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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) artwork

Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) review


"Press toward the right, mashing the button furiously as livid crustaceans emerge from ramshackle shanties. If they get too close, swipe your knife across them and return to your main quest: survival. Buildings explode into flame and melt away as if they never existed. Prisoners of war thank you heartily as you cut loose their ropes on the way to shoot a bubble-blowing goon ahead. But wait, there’s a weapon pick-up!"


Choking on flames and spewing banners of gray smoke, a military jet crashes roughly to the ground as its heroes burst forth, spinning mid-air before they land on the ground and begin peppering a post-apocalyptic landscape with--Oops, wrong review. This isn’t Contra. It’s Metal Slug 3, a long-overdue port of the arcade classic, this time brought home to the Xbox. But before you start laughing at me for my apparent gaffe, there’s one thing you should know: the two franchises are very similar but for one difference: Metal Slug is better.

A major reason for this difference is the light-hearted approach SNK took with their pride and joy. Your entrance to the first stage is perhaps less memorable than the protagonist’s debut in a game such as Contra: Shattered Soldier, but it’s every bit as fun. Parachute onto land and you’ll find things begin every bit as furiously, only your foes are giant lobsters, not gun-toting goons.

Press toward the right, mashing the button furiously as livid crustaceans emerge from ramshackle shanties. If they get too close, swipe your knife across them and return to your main quest: survival. Buildings explode into flame and melt away as if they never existed. Prisoners of war thank you heartily as you cut loose their ropes on the way to shoot a bubble-blowing goon ahead. But wait, there’s a weapon pick-up! You snag the icon and suddenly your shots become rapid fire. A volley of yellow bullets streaks toward a stone tower while the ‘Arms’ meter at the screen’s top counts down the number of shots remaining.

Dissatisfied with the slow progress, you chuck one of your grenades toward the right. It bounces against enemies and suddenly there’s a poof as crab legs fly and ooze spreads over the ground before evaporating in the balmy air. You’re a machine of destruction, deterred by none of these impediments, and soon you reach a pile of wood and dirt and grass. The question must be asked: do you crawl under the wood and to the waiting hatch of a submarine? Or do you instead hop up the ledge and continue past another gang of oversized sea life?

You’re not yet very far in the game, and already you know why Metal Slug 3 rocks the house so soundly. There’s seldom a moment where the game’s visuals take themselves seriously, yet you know you’re in for a good time as you start sweating and your fingers work the controller like your life depends on it. It likely does. Or rather, Marco’s life (he’s the guy I pick, though there’s another guy and two ladies to round out the crew of selectable characters).

To say that Metal Slug 3 is difficult would be to make a hideous understatement. You can pick your options from the starting menu, give yourself more lives and weaken the enemies, but at the end of the day this game is going to kick your ass. The laughable deviants that greet you after your airborne entrance are soon replaced by soldiers of the more recognizable variety, and then there are massive eels that torpedo from their holes to catch you off-guard, electrifying jellyfish, and even giant dragonflies that will remind you yet again of Contra. That’s just the first level, and I haven’t talked about the boss encounters.

Ah, the bosses. They’re actually quite memorable here, whether it’s the boardwalk-smashing tank early on, or the alien beings that rise from their lair after you’ve cleared the path of its zombie infestation. None of these opponents are terribly difficult at a glance, and there are even simple patterns you can put to use that will simplify matters. Let their cartoon presentation lull you into a false sense of security for even a moment, though, and you’ll be gritting your teeth at the ‘Continue’ screen. Then it’s back to the start of the stage for you!

Speaking of the stages, there are seven total. The first five are a replica of the original arcade game. You’ll traipse through the ocean-front opener, along a snow-covered mountain pass, through an underwater laboratory, along the walls of a desert fortress and more. Then, if you beat that part, there are two Xbox-only additions for your consideration. Wasn’t that nice of SNK? It most certainly was. Unfortunately, these missions are just mini-games, not outright additions to the gameplay you no doubt love in the arcade version. Not only that, but you may not survive to see them.

The main reason for this would have to be your gunfire, which tends to be rather limited. When you have special weapons seeking out your enemies or pelting them with laser beams or whatever, all is good. But when you must rely on standard shots and grenades (as happens if you take a hit or don’t monitor your supplies well), things get downright hairy. You can fire only in four directions: up, down, left and right. Firing down often requires that you be jumping through the air, a dangerous proposition when it’s quite likely you’ll land on a rolling mine or flesh-eating zombie or whatever else the developers see fit to throw at you. In later areas, you’ll be tempted to make like a Shakespearean monarch and shout “Diagonal shots, diagonal shots, my kingdom for diagonal shots.” Or something.

Still, the limitations on your weaponry can’t keep Metal Slug 3 from being one of the most enjoyable shooters you’ve ever played. It’s fun, it’s frantic, it’s fresh. In short, it’s everything the genre needs more of. Grab a friend and two controllers, grab an Xbox, and play this game.

Rating: 8/10


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 29, 2004)

Jason Venter has been playing games for over 25 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he also writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zippdementia posted April 01, 2009:

This seems a little lazier than most of your reviews, Jace. It doesn't flow as well as most and there are some grammar things that you usually catch in other people's reviews, like repeated words in sentences and some weird stopping points.

But I like the story-telling approach you took here and the casual tone you set early on.
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Suskie posted April 01, 2009:

It was also written over four years ago.
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randxian posted April 02, 2009:

Well, with a game that is simply a run and shoot like this game, there really isn't a whole lot more you can say about it. There is a difference between laziness and a game that just doesn't have a whole lot of complexity.

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