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Metal Slug XX (PSP) artwork

Metal Slug XX (PSP) review


"Metal Slug XX is a remake of the DS's Metal Slug 7. After playing the new version, I don't think I can go back. The cartoony visuals have been expanded to a proper resolution, showing off the same zany antics we've watched for 14 years. Two-player simultaneous action has been added, creating a cooperative experience we've enjoyed since 1996. And it's still impossible to aim diagonally."



Metal Slug XX is a remake of the DS's Metal Slug 7. After playing the new version, I don't think I can go back. The cartoony visuals have been expanded to a proper resolution, showing off the same zany antics we've watched for 14 years. Two-player simultaneous action has been added, creating a cooperative experience we've enjoyed since 1996. And it's still impossible to aim diagonally.

In other words, the PSP revision brings the seventh Slug up to the same tier as previous episodes. It's better than some, it's worse than others, but it won't surprise anyone who remembers the way soldiers point and laugh or anyone who thinks of Metal Slug whenever they see blue-and-white striped boxers. Players select a soldier, rescue POWs, collect familiar weapons, ride inside all-too-scarce vehicles, fight aliens, and bloodily massacre a faux Saddam's army.

Some of the boss fights are appropriately challenging -- such as a platform battle atop lava, during which a mechanical beast smashes through the platforms -- but most of the game beyond the second level is inappropriately difficult. Absurd crossfires abound, demonstrating little care for the concept of incremental improvement. Deciphering the enemies' attack patterns is difficult enough; random bullets from infinitely respawning soldiers often render survival impossible. Why would a player keep trying to improve in the face of such unfair odds? SNK apologists say the key is focus and perseverance. I say they must be talking about a different game; the key to Metal Slug XX is infinite continues.

If this sounds pointless and irritating, that's because it is. Metal Slug XX is not a game to be played seriously; it's a game to be played when time needs killing, and it's not even the best Slug for that. Metal Slug XX's two saving graces are the Ikari Warriors, Ralf and Clark. Ralf can melee-battle machines, and Clark hurls enemy soldiers through the air. Their unique attack styles don't make up for the canned enemy animations, tired humor, or unfair difficulty, but they do make the experience feel just a bit more creative and just a bit more involving than episodes four and five.

I never expected to harp on the same issues others have leveled against the series for years, but when SNK Playmore steadfastly refuses to reinvigorate the franchise, its flaws become more apparent with every episode. Metal Slug XX's historical importance relies on people expecting it to be bad. Common knowledge considers episodes one through three to be good; common knowledge considers episodes four through six to be bad. Congratulations, SNK Playmore: you've proven that you can almost compete with the standard set by SNK Oldstyle. That's great for people who are forced to play Metal Slug XX -- it's not so great for gamers actually hoping for something to match the stellar third episode's creativity. Even with the combat school missions and selectable soldiers, this game just doesn't feel fresh.

It's time for some new enemies, new weapons, and new jokes. Perhaps it's time for Cyber Lip 2.

//Zig

Rating: 6/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (February 28, 2010)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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honestgamer posted March 01, 2010:

I obviously enjoyed Metal Slug 7 a great deal more than you did, and it's obvious that I also liked Metal Slug 5 more than you (and from what I can see, I liked it more than most others did). Still, I can see where you're coming from with this.

The franchise hasn't really gone anywhere new in recent years, aside from the obvious venture into puzzle-style areas this time around... which I was sort of surprised to see you not mention. I'm not sure that the franchise really needs to evolve a whole lot at this point. It'll still be entertaining for the person who is playing this as his first or second Metal Slug game, and I'd imagine that such a person is the target audience for this release.

For the long-time Metal Slug fanatic, yeah, there's not a lot to see here. Though I'm mostly happy with what's icluded here, I agree that some new material wouldn't hurt. I'm just not sure what else there is left to do that's true to the series and that would be fun to play.
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zigfried posted March 01, 2010:

Thanks for the interesting comments. I'm gonna rant a bit, because playing this game got me more and more irritated as it went on... from "this came is actually pretty cool" when I first started, to "f*** this" by the end.

Looking back, there was only one area that I would possibly consider puzzle-style -- the one where you stop shooting to automatically turn cranks so that you can descend and escape the giant steel ball. It never occurred to me to consider it a "puzzle" zone, as it wasn't really a puzzle. It was just a brief (and conceptually welcome) interlude where the focus was on running instead of killing, although the number of spawning enemies and bullets made turning the cranks annoying. Conceptually it was cool, but in actually playing that scene, it was irritating. I felt the neat, challenging bosses were a more significant element.

Conceptually, I could talk about all kinds of cool stuff that happens in Metal Slug XX. But when none of it is particularly new or fair, what's the point? If someone wants a cooler game, they can play Metal Slug X or 3. If someone wants a fairer game that actually encourages player improvement over credit-feeding, they can play a different series entirely.

You have a point about how a change to the series would probably be viewed as "not faithful". That's SNK Playmore's fault. They have set a strong precedent for REFUSING to change anything about the series. Go read DConnoy's review of Metal Slug X, written eight or nine years ago at GameFAQs -- that's a review of this game, right down to the gags, control issues, and combat school mode. The thing is, if you look at the first three Slugs, the series was going somewhere. Maybe not quickly, but it was happening. Metal Slug 2/X was a significant upgrade to the first in terms of enemies and animations, and Metal Slug 3 expanded the weirdness and had a bunch of alternate paths (enough paths that it was a significant feature). If similar sequels would be seen as unfaithful today, it's because SNK Playmore dug themselves into a hole. Plenty of series have made mechanically diverse sequels in the past, and succeeded.

If SNK Playmore refuses to put forth that effort, then they need to retire the series... at least, retire it on systems that already have Metal Slug Anthology. How can I suggest someone spend money on a single Metal Slug UMD -- and not the best of the series -- when you could instead buy a UMD containing six (technically seven) Metal Slugs on it, some of which are better? Are people really buying this game? There's a ton of other stuff they could be making instead that people aren't sick of.

//Zig
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honestgamer posted March 01, 2010:

Regarding Metal Slug Anthology, I've heard that the PSP port is the worst and suffers from crippling bugs. Am I to assume that was that not your experience? In any event, we're agreed that MS7 could have been better. It's not an instant classic, just a really, really good Metal Slug and the best since 3. I'm not sure that we even disagree on that point, despite me liking it more than you.
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zigfried posted March 01, 2010:

I know we don't disagree; I was just ranting.

MSA was certainly a lazy port, but I wouldn't say it was particularly buggy. It's similar to DDP:DOJ:BLEX on 360... people always called that "buggy" too, but the only issues I encountered with either game were annoying loading times. I didn't play MSA on PS2 or Wii, so I can't compare the versions, although I had always heard that the Wii was the worst.

If I were to review Metal Slug 7 on the DS, my tone would actually be kinder, although the score would be the same. For non-PSP owners, it's the only decent way to get any portable Slug action, and that's actually worth something. (even though the PSP port is superior)

//Zig
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randxian posted March 14, 2010:

ride inside all-too-scarce vehicles,

Ironically enough, one of the most popular, if not the most popular shooting franchise - Contra - doesn't even have any vehicles. To me, scarce vehicles are better than no vehicles.

I'm not saying I hate Contra for that reason, but it seems a bit odd to knock a game for having only a few vehicles while another franchise gets a free pass for never including this feature.

Beyond that, I agree that the difficulty ramps up too quickly. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't lose credit for saving hostages once you bite the dust.
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zigfried posted March 14, 2010:

Most Metal Slug games use vehicles to add variety, whereas Contra adds variety in other ways. Metal Slug's vehicles also make it easier to shoot diagonally... so in that sense, riding a vehicle is the best way to accomplish what people can always do in Contra. So it's not that Contra gets a free pass; Contra is usually built in such a way that vehicles aren't needed.

Speaking of variety, Metal Slug 3 was so crazy that I don't even think of the vehicles when I think of key moments. Therefore, the game must have been awesome.

//Zig
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randxian posted March 14, 2010:

I realize that was only one little snippet in your review, but wouldn't a better way to approach this lie in critiquing MS for not allowing you to shoot diagnally at all times?

That's one of two things that irritate me the most about the MS series. The other being how so many enemies are behind "cover", yet their bullets pass through said cover. It's also sometimes hard to tell what pieces of the environment are interactive - for cover and to jump on - and what is just decoration, unless you have the level completely memorized.


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