Name: Metal Slug 2: Super Vehicle 001 / II
Format: Arcade, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Release date: 2/23/1998 (arcade), 4/2/1998 (NeoGeo), 6/25/1998 (NeoGeo CD)

After the incredible success of Metal Slug, possibly one of the greatest arcade games made in recent years, there was only one thing to do. Make a sequel.

Essentially, the concept of Metal Slug 2 is exactly the same as the first, just cranked up a few hundred notches. It is still a 2D side scrolling platform game, which can be played by one or two people on all the versions (this is because, since it's the NeoGeo, the home console ports are arcade perfect). The game is incredibly action packed, from the very first level to right at the end, and it's also incredibly challenging to beat.

The general format of the game is that each player takes control of one of a team of special commandos, and then takes on almost an entire army single handed. The player must shoot, jump, grenade, parachute, drive and fly through 6 levels of none stop action. The player must rescue POWs (who all have nice long comedy beards) by shooting or kniving away their bindings, and then touch them to get a bonus item. Numerous vehicles, both enemy and otherwise join the fray. And boy, is it fun.

As with the previous game in the series, the developers have made this game distinctly funny. While you might think a game involving enormous amounts of death and destruction would have a hard time being funny, for some reason, this series has always managed it effortlessly. From the incredibly detailed animation on the enemy troops (probably the best sprite based animation I've seen) which shows them running towards you with swords in their teeth, trying to get up the courage to jump out from behind their cover to have a shot at you, panicking and running away, and of course being shot, knifed, run over and blown across the screen in brilliant cartoon-o-vision, to the wierd and wacky contraptions which the enemy use against you, the game is amusing from start to finish.

Weapons

As before, there are a number of weapons for the player to utilise to help them through the 6 massive levels. They are:

  • Pistol: The default weapon for all characters (Apart from cosmetic differences, all the characters play exactly the same to my knowledge). It is activated (as with all weapons) by pressing the button 1 aka the attack button. It has Infinite Ammuntion. Despite the fact that it's a puny handgun, this weapon can still get anyone out of a tight spot. One shot is enough to kill any standard enemy (assuming that they don't have a riot shield) and while stronger enemies, vehicles and bosses may take a lot longer with the pistol, it is still possible to take them down with it. If the player is using a pick up weapon and runs out of ammo, they will revert straight away to this gun. The gun can be fired in any one of the four compass point directions, and while moving, but when the player is crouched they can only fire or move, but not both.
  • Knife: This weapon is automatically used when you press the attack button next to something which could be attacked - usually an enemy soldier, a POW post, or a item box. This happens even if the player has a special weapon equipped, and so is good for saving ammo. The knife attack can sometimes take other forms depending on whether the player or the enemy is crouched (sometimes the character will kick, and if they are crouched sometimes they kneel over and a comedy boxing glove on a spring fires out their backpack) but the damage done is always the same as the standard knife. The knife attack will kill an enemy soldier, free a POW or open an item box. There are a few notable features about this attack which make it better, in some cases, than the pistol: Firstly, if used on a large pack of enemy soldiers it may kill them all if positioned correctly, and this would take a lot of pistol shots usually. Also, sometimes it will go through obstacles in the way between the player and the target, such as riot shields. This is a bit of a bug, but does not really detract from the game. The female characters use a hatchet or baton instead of a knife.
  • Bomb: This is activated by pressing the third button (the second button is the jump button). It looks like a stick bomb, as last seen in World War 2, but still does plenty of damage. It is thrown slightly upwards and forwards from the player, and it will detonate either after a few seconds, or straight away if it hits an enemy or something else destructible. The Bomb is very useful for lobbing over barricades to get dug in troops, or simply against end of level bosses to beat the crap out of them (getting rid of all your remaining bombs is a very good tactic for quick boss take down). Like the knife attack, the bomb will take out a whole heap of enemy soldiers if they are standing close together, and so is very useful. However, players are given only 10 per life, so they must be used sparingly, although more can be picked up from item boxes and POWs. Also, fire bombs can be found, which cause a huge wall of fire to appear whenever they are used. Finally, it is important to note that in some vehicles, such as the normal Metal Slug and the Camel Slug, bombs can be used while driving/riding the vehicle. In the Metal Slug, to use bombs, simply hold "down" on the joystick and press the button which would normally fire the cannon.
  • Vulcan Cannon: Another weapon with unlimited ammuntion, but this is only found on vehicles. All the vehicles (the tank, camel, plane, and jumpy thing) have the vulcan cannon, which is very powerful, and uses rapid fire. The cannon can be fired in any direction, as pressing a direction will swivel the cannon slightly in that direction. It's hard to explain, but after a few seconds in the Camel on the first level, it becomes second nature.
  • Cannon / Missile: The Metal Slug, plane, and jumpy thingy* all have a Cannon or Missile. This is usually equipped with 10 shots to begin with, but more can be picked up. This is essentially the most powerful weapon that the player can use in the game, as it does more damage than a grenade. However, it is harder to aim - on the Harrier Slug** the missile will only fire straight forwards, the Walker Slug** the shell will only fire straight downwards, and on the Metal Slug the shell will only fire forwards, with an arcing trajectory. AP (Armour Piercing, /me guesses) can be picked up, which makes the shells fly straighter and do more damage. Overall, this is the best weapon except for the 4 pick up weapons, and will make getting past bosses and other large enemies a piece of cake.
  • Pick up Weapons - found in boxes, from hostages, or just some times from special enemies...
    • Heavy Machine Gun - the gun pickup which is given to a player each time they spend another credit (it is dropped onto the screen beforehand, after they have used the last life of their previous credit, to tempt them into spending more cash...). Comes with 200 bullets, and 150 more are added each time the player finds the pickup again, or gets an ammo box. This is probably the most common special weapon in the game, but it is by no means the worst. It can send any boss, vehicle, or group of soldiers to an early grave very quickly. Also, if the player is firing the gun and then moves the joystick by 90 degrees (for example, moving from pushing left to pushing up) the gun will spray fire in hat 90 degree arc. Essentially, this means it is the only gun (apart from the vulcan cannon) which can be fired diagonally, and for this reason it can be very useful.
    • Shotgun - probably the most powerful gun in the game. This simply kicks ass, and will take out a standard enemy tank in about two shots. It shoots through riot shields as if they weren't there. Of course, with this great gun, there comes a downside, and that is it's range. The buckshot will only cover about a third of the screen length in any direction, and so therefore some areas of the game (like the boss where you need to shoot downwards to hit a submarine) make the shotgun useless. Regardless though, this gun will tear through troops and normal enemy vehicles like nothing else.
    • Flamethrower - this meaty weapon is very effective against troops, but unfortunately it isn't so good against vehicles, unless it is placed exactly right, in which case it can take them in one shot. Firing it shoots out a massive flame ball which travels forward and slightly upwards, before dissolving. The range isn't quite as bad as the shotgun, but it's not ideal. Still, set a load of soldiers on fire and you get to watch the brilliant burning animation...
    • Rocket Launcher - with added homingness. Yes, this weapon has a bit of homing ability, which means you can fire and forget a little more - just shoot the damn thing in some sort of direction, you'll probably get something. It's immensely powerful against most things (and has a nice blast radius) but I always found that the Shotgun could take out a tank quicker... Still, this weapon is definitely a good tool to mow through a crowd with.
    • Laser - finally, a new weapon for the series. This baby fires a multi coloured beam all the way across the screen, very quickly. It eats up ammo like anything, and is very rare, but once you find it it will rip through anything. The player firing it gets some nice animation of their character seemingly getting blinded...

And naturally, as well as weapons, there are...

Vehicles

  • Metal Slug - this tiny little one man tank, equpped with Vulcan Cannon and main Cannon, is unchanged from the first game. However, this all purpose tank is still a force to be reckoned with, once all the moves are mastered. Can withstand 3 hits before blowing up.
  • Camel Slug - the first Slug you get access to in the game. This, like all the other slugs mentioned below, was not featured in Metal Slug 1. Essentially, this is a camel with a vulcan cannon strapped to it's back This functions exactly the same as the Metal Slug, but it's a little faster, and has no hit points, but since the rider is unprotected, any shots or grenades aimed correctly will simply kill you, no questions asked. This means you must be carefull while on the Camel Slug, but since it's very manoeuvrable, this isn't that much of a problem. Since it is effectively impossible to kill the Camel, the game limites your use of it by placing some water at the start of the second level, which the camel decides to drink from, and from then on you cannot get back onto it. Still, there are many more fun slugs to ride for the rest of the game..
  • Slugnoid - (apparently that's what it's called) is a walking Slug, which appears on a boss battle leve which requires you to climb up a tower while fighting. It has a cannon which is pointed downwards, and two rotating vulcan cannons. It can withstand 3 hits, like the original Metal Slug, but with each of the first two hits one of the vulcan cannon arms falls off. This means after two hits you have only the main cannon to fight with, and then one hit later you're dead... Still, an entertaining and useful slug, while it lasts.
  • Slug Flyer - a Harrier Jump Jet style plane, which is immensely fun to use, because you can fly anywhere you want. The plane is equipped with double Vulcan Cannon and a stack of Missiles, which fire forwards. This turns up on the train level, which sees you dog fighting with some other planes... I give special credit to the ejector seat and parachute animation that happens when you leave a totalled Flyer. Again, this happens after 3 hits.

The game sees you traversing a number of well recognisable locales - the first level is set in some sort of desert, probably in Arabia judging by the enemies that appear. The second level is presumably Egypt, because it sees you working your way through a mummy filled tomb, with the added bonus possibility of becoming a Mummy yourself for a time (trust me, it's really bad. You walk, fire, jump, and throw grenades much slower. Not desirable at all). Mission 3 is set on board a moving train, which provides some very intense action. It's hard to be sure exactly where you are in the world, but since the next level is obviously in China, it figures that this is heading to the far east. Mission 4, in a Chinese city, involves a good amount of food pick ups lying around, which makes your character immensely fat when enough is picked up. This has the effect of making them move slower, but also all shots fired by them become larger and more effective, so it's a price worth paying. Inevitably though, getting fat leads to a quick death. The 5th level appears to be set in New York City (judging by the distinctive yellow taxis) and features a numerous minicopter battles, which can become a little tiresome.. And the section set in a subway, featuring trains heading right towards our set of commandos, is simply finger torture. Anyone who can shoot the pistol fast enoug to see off all the trains in the level while also taking out the troops that appear, I salute thee. After the subway comes a nicely atmospheric romp through what appears to be an underground facility, which has created horrific humn hybrid type thing. What they are exactly is unclear, but like level 2's Mummies, they sure do take some killing, and they can also explode in a shower of yellow entrails if you're not fast enough at killing them.

Anyone who has played the first game in the series will remember the final mission as an immensely long and challenging level which either took massive amounts of skill, or lots of credits, to complete. This sequel has an even longer, more difficult final mission, which goes roughly like this:

  • The level begins in a Siberian shipyard, which features, along with the usual sights of troops with mortars and rifles, the added attraction of ICBM missiles firing out of the water. Jumping between these is extremely difficult, not to mention when you are under fire.
  • After getting away from the water section, you get to climb up a mountain. Next to come is an amazing graphical effect on a undulating bridge, which is chock full of rolling fire bombs, troops, and all other forms of death. If you can avoid the temptation to just sit there and admire the graphics, then it's definitely a good idea to keep moving.
  • This is followed by an encounter with an old friend, the miniboss from Level 3 of Metal Slug. He attacks in the same way as before, but unfortuntely has a few normal troops to help him out. Defeat him to witness an amusing scene. "See you in Hell" indeed. Well, I guess he's definitely copped it this time..
  • After this you enter a submarine factory, which along with the usual enemies, features a few things you wouldn't expect to see. There is some frenetic fighting, followed by probably the best boss encounter in a game of this type that I've ever seen. I can't spoil it, but suffice to say anyone who bothers to play through to the end will be very satisfied with what happens...

Special mention must go to the incredibly amusing POW who crops up every so often. Instead of running away once rescued, he simply stays to help you fight. Instead of using firearms, however, he uses the incredibly amusing Hadoken fireball attack. Yes, it's effectively stolen straight from the Street Fighter series, but after the Dan issue (see Street Fighter Alpha 2) I guess this is SNK's revenge against Capcom... trust me, the first time you see this guy in action you will laugh uncontrollably. Probably.

As well as the occasional minibosses, as mentioned above, players will find an enormous, screen filler boss at the end of each level. Some of them are disappointingly easy to defeat, but most provide a good challenge, and all look excellent.

There is definitely a huge amount of replayablity in Metal Slug 2. Anyone who can complete it can try again to get either a higher score, use a lower amount of continues, or they can crank up the difficulty and try again. I really love this game, and I regularly dig it out for a play through. I neer managed to play this at either the arcades or on a proper console, but thankfully the game is emulated almost perfectly in a number of emulators, such as MAME, NeoRageX, and Nebula. The ROM is 17 megabytes big, which is definitely very big, but obviously nothing in comparison with many other arcade (and specifically, Neo-Geo) games - Metal Slug 3's zipped ROM file weighs in at over 70 megabytes. At that size, I'd say Metal Slug 2 is a great download, if you can find it. There are numerous sites that host a full MAME set though, so it shouldn't be a problem.

To play it on a proper home console, you'll need to spend some serious moolah. While Metal Slug 1 was ported to the more mainstream Sega Saturn and the PlayStation, as well as the hideously expensieve NeoGeo, this entry in the series is only available for SNK's monster home system. I'm not sure of going rates right now, but it used to be about $500 for the NeoGeo console and $200 for each game, and I doubt it has got much cheaper, considering the incredible hardware packed in each console. Unless you have a huge moral opposition to emulation, I'd say that MAME is the way to go...


ROM details:

Archive name: mslug2
Size, when zipped: 17 MB
Size, when unzipped: 43.2 MB

Archive details:

  • "MS2_C1.rom" Size: 8 388 608 bytes
  • "MS2_C2.rom" Size: 8 388 608 bytes
  • "MS2_C3.rom" Size: 8 388 608 bytes
  • "MS2_C4.rom" Size: 8 388 608 bytes
  • "MS2_M1.rom" Size: 131 072 bytes
  • "MS2_P1.rom" Size: 1 048 576 bytes
  • "MS2_P2.rom" Size: 2 097 152 bytes
  • "MS2_S1.rom" Size: 131 072 bytes
  • "MS2_V1.rom" Size: 4 194 304 bytes
  • "MS2_V2.rom" Size: 4 194 304 bytes

* - so I don't use the proper names, sue me.
** - I decided to call it that. Beats "Slugnoid", that's for sure...

Sources:
www.gamefaqs.com (for release dates)
Nahum Reduta's excellent Metal Slug 2 FAQ available at GameFAQs.com
Playing the ROM far too much in MAME32
the history.dat
www.mame.dk

Thanks to pfft for a correction.

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