomes filled with bullets, explosions, sweat (damn censorship), and other forms of carnage. It also allows for a higher degree of strategy, as in situations such as the dual-tank on a massive stone wall, it's much easier to stick to a certain divide and conquer plan. Doubling your firepower also can't hurt, unless you get into fistfights over the powerups.
Adding to the general state of chaos are the vehicles placed sporadically throughout the game - tanks, tanks, and (my favorite) tanks. These monstrosities are always excellently positioned, as your chainguns will never lack a string of baddies to use as red spraypaint. Plus, you can't top the joy of driving into a mob while shouting "Ramming speed!". You won't be the only one piloting whoopass transports, though. Every level culminates in a battle against a behemoth variation of real-life jalopies, each one more imposing than the last. While you may only duel an artillery cannon in the Aztec ruins of your first operation, even the midgame snowfields climax with a big fucking tank that litters the terrain with landmines, rockets, and lasers. Oh my.
Despite its serious overtones, though, Metal Slug is an absolutely hilarious game, to the point where I laughed more my first time through than the first time I saw Caddyshack. As Tarma infiltrates a train station, for instance, he observes three lazy grunts merrily roasting a chicken over an open flame; a minute later, as if their day wasn't ruined enough by the new holes in their faces, he eats their chicken. Amusing incidents such as these aren't isolated, giving the game a light and humorous tone. From the first overwrought death by fire suffered by one of your foes to the odd remarks of Sgt. Allen (COME ON, BOY!), the game never fails to inspire chuckles. My personal favorite moment occurred when I blew apart an outhouse and caught some deviant sitting on the loo. He threw his arms up in surrender while screaming, and then somehow escaped through the plumbing. Awesome.
In fact, there's no better way to sum up this game. Everything just reeks of awesome, from the standard but majestic tunes to the gorgeous animation. The gameplay itself is a total blast: it's well balanced, exhilarating, challenging, and everything in between. The two-player mode also happens to be one of the best things since sliced cake, while the game's amazing variety and sense of humor serve as a most delicious icing. While it was probably just an attempt to cash in on the large gap left by the floundering Contra franchise, with Metal Slug SNK had unwittingly conceived the finest run-n-gun action game ever. Stylistically different from its sequels and simply better than its competitors, not playing this game should be a crime.
Staff review by John L (October 18, 2004)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Metal Slug review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!