Metal Slug Anthology is an awesome collection that includes seven of the classic run and gun games. I have only played the first in the series and that was many years ago, so I was very excited to see how the series had developed with each game. This is the 10th anniversary edition of an arcade classic. It includes Metal Slug, Metal Slug 2, Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 3, Metal Slug 4, Metal Slug 5 and also Metal Slug 6.
Metal Slug is a beloved franchise because of its chaotic, side-scrolling arcade shooting and vibrant design. This is the perfect time to replay the games, or ones you’ve missed and if you’ve never played them before, this is a fantastic package.
Metal Slug started out in 1996 with the release of Metal Slug: Super Vehicle 001. The game has a military theme, with side-scrolling platforming, plenty of shooting and a great sense of humour. The games all have a similar narrative, which is simple and to the point. The focuses on futuristic battles between two military groups known as the Regular army, and the Rebellion. The games are set in the future in the year 2026, when the Rebellion army has started an attack on the Regular army forces. The Regular army decided to up the ante and start designing and building powerful weapons and vehicles. They designed a tank, code-named “Metal Slug” that was put into production.
The Rebellion managed to get hold of many of the newly produced Metal Slug tanks, and starting using them against the Regular army. It’s your job as the regular army to attack with the remaining force you have and recapture the vehicles, or destroy them. You can play as various characters across the 7 games, each with different personalities and traits. I played through the games in the original order of release, so I could see how the series developed over time, even if only very minor in some parts.
The first Metal Slug game from what I played is one of the strongest, as it felt concise, deliberate and beautiful in design. Each stage is the same, you run from left to right, shooting everything in your way and picking up various items. You blast your way through waves of soldiers, creatures and weird beasts and even occasionally shoot through massive environmental objects that crumble to reveal new pathways and areas. Weapons are varied, like flame guns, shotguns, missile launchers and you can even melee attack enemies when in close range. I’m not going to review every single game separately, however I will pick out the key changes and additions that arose as I progressed through each title.
Metal Slug 2 still played in the same way as its predecessor, but this time there’s different enemies, like mummies in an Egyptian setting. Your character can transform into a mummy or you can become fat, meaning you move slower and are less effective. Metal Slug X comes after Metal Slug 2 and is basically a remixed version of 2. This time enemy numbers are different, enemy placement is mixed up and the music has been remastered. Metal Slug doesn’t offer too many changes but is still worth playing and feels like a decent addition to the overall package.
Metal Slug 3 feels like a breath of fresh air after 2 and X as it offers some different levels and enemy types to contend with. The stages here are still very linear in terms of starting point and boss battle at the end, but how you get there can differ, as there are different routes and paths you can take. I actually replayed the first few stages of this game to see how I could play through each area in a different way. An example of this is where you could choose to take the high route by foot or use a vehicle down low to blast through enemies. It’s also important to bear in mind that different routes may offer different items you can collect. Then came 4, 5 and 6 and whilst still great games, they very much felt like rehashes or mixed up versions of things we had seen in the previous games, like circling helicopters shooting from above or moving boat sections.
All 7 of the games in this collections are very challenging, but you do have the option for unlimited continues. I have to say that if that wasn’t available I would have really struggled to make any progress as I would find myself staring at the continue countdown timer far too often. Every game is pretty much the same which sees you dropped into a new environment, move from left to right and shoot everything you see, you even shoot the hostages free to save them. The more hostages, or POWs, you save the more help you will receive. You get things like weapon upgrades, which can be incredibly powerful against enemies. I actually really enjoyed the simple setup of the game and it even reminded me of the recent Broforce game, with its different characters, chaotic action and tonnes of destruction.
You can play the game using the analog stick to move but its much more effective and responsive to use the d-pad. The controls are tight and extremely responsive, which is incredibly important when it comes to a game like this, where the difficulty ramps up very quickly. The key mechanic is obviously shooting but you also jump, duck, melee and throw grenades. Grenades are your best friend and I can’t stress how much they helped me during difficult situations, especially boss battles. You can jump into various Metal Slug vehicles during every game like tanks, submarines and semi-robotic camels… yes camels! These moments are extremely fun and useful for clearing out lots of enemies.
The bosses are another real highlight of the game. They are fantastically designed, extremely varied and require you to plan out your best method of attack. What I love about the Metal Slug games is that you spend a lot of time dying to eventually beat that insane boss, where you then think you have time to breathe but in fact you’re thrown straight back into the action. The bosses do get extremely challenging and almost feel unbeatable at times, but you only ever die because of your own mistakes. The bosses never felt unfair and once you start to recognize patterns and attacks you can effectively take each boss down.
Now I want to talk about the visuals, which are simply gorgeous. Everything you see in the games is hand-drawn and is one of the most visually impressive and engaging 2D side-scroller games I can remember playing for a long time. Even if you weren’t aware that these games are relatively old, I believe they stand up visually to current games of this ilk. The colour schemes are fantastic, the environments are varied and full of detail and its worth taking time, if you can, to appreciate the time and care put into every aspect, whether it’s the backdrops or character design. The shooting looks awesome and the explosions look even better. The games all run smoothly, apart from 5 which for some reason seemed to stutter a little at times. That being said, the animations are smooth and the controls work great. The bosses are wonderfully designed and mixes up the gameplay well. The sound design is also very well done but does remain the same pretty much throughout. The later games do sound slightly different but overall the games have an electronic beat the escalates throughout. The music makes you feel like you’re taking part in an action movie, as you obliterate everything in your path. The sound effects are also solid, with powerful sounding weapons and brilliant one-liners from the various characters.
Overall I can’t express how much I enjoyed getting to play the Metal Slug Anthology collection, even if some of the later games felt a bit stale and more of a best hits edition. The controls are responsive and the shooting is damn right awesome. This is the perfect package for those new to the franchise or if you’re looking to replay the awesome series. Metal Slug 6 is by no means the best game here, but it’s certainly worth playing and a valid and respectful addition to the collection. Metal Slug is a beloved franchise and series of games and this collection proves why people loved it so much.
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