By Anthony L. Cuaycong
It would be an understatement to argue that Metal Slug was an unqualified hit when it first came out 21-and-a-half years ago. Even though run-and-gun titles were already quite common in arcades by then, SNK’s release captured the fancy of gamers with its fast pace, painstaking attention to detail, and outstanding audio-visual cues. And so successful did it become that it spawned four sequels for the NeoGeo and countless ports for various consoles and handhelds, the latest being its eShop iteration for the Nintendo Switch. Clearly, it has held up well through the decades, and how.
As with most other 2-D side-scrollers, Metal Slug’s premise is straightforward. You steer Captain Marco Rossi (with, in Two Player mode, another player controlling Lieutenant Tarma Roving) of the Regular Army’s Peregrine Falcon Strike Force through hellacious combat in an effort to prevent the evil General Donald Morden of the Rebel Army from conquering the world. He has already taken over governments and plans to consolidate his power base through the use of Super Vehicle-001s (dubbed “Metal Slugs”), advanced tanks that boast of latest-technology navigation systems, seemingly impenetrable armor, and powerful cannons. With annihilation at hand, only you can stop him.
If you’ve played a sprite shooter before, then you need no introduction to Metal Slug’s gameplay. Simply put, you fire away at enemies, progressing from left to right while doing jumps, picking up a variety of useful weapons, freeing prisoners of war (where applicable), and even driving the Metal Slugs themselves. Which, in a nutshell, means you train your arms at everything and everyone in sight, all while feasting on lush backgrounds and motivating soundtracks. And to amp up the fun, you’ll also be treated to humor, both intended and unintentional.
Certainly, Metal Slug’s strengths are accentuated on the Switch. First, and most importantly, you get to save your progress on the fly; it’s a nifty feature that lets you recall a particular save state and thus protect your advantage even after you’ve gotten killed (which, no matter how good you think you are at button mashing, will invariably occur, and often). Second, you go through the mayhem assured of smooth controls; attached or not, the Joy-Cons are a breeze to use, and input lags are nonexistent. And third, you get to partake of the topnotch animations, upscaled; whether docked or on the go, the Switch makes you appreciate the game in a new light.
On the flipside, Metal Slug’s weaknesses remain. So faithful is the latest port that it retains even the frame drops at some of its more frenetic points, a no-no given the hardware superiority of the Switch compared to the NeoGeo. Moreover, it brandishes the same gameplay limitations as the original; only two characters are playable, and there can be no veering from the plot line.
That said, Metal Slug deserves its place in the Switch library of action buffs. A veritable steal at $7.99, it’s a challenging run-and-gun release that holds significant replay value with its Caravan and Hi-Score offerings, which show your score vis-à-vis those of other gamers in online leaderboards. Sure, you get unlimited lives, but you’re sure to need every single one of them as you aim to maximize its fun factor.
Video Game Review
ACA NeoGeo: Metal Slug
• Faithful rendition of a beloved shoot-em-up
• Lush visuals and motivating music
• Loads of humor
• Save state option
• High replay value
• Gameplay limitations
• Even slowdowns were ported over