Review by Kevin Cheung
Metal Slug is a port from the arcades of SNKs attempt at a two-dimensional side-scrolling shooter. Similar to games such as Contra, Metal Slug is a one or two player game that puts you in a war-time environment similar to World War 2 or Vietnam, and requires you to cap as many enemy butts as is humanly possible whilst saving POWs. Please take note that this review is based on a fifteen minute play-test in my local import shop which, given the nature of this game, I thought is adequate.
Graphically, Metal Slug is lush with detailed sprites and backgrounds. I doubt there would be any complaints as to the graphical quality here, since Metal Slug lives up to SNKs reputation for good two dimensional graphics. The screen scrolls across quite smoothly with no discernible blur; nor is there any serious slowdown when the screen fills up with sprites, which is testimony that the Playstation is more than adequate in handling two-dimensional games of this genre. My only complaint is that, like other games by SNK, the artwork is an acquired taste. To some, the characters in the game might just be a little too weird-looking. However, there are quite a few humorous graphical touches, such as the POWs you rescue who spring to life, eyes beaming as they run away exclaiming "Thankyou!"; or the beefy looking tank that you can jump into that goes chugging across the screen destroying everything in sight.
The sounds of Metal Slug repeat the time-honored tradition in shoot em up games of creating the aural impression of mayhem, destruction, death and chaos, all while we sedately push a few buttons on our control pad. There are a multitude of sounds for different explosions, weapons-fire, death-screams, tanks, more explosions, and so on. Almost every detail is covered, ranging from essential sounds to relative periphery. For instance, in a given sequence, you would here the firing of a tank turret, the explosion of a wooden hut, the scream of an enemy who just bought it, and a *thunk* when that enemy hits the dirt after having fallen off the tree on which the hut was situated.
Unfortunately, I did not pay much attention to the presence of any music. If there was, then the fact that Ive forgotten about it means that it is fairly nondescript.
Like any game of this type, its success or failure is dependent on gameplay and control. In this department, Metal Slug offers a fairly mixed bag. Players run along a screen that has multiple platforms, and once having progressed through a portion of the screen, they cannot move back. This might be a drawback to some platform fans who enjoyed the freedom that, for instance, Super Mario World offered. Whilst jumping from platform to platform, players can shoot in any direction, similar to Contra. However, the control of where you actually shoot is not as simple as pressing in the direction that you want your bullets to go. In fact, the direction you shoot in operates on something similar to a rotation system, where you press up or down to rotate your gun. This may also prove annoying to some players who demand fast pin-point gameplay. It also proves annoying when there are a lot of sprites on-screen to avoid and shoot at, where the last thing you want to pay attention to is the precise angle at which your gun is pointing. Metal Slug also offers a lot of the standard power-ups, such as machine guns, flame throwers, tanks, and extra lives, but like many other games, it only becomes interesting after the first couple of levels.
Those complaints aside, Metal Slug is quite a fun game to play, and should not disappoint too many people.
There are two major drawbacks to Metal Slug, one being that the controls are noticeably sluggish. Do not expect the water-tight controls that are prevalent in Contra, Rockman X, or even Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight. The controls are not as responsive by comparison, but not altogether bad. This is one of those games where you can master the controls given a short time. I guess Ive just been spoilt by Capcom and Konami.
The other major drawback is that the loading sequences occur at the most inappropriate and inconvenient times, and are often quite long by modern standards. The worst example, and the most frequently occurring flaw, is the fact that the game will often stop in its tracks for about five seconds to load the game. The flow of gameplay is completely destroyed, and the distraction is usually enough to cause me an unnecessary demise.
To conclude, Metal Slug is a game that I can only recommend conditionally. Those who are fans of the arcade game, or those who are absolute shooting game freaks should certainly check it out. For the rest of you, the game itself looks and plays quite solidly, but sadly, it does not compare very well to highly polished alternatives like Rockman. It is even more disheartening to realise that there arent that many games on the Playstation like Metal Slug that are of the SNES Contra style. Combined with the fact that there are unforgivable load sequences, Metal Slug is a game that Id rate as a little above average, but bordering on mediocrity because, to be honest, theres nothing entirely original about the game.
-- Kevin Cheung
Last Updated: October 05, 1998
last updated: Saturday, December 05, 1998
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