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Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) artwork

Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) review

"Fascist military regimes are stalwart figures of evil oppression They can kick ass, and look good doing it. Submarines, tanks, fighter jets, countless soldiers, and fortresses of doom all come standard. Put a good one in a videogame and it’s hard to go wrong. The first Metal Slug, as a matter of fact, rode to glory on the back of a Nazi-like army led by a goofy Sadaam Hussein doppleganger. "

Fascist military regimes are stalwart figures of evil oppression They can kick ass, and look good doing it. Submarines, tanks, fighter jets, countless soldiers, and fortresses of doom all come standard. Put a good one in a videogame and it’s hard to go wrong. The first Metal Slug, as a matter of fact, rode to glory on the back of a Nazi-like army led by a goofy Sadaam Hussein doppleganger.

But why stop there?

Add some robots, yetis, ninjas, and eyes would bulge. Throw in killer man-sized piranhas, crabs, grasshoppers, plants, snails, maggots, and jaws would drop. Somehow pack in zombies, mutants, aliens, clones, and zombified alien mutant clones, and bowels would loosen. Would not an unholy alliance of such magnitude rock the world as we know it?! Well, the result of such an alliance exists, its name is Metal Slug 3, and it rocks the world times infinity.

Along with showcasing the unabridged canon of hardass villains in a seemingly scant five levels, Metal Slug 3 crams in a dizzying array of wild places and situations. The first two Metal Slugs were top-notch run 'n gun action games that played like Contra with a generous dash of comedy, offering a mix of furious challenge and morbidly funny slaughter. These games really did throw in everything but the kitchen sink, but Metal Slug 3 hurls the kitchen sink in with reckless abandon, promptly rips open a wormhole to another dimension, and starts hurling objects from unknown galaxies faster than the speed of light.

The best in an epic series, Slug 3 is a game that should need no introduction—its has the same pedigree as a Contra or a Ninja Gaiden—but clearly it does. It’s been stuck in obscure Neo Geo consoles and dingy arcades for years. On the XBox, Metal Slug might have had a chance to shine and reach wider acceptance, but this botched port doesn't help matters. As if the complaints of doughy "professional" game critics--it's hard and short and 2-D!--weren't enough.

The problem isn't technical: SNK and Playmore nailed the conversion to the XBox. People love to say things like, “It’s really unfair to compare Metal Slug with new titles because it’s two-dimensional and hand drawn.” These morons get my blood boiling. Without a trace of the third dimension, Metal Slug 3 is more visually accomplished than forty-nine out of fifty games from any generation.

The artwork is astounding, backgrounds brimming with tremendous detail; subtle visual cues hint at secret pathways or enemies to come; each foe is outfitted with gorgeous character design, unique attacks, and painstakingly detailed death animations. The vivid sound effects also remain completely intact: there is a guttural scream, metallic crack, and crunching explosion for every occasion.

There are no audiovisual or control issues here on the XBox—the wrongdoing is the ruination of the credit system. How does someone play a game—say, Metal Slug 3 for instance—in an arcade? He puts his quarter in, plays until he dies, and repeats until he is out of money, time, or machismo. Here, on the Box, one cannot have more than five continues under any circumstance. I see the value of forcing the player to get better, but there is something to be said for a training mode to improve without restrictions on lives, and there is also something to be said for running through MS3 with infinite continues, tackling wild encounters with reckless abandon and soaking up the entire glorious epic without a brain-fraying struggle. A system in which the option of extra credits opens up after a significant amount of playtime is ideal, and some of the fun is undeniably lost with this pointless reworking. And still, things get worse.

At the end of every credit, you are warped back to the beginning of the stage. Again, how does someone play a game in an arcade? He runs out of lives, he pops another quarter in, and he picks up where he left off. Demanding each level in Metal Slug be one-credited is especially ridiculous considering the game’s astronomical spike in difficulty at the mammoth, brutal final stage. In tandem with a stupid feature that allows players to select the mission they wish to start from (assuming they’ve beaten the preceding mission), most players will get through the first four stages with moderate difficulty and then face the Mission Five gauntlet over and over again. Your reward for victory is two boring minigames that aren’t worth the struggle

That being said, the action here is its own reward. Metal Slug 3 is a rare breed in its intensity, range, attention to detail, and flair for the epic. The ever-changing circumstances—locations, enemies, power-ups—are consistently awesome. Simply tossing a heap of ideas on the screen would not have succeeded, but Metal Slug 3 never does anything half-assed.

Every one of the many branches each level has to offer is bursting with rigorous artwork and thrilling action. Whether you spend Mission 4 duking it out with gigantic plants hungry for manflesh atop a Mayan ruin, avoiding the explosions from sticks of dynamite that jihadis light with their dying breath in a Japanese manor, or traversing a slimy tunnel filled with gargantuan slugs while piloting a giant drill on wheels, you will be having a blast. Even with SNK doing it's best to break the feel and rhythm of arcade play, Metal Slug 3 is action nirvana, such a fierce, manly headbutt of a game that a few asininey changes can’t put too big a damper on the experience.

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Community review by careless_whisper (May 13, 2005)

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