I can’t believe this is only the ten-year anniversary of Metal Slug. To a young kid like myself, the four-in-one Neo-Geo cabinets have been sitting in arcades since the beginning of time. While young bands celebrate Contra music and critics nod to Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug still owns your local pizza parlors and skating rinks.
Metal Slug is one of those classics where, even if it isn’t your thing, it’s worth playing just ten minutes to get a taste of the series’ unique senses of action and humor. Metal Slug has always revolved around a band of young Rambo-style mercenaries who fight frogmen, mummies, aliens and a bumbling fascist army. Children make snowmen and shaggy-haired P.O.W.s happily skip along the levels, even as the screen fills with bullets and bombs; the sight gags and absurd animation nearly overshadow the tight, frantic gameplay.
[image1]Anthology brings you Metal Slugs 1-5, the previously unreleased Metal Slug 6, and the Metal Slug 2 re-release Metal Slug X. It’s pretty damn fun to run through the whole series, watching where characters and game mechanics were introduced and repeated throughout. You can finish one in about forty-five minutes with unlimited credits, or you can turn off the continues for some old school suffering.
And yes, there are unlockables for you crazy people
who can beat the game on a handful of continues. Metal Slug
hails from the day when the entire screen was covered in enemies and shrapnel, and ‘fun’ came in brief spurts between deaths. To put it in perspective, I was finishing each game in between twenty-five and forty-five continues. Ouch.
The Metal Slug games always downplayed some really intriguing features, like hidden power-ups and branching pathways; in short, there is a TON of stuff to see and replay, and the Anthology is a great way to take in Metal Slug without draining your laundry quarters into someone’s arcade cabinet. Each game enjoys vibrant colors and a smooth framerate. All ran fine through HD component cables with no slowdown or flicker to speak of.
The gameplay is great but hardly new, so how about the bonus “anthology”content? I was hoping to find some reason for players to kick off their brand-spanking new Wii launch with ancient games. How is buying a Wii and Metal Slug any different from buying a classic NeoGeo and Metal Slug? Wii owners and Metal Slug fans will appreciate all the action but may feel disappointed by convoluted controls and a second-rate presentation.
[image2]When you have two seconds to navigate a maze of deadly fire, you want tight, intuitive controls at your fingertips. Anthology offers a half-dozen hit-or-miss configurations for the various Wii controllers. Creative layouts let you tilt the controller like an upright joystick, but they make it impossible to aim and shoot within reason. Stick to the button-based layouts; my favorite has you wrapping both hands around the Nunchuk attachment like it’s a pistol. Fortunately you can play the game whether you own every type of controller or just the standard Wiimote.
Every time you complete one of the games, you get a few tokens to spend on art galleries, sound tests and an interview. These features lack any sort of style or context; simple captions would have given some meaning to the art and music, and the interview is an unbelievable chunk of text to scroll through. Did someone forget to bring a video camera to work that day?
The menus in Anthology look like they were made in a Make-Your-Own-Home-Movies DVD program by a Shanghai software pirate. Navigating even from game to game is a surprisingly clunky process, and to even pause the normal game, you’ll have to mentally exit your current control scheme to find the Wiimote d-pad and A button.
This game always makes me think of Gunstar Heroes on the Wii Virtual Console, and if you compare the prices, you’ll find that this Metal Slug collection is a pretty good deal.The cheeseball presentation doesn’t really do the series justice, but Anthology rocks at delivering Metal Slug games. The arcade-faithful translation should delight fans and purists, putting up a good time and a lot of laughs for you and a friend.