When I first heard the news of Metal Slug 3's impending release, I was happy.
When I got the game, I was simply overjoyed; and when I finished beating it for the tenth time, I was in a land of bliss. "How is this possible?", I thought. How did a company that went through such a dramatic downsizing suddenly come out with an A+ title like this? Metal Slug 3 has thankfully filled in a frequently empty void in gaming once again, and we are blessed with one of the most intense 2D games to ever exist. Nothing has come close to this to this level of quality. Weighing in at a massive 708 megabytes, this game packs in all the goodness and more to keep you playing for days. Intrigued? Read on...
Usually I reserve my A+ scores for fighters with awesome control, instense graphics, replay value, sound, and overall playability. But here, I have strayed from my fighting game path, and scrutinized this game, only to find it far surpasses the quality of an A+ fighter. Run and gun? Yes, but how about crawl, swim, dive, fly, hop...the list can go on and on. Like the previous Slug games (only better), Slug 3 offers a world of different ways of moving and interacting, and it keeps the addictive action alive. Backing up this variety is the fact that this game (unlike the previous versions) has your hero traveling horizontally, then vertically, then diagonally...you're all over the place. This is definitely a evolutionary step for the classic platformer formula. In fact, some levels change direction 3 and 4 times in one scene. For example, the submarine phase in stage 1 does a full 'U', going down into the ocean's depths, traveling along the volcanic ocean floor, and then ascending to the surface through a maelstrom of sub attacks, It's cool and quite innovative. The submarine area also demonstrates another one of the game's new and wonderful perks--multiple paths per level. Each stage offers at least two entirely different ways to reach the end, upping the replay and enjoyment value--a most welcome Castlevania III-type feature that suits the Metal Slug world perfectly.
The art and animation continue to prove that the Neo-Geo is far from reaching a limit in terms of graphical capability. The amount of effort put into these visuals is astounding, and it makes for an extremely-detailed game with complex illustration that's still fun and easy to pick up and play. It's like a full-length animated movie unfolding before you, but you have control of the action. Enemies don't just walk like robots with repetitive motions...they spring to life with personality. Soldiers don't just kill you - they hang out, talk to each other, get startled and scream, get a mean look on their face when they see you approach, engage in a number of attacks with an incredible arsenal of weaponry, et cetera. It's true of all the incredible enemies you fight, from giant crabs and mosquitoes, to electrified moray eels and jellyfish, to hordes of soldiers and vicious aliens.
Some of the different animations your character goes through are incredible as well, with some death scenes taking upwards of 6 seconds to play out. New vehicles abound as well, and these are best machines the Slug world has seen yet, on both sides of the fight. On the enemy side, a smattering of tanks, ranging from huge floating ones that chase you, to a treadless, foot-driven tank (Meet the Flintstones...), followed by flying saucers, aircraft, and even a caravan of vehicles suitable for air-striking. On the heroes' side, all the great vehicles of old return, with some startling additions. Make way for the elephant slug, the drill slug, the ostrich slug, the chopper slug, a body armor suit (stolen from the enemy's storage facilities), and many more. There are also many underwater vehicles (including a torpedo firing Sub Slug), which aid your defenseless little scuba-diving character. Speaking of the underwater levels...they are some of the most impressive stages, being very well illustrated and animated, with a great sense of ambience.
The attention to detail brings it alive, from the greenish-blue marine colors, to the shimmering of water lines on rock. It's all too perfect. Another fun aspect of the underwater areas are the enemy subs, which have a great retro-WWII look to them. Each time one explodes (or rather implodes), you're treated to detailed animated destruction as the sub caves in on itself and crumbles to the ocean floor. This is the 2D magic that only SNK can still seem to produce, in fine arcade tradition.
Sadly, cart production was limited to pre-orders only. If you have a chance, search the game out in the arcades and feed it a few quarters...you won't regret it. Slug 3 may be the best platformer I've ever played, period. If you're thinking of getting into the Neo-Geo, and you want to get started with something solid like this. You can contact Shawn at www.neo-geo.com to see about getting this game. High learning-curve strategy games can be a blast...like StarCraft, or a classic game of a Street Fighter series game. But hell, sometimes you gotta go primal and blow the crap outta things to purge pent up aggression...kill some faceless minions. This game is classic, simple, fun gaming, with art that will blow you away. Hopefully this will not be the last of a line of games which will shine as an example of what the gool ol' days of gaming were about. I think back to the days I used to sit and play games like this - Shinobi, Heavy Barrel, Contra, Bionic Commando...or perhaps Ninja Gaiden. I don't want to see the new generation of gamers missing out on such classical gameplay. Perhaps those of us who remember this gameplay will keep these games alive, or maybe make new ones in the image of the old...hope springs eternal.
This game is only available in Arcade MVS or Neo-Geo home Cart format, so if you have the extra cash to spend, get it. If not, find a few friends and get them to help you own this game. With classic games like this, The Next Level begins here.