GAME NAME: Metal Slug 3
DEVELOPER(S): Code Mystics
PUBLISHER(S): SNK Playmore
PLATFORM(S): Vita, PS3, PS4
GENRE(S): Run-n-gun Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): March 24, 2015
The Metal Slug series of games has been entertaining gamers since the mid-90s. Taking the run and gun formula we all came to love, and then cranking it up a few thousand notches, Metal Slug has endured through numerous sequels and spin-offs. But it was Metal Slug 3 that was the most loved out of all of them, so the folks behind the NeoGeo classic decided to re-release it on PS4, PS3, and Vita, complete with cross-buy, cross-save, and trophy support.
Metal Slug 3 offers the same run-n-gun gameplay as all the other entries in the series. If you’ve never played any of them before, think the original Contra on steroids. I’ve you’ve never played the original Contra, what’s wrong with you? You mostly run left-to-right and eliminate any and all baddies you run across. Once in a while you can rescue hostages, and they’ll thank you by giving you various weapon power-ups or points bonuses. Sometimes you’ll hop in a special vehicle and fly upwards or sideways across the screen as well.
But no matter how you travel the terrain, the enemies will be there in force. The variety here is actually pretty good. They employ as many weapon choices as you have for yourself, and some can even alter your physical appearance (and grant you new powers) by turning you into a zombie. Lots of different designs for human soldiers, strange animal creatures, and others make the levels refreshing and not too boring.
The methods of attack are pretty fun too. You can basically shoot forward or up, with a little arching action in between. There are also a slew of bombs at your disposal that get reset whenever you die. The weapon upgrades you can earn are pretty fun, even if the ammo for them doesn’t last too long. You can also find various Metal Slugs, which are armored vehicles our heroes can occupy to inflict even more damage upon those who wronged them. These are the most fun to be in, even if controlling them is a little slow and clunky. Unfortunately, the time spent in them is too short and not often enough.
The level design is well thought out and gives the player a fair amount of choice for a game in this genre. Each level has at least one set of branching paths to choose from. Each path will let you avoid one section or another giving you the opportunity to earn more points or upgrades or vehicles in the other. It’s a novel concept for run-n-gun and it holds up well. The levels themselves are fun to go through, even if they can feel a bit long, especially the last one. But this game was made for arcades, where the goal was to take as many quarters as possible from the player, so it makes sense. But with only five levels total, the overall journey doesn’t last long.
The controls are pretty precise for moving your character around. Jumps and mid-air adjustments work great and land you where you want to land. Controls can also be remapped however you want, which is nice because the default controls are a little backwards from what I was used to. One major annoyance with the controls is that you have to actually press the fire button every time you want to fire. Every. Single. Time. This may sound like petty, entitled nonsense, but in a game where you fire as much as you do, a “turbo” or “continuous” shooting control should be the only option. I’m surprised I didn’t wear out the button from the constant tap tap tapping of it while playing, plus my thumb just told me it also agrees.
The art style is full on pixelated glory. Since this is NeoGeo era old-school, it’s high-fidelity pixel goodness. All the colors are rich and sharp and they really pop on the Vita screen. You can choose a variety of effects in the options to display the screen as well, from adding scan lines to maintaining the original arcade cabinet ratio (with added art filled sidebars), or you can stretch to fill the whole screen like it was a regular ol’ Vita game. All options looks great. The animations are something else that still holds up to this day. The character movement is fluid and some of the death scenes are flat out gorgeous with effects. I was very impressed that they could do that kind of work with pixels. The music is great to drive you along your journey and ramps up the right amount of tension in the right places.
Along with the different display and control options available, this new version has many other new features. You have the ability to play with strangers or friends via online play, or you can fire up a local co-op game via ad-hoc mode. I was never able to find a game session online, so I unfortunately can’t report on how stable and this mode is. In addition to online play, you have the option to alter the difficulty and lives available for your session, which is a must if you don’t want to be hitting the continue button every five minutes. Your save is cross-saved across all three PlayStation platforms, so you can continue wherever you want and there are leader boards to compare your high scores in default options mode with the best around the world.
Metal Slug 3 is a very fun game if you fancy yourself some old-school run-n-gun action. The art, animation, and level design are all spot on. Despite some overly long levels and annoying non-continuous fire, the short experience will indeed be an enjoyable one.