Review: Trade in that Heavy Machine-Gun for a Ro-kit-laun-cha!
Fighting off waves of enemies using a myriad of weapons in a pseudo-WWII setting while ultimately laying waste to some of the largest bosses ever may not sound like the most conventional idea for an arcade game. Nevertheless, SNK's ever-popular Metal Slug series has found it's way into arcades (and wallets) all over the world for a decade now. As with all SNK arcade games, veterans of the series will tell you just how hardcore the game is. Some would argue that it trumps Konami's classic shooter Contra in the difficulty department. To celebrate this anniversary, SNK Playmore has put out a compilation of 7 Metal Slug games on the Wii as well as several other systems. While the gameplay and the graphics might not have drastically changed over the years (with the exception of Metal Slug 6), the games hold up quite well in this day of retrospective gaming.
Metal Slug Anthology comes with complete nearly arcade-perfect renditions of Metal Slugs 1 ? 6 and Metal Slug X. Note that this is the first time Metal Slug 6 has ever been offered on a console in the U.S. Each is offered up in chronological order from the main menu as well as an interesting array of options and extra features. Unfortunately after digging a little deeper into Metal Slug Anthology's special features, there is definitely a lack of inspiration surrounding the whole package.
Gameplay is virtually identical in all of the games. With the exception of Metal Slugs 1 and 6, players will choose from four characters, all of which control identically. Movement consists of the traditional 2D platforming movements as well as aiming and ducking. As players progress in the games they will find numerous weapons with which to lay waste to the enemy. These range from machine guns to lasers. The game offers players a limited set of grenades (or bombs) to lob at the enemy. Of course the titular Metal Slug tank shows up in all the installments, allowing players to plow through enemies with bigger guns and decent shielding. Metal Slug is one of those games that is easy to learn to play but very difficult to master. This fact can be seen right away. Bullets begin flying in every which direction just in the first few moments of playing. Keep in mind that on this battlefield, one hit means death.
Being a console port of an arcade game, there is no way to accurately replicate the use of coins. To address this SNK has added the ability to either have infinite, or a set number of continues. This method works, but it's not very fulfilling. The trouble is that only the hardcore will be able to finish the games with the limited continues, but since the only other alternative is leaving infinite continues on, less experienced gamers will find that the games lack challenge.
Metal Slug Anthology tries to keep things interesting by adding several different control schemes. Unfortunately, this is actually one of the biggest mistakes of the game. There are roughly 5 different control methods (not counting lefty versions) to the game. These range from holding the remote like a classic NES controller and using the 1 and 2 buttons to jump and fire, to using a Gamecube controller. The more odd methods involve using both the remote and nunchuck.
The arcade control scheme has the player hold the remote like an arcade stick while using the nunchuck to jump, fire, and lob grenades. This method has players tilt the remote in order to move. The trouble is that I found that I had to point the remote towards myself just to make my character aim his gun straight. This was further complicated by the fact that if I tilted the controller just another inch further, my character would duck. This made the arcade control method the most useless of the bunch.
Another method has players using only the nunchuck to move, fire, and throw grenades. I can't envision why anyone would want to play the game single-handedly, but nevertheless the option is there. An even less useful control scheme has players holding the Wii remote like an NES controller and tilting the controller in order to run left or right. With this mode players have to rotate it forwards and back to look up and duck. Needless to say this quickly becomes annoying.
The Gamecube controller method is probably one of the most reliable methods of control, but even it isn't free of problems. Players looking to use the D-pad will be upset when they find out that only the analogue stick is usable. Otherwise it offers a fairly straight-forward way to play the games. Strangely enough, Metal Slug Anthology doesn't offer Classic controller compatibility, so if you're looking for a traditional control method, the Gamecube controller is the way to go.
In all instances except for the tilt control method and the Gamecube control method, players have to shake the controller to throw bombs. It's not the most intuitive method for it can tire you out, and there's room for error in that you can toss one too many grenades. The two control methods mentioned above at least map the grenades to a button. I'd hate to think of how the tilt control method would work if you had to shake the controller to throw bombs.
As far as extras are concerned, players will need to beat each individual game to gain tokens. These tokens can then be used to unlock various items including pictures and developer interviews. The interviews are a sore letdown amounting to little more than blocks of text on the screen. There are no audio or video interviews to be found in the game. You'd think for such a packed series, they could have done a little more to show appreciation to the fans, but I guess they felt the $40 price tag was enough.
Visually the games are dated, but what you would expect given their age. The sprites can be a little hard on the eyes at times, but as the series progresses, the graphics get slightly better. Either way, this is SNK and they know how to make sprite-based games. On a side note, the menus themselves feel a little junky, and if you're not paying attention, it's easy to miss the main menu and accidentally find yourself playing the first Metal Slug game. It really appears that the developers didn't put enough time into the packaging as they could have.
When it comes to Audio, there isn't too much to brag about either. There are a few audio samples here and there, and the music is pretty much forgettable. None of it detracts from the fun to be had, but none of it stands out either.