Metal Slug is the last pure run & gun series still going today, holding the banner high for 2D arcade shooters. It's been eleven years of side-scrolling goodness; of blasting soldiers, zombies, aliens, and machines so huge they can't even fit on screen. Having the entire series in one amazing collection is almost too good to be true. If only the PSP was up to the task of running Metal Slug Anthology properly, it would be one of the greatest game collections ever.
Playing Metal Slug Anthology requires amazing reflexes and high speed decision making, but also the patience of a saint for every “Loading...” that appears. Switching scenery from one level to the next, or even one section of level to a new area with a different background, is obviously going to require some disk access, but several of the Metal Slug installments have an unexplainable pause that last for several seconds while switching between options on the character select screen. That's just plain bizarre.
It's a rollercoaster ride between the great games and clunky execution though, making it highly doubtful Metal Slug Anthology will be picking up fans outside the series faithful.
On top of that, control can be (no pun intended) sluggish. Ducking and jumping in particular don't seem to happen as quickly as they did in the console versions of Metal Slugs 3-5, leading to some very cheap deaths until the mental adjustment is made. It's a testament to just how much fun the series is that putting up with these issues is worth it.
No two ways around it, Metal Slug has been consistently great through the years. From the first game through the sixth, the series has evolved while still retaining its charm and violence. Yeah, the graphic upgrades between Metal Slug and Metal Slug 6 are almost nonexistent, but all the smaller animations and giant set-pieces combine to make each game worth playing through. Whether it's Metal Slug 3's classic giant crab boss, the way the prisoners flap their arms when they walk over an edge, or a machine-gun toting monkey helper, there's always as much to look at as to shoot. Seeing that there's no shortage of enemies and the machines they ride in, that's saying something. Soldiers, aliens, tanks, planes, wildlife, and more soldiers and aliens populate each game, who are more than willing to throw the firepower right back where it came from. Normal difficulty offers a seemingly-generous 20 continues to play with, but they can get whittled away to nothing by the middle level four on the first play through. A bit of practice and some pattern memorization will make that initial allotment of continues go much farther, but gaming mortals (like me) will probably just go for the “infinite continues” option to see the games' endings.
That's because Metal Slug is, at heart, an arcade machine designed to steal all your quarters away. Death can be cheap, happens often, and is utterly unavoidable until ninja skillz are earned through lots of playing. The real question becomes whether or not it's possible to ignore the loading, slowdown, loading, cheap deaths, and loading to get to the goodness inside. For fans of the series who already know what they're in for it's a qualified yes, because when everything is working as it should this is a great collection, even with its technical issues. It's a rollercoaster ride between the great games and clunky execution though, making it highly doubtful Metal Slug Anthology will be picking up fans outside the series faithful.