"Peace Forever !"

Title: Metal Slug
Developer: Nazca Corp.
Publisher: SNK
Date Published: 1996
Platforms: NeoGeo (ported to Sega Saturn and Playstation)

Metal Slug, originally developed in 1996 by Nazca for SNK's Neo Geo arcade and home systems, is a true original. It runs on hardware a decade old* with meagre processing power, and yet manages to be one of the most frenetic and enjoyable arcade games of the 1990's.

The game is a side-scrolling platform shoot-'em-up in the Contra mold. It casts the player as Marco Rossi, a Duke Nukem-style commando badass, who must take on an entire army (led by the sinister Morden) with only his trusty guns and grenades (and a mate in two-player mode).

He does have one other secret weapon however: the Metal Slug Super Vehicle 001 articulated mini-tank. This is a one-man tank capable of ducking and jumping and armed with a vulcan cannon and a mortar. It also has a self-destruct function should all else fail. The tank can be found in various locations throughout the game, and although tricky to maneuvre, gives the player a big advantage (and lets you run over troops!).

Metal Slug's genius is that it's played for laughs. The enemy troops point and laugh at you when you die, only to scream in terror and run away when your next life drops onto the screen. They attack in droves, scrambling up walls and sniping from windows, and manning all kinds of ridiculous vehicles. The developers pride themselves on providing waves of stupid enemies - their only AI being to run at you until dead.

Everything in the game is incredibly fluidly animated, from the many death sequences to the rocking and juddering of tanks and trucks, to the elaborate composite sprites that make up the end of level bosses. The attention to detail is incredible - each level has dozens of little set-pieces and things going on in the background. And, most satisfyingly, everything can be blown up. Ships capsize, walls are demolished; At one stage a hapless soldier standing next to a gas can gets caught alight, and runs into a nearby building - which promptly explodes, sending debris and troops hurtling out of the screen!

Metal Slug proved, at a time when everyone and their dog was trying to make bigger and better 3D games, that you could still push back the boundaries of what could be done in 2D. The almost cinematic quality animation and the simple yet addictive gameplay overcome the technical constraints of the machine. Metal Slug was followed by three sequels** and two Neogeo Pocket Color spinoffs. You can play the originals on the PC with the excellent NeoRageX emulator.

*OK, 6-7 years old then, but that's still pretty impressive.

** Metal Slug 2, 3 and 4 - I don't count Metal Slug X to be a fully-fledged sequel as it's basically a rehash of Metal Slug 2.

Ah, Metal Slug. One of the very best classic arcade shoot 'em up ("shmup") games of recent times. Your gallant soldier must battle his way through hordes of enemy soldiers, tanks, zombies, Egyptian mummies, aliens, and more.

But our hero can't do this without some hardware. Every soldier has to have some weapons, preferably large and (optionally) making a satisfyingly loud noise. The Metal Slug series doesn't disappoint. Presenting the tools of the trade:

Standard Weapons

  • Pistol: The standard gun, equipped from the start. Infinate ammo, and powerful enough to fell your standard enemy infantry, but not effective against much else.
  • Combat knife: For when you desire the personal touch. This is used when at close quarters with an enemy. Standard issue, like the pistol.
  • Heavy Machine Gun: The first 'proper' gun. Fires short bursts of fire, each as powerful as a pistol shot. Much button-mashing ensues for volleys of high-speed death. Dakka dakka!
  • Flame Shot: The anti-infantry king. Fires a short burst of fire capable of killing three enemy infantry at a time, if you're lucky, plus much more effective than the pistol at destroying vehicles.
  • Shotgun: The most powerful gun in the game. Hands down. Literally blows enemy soldiers off the screen, will take out just about anything else in not more than three shots (save bosses). Crippled by a tiny ammo capacity, but a heck of a lot of fun.
  • Rocket Launcher: One of the better anti-tank weapons, complete with mild homing tendancies. You can fire two at a time, so be prepared to wear out your fire button.
  • Enemy Chaser: The true homing missile. Can fire much faster than the standard Rocket Launcher, too, meaning full on-screen carnage awaits. A lot of fun.
  • Lasergun: Zzap! Capable of frying multiple targets at once, simply perfect for when you've got a whole screen of enemies to deal with. Low ammo capacity but fun while it lasts.
  • Drop Shot: A bouncing bullet! This odd gun fires blob-like shots that bounce across the screen. Inaccurate but handy for cowering enemies hidden behind cover.
  • Iron Lizard: Remote-controlled robotic lizards packed with explosives. If I have to explain further, this game is not for you.
  • Super Grenade: The RPG of the Metal Slug world, and I'm not talking about role-playing games. A loud whoosh and a loud bang soon after.
  • With the exception of the pistol and knife, all the above weapons can be found as 'super' weapons. They are found in the same way as standard, but their pickup icon will feature a growing and shrinking letter. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it.

    Grenades

  • Grenade: You start with ten of these, but more can be found throughout the levels. They'll be your anti-tank weapons of choice early on, and are great for infantry too.
  • Fire Grenade: Mummy-killing-madness! Lob one towards the enemy and watch 'em burn.
  • The Metal Slug Itself

  • Machine Gun: Like the Heavy Machine Gun, only with unlimited ammo and mounted on a tank.
  • Cannon: Better than a grenade, but with a similar range, and perfect for blowing enemy tanks into little pieces.
  • Grenade: Crouch while in the Metal Slug, and you can chuck grenades instead of firing the cannon. Useful for close quarters combat. Mmm.
  • Armour Piercer: Unlike the standard cannon shot, this travels in a straight line at very high speed. Massive anti-tank damage.
  • Kamikaze!: Use the tank as a weapon. Jump out of the tank and let it sail towards your enemy, exploding with a satisfying boom.
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