Review: Metal Slug 3 (XB)

Metal Slug 3
Genre: 2D Shooter
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Release Date: 5/26/04

You know it makes why retrogaming 2D loving heart proud to see that for the week of 5/24 to 5/31 Metal Slug 3 was the second best selling game in America, beaten only by another Xbox only game, Thief 3: Deadly Shadows. It also makes me smile with complete Malice to know this is a game Sony of America didn’t want on their system. That they Metal Slug wasn’t good enough for the PS2 and on and on about how 2D games are substandard for the PS2. Ask Vic Ireland over at Working Designs what Sony of America how exasperating Sony is. Or hell, just look at SNK who promptly moved Metal Slug 3 and SVC: Chaos to the Xbox. And ONLY the Xbox. SNK gave in before by doing a double pack of KoF 2000/2001 for the PS2, but this time they did the right thing and stood up to Sony. And what happened? You’re seeing the result? A game that Sony thought wasn’t good enough for the PS2 is OUTSELLING every game they’ve got right now. So on behalf of all 2D gaming fans everywhere SCEA: Fuck you because we were right and YOU WERE WRONG!

Let me also state this is ONLY Sony of America. Sony of Japan is far kinder to 2D gaming. SVC Chaos and MS3 are on the PS2 there, and they aren’t making SNK do a double pack of games for the KoF line, which stands toe to toe with Street Fighter. They treat SNK with respect where SCEA just shows off their arrogance and total lack of caring what gamers want. They don’t listen to the fans, they decide for them. That’s wrong on so many levels it makes me want to strangle someone. At least SCEA buckled and we’re getting Metal Slug 4 & 5 on both the Box and PS2. Maybe after that again outsells other games for the PS2, SCEA will FINALLY understand that 3D gaming isn’t better, it’s just different and there is room for both in a gamers heart.

There, said what I had to say about the crappiness that is Sony of America. Let’s move on to something more pleasant, like 2D shooting goodness!

Let’s Review

1. Story

Metal Slug is one of those few games that tells a story without ever saying a word. It does it through nothing more than in game action. It does so through incredible graphics. Metal Slug is filled with humour and action from beginning to when you finally leave a stinking burning corpse on the ground. The expressions on enemy soldiers faces is always good for a chuckle, and when your game contains everything from Zombies to Giant Evil crabs to Abominable Snowmen, you are in for one hell of a weird adventure. Hell, there’s even a baby chimp with an Uzi who will team up with you. SNK puts a lot into nonverbals within their games and it’s something a lot of developers just don’t do anymore in this age of voice acting and CGI where facial expressions never change. And it reminds us all that a story can be viewed as well as heard. Maybe it’s just because like Ken Anderson of 411Wrestling, I have a thing for Lon Chaney movies and thus appreciate wordless stories, but Metal Slug unfolds itself without ever needing cut scenes or long monologues.

As well, like all SNK games, there is a massive back story and plot written down for hardcore fans to read. Each King of Fighters game has ten pages of written plot detailing who wins, who dies and so on. The same holds true with Metal Slug 3. In the booklet you get with the game, there are three pages devoted solely to the back story and information on the plot from the previous games of MS 1, 2 & X. It covers everything from The first two attacks by General Morden’s Army to various promotions the 4 characters in this game have received. It’s pretty detailed and a classic SNK touch.

The average gamer won’t care about the plot while playing this game. They will be having too much fun blowing stuff up and having a good time with it. But those that pay attention to detail and also read the manual will see a decent amount of story (for a shooter) hidden amongst the massive amount of gunfire.

Story Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

The thing I do love about the next gen consoles we have now, is that we no longer have to deal with the graphics being dumbed down for the home version of a game. Metal Slug 3 here looks exactly as it does on the Arcade console the E Block Movie Theatre had in it until a few weeks ago when they replaced it with …Simpsons Bowling. Ick.

Due to the age of Metal Slug 3, it’s not the most impressive game graphically on the system, but it’s still beautiful to watch. Even though Metal Slug 3 is a bit old (MS 5 is in arcades now), It’s still a great game to behold. The lurching of the zombies, the expressions on the face of the enemy when you sneak up on them, the incredible giant boss battles, it’s all great to view.

Most importantly (for a shooter) even with a massive amount of bullets and lasers and zombie vomit flying across the screen, I never encountered any slowdown. You have no idea how annoyed I get when all of a sudden the game is running in slow motions because the system can’t handle the amount of stuff flying across the screen. So kudos to both the power of the Xbox and SNK developers for making sure my big shooter pet peeve didn’t occur here.

Everything in this game from the enemies to lush backgrounds are colorful, vibrant, and visually pleasing. Like I said before, this game by no means pushes the limits of what the Xbox can do graphically, but it’s still excellent to look at
Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

Bang bang bang. Rat-a-tat-tat-tat. Kaboom. These are the sounds you will hear most often. And the scream of people dying. And occasionally a long haired ZZ Top POW saying “Thank You!”

I’ll be honest that while playing the game, I just didn’t pay attention to the background music, tuning my ear to how each gun makes their own specific noise in addition to appearance. I listened to all the great sound effects and not the actual music. I was concentrating so hard on the game itself, I completely ignored the music! I assumed that meant there was either no music or it was easily forgettable.

However, and this is a big however, I replayed the game with the sole intent of paying attention to the music. And I was blown away. I loved the music for this game. It fit the feel of not only a Contra style game, but each tune fit perfectly with the theme of the world. The first world’s beach music is fast and frantic with an excellent beat. The second stage, where you are experiencing Night of the Living Dead is slower, more ominous and obviously darker in tone. It’s not that the music is forgettable, but it fits it flawlessly with the gameplay so as not to be a distraction to the actual game itself. Yes it takes a back seat to the sound effects, but rightfully so. Still, the music is some of the best I have ever seen in a 2D shooter.

Metal Slug 3 contains a symphony for destruction and keeps on proving that the Metal Slug franchise is quality straight through and through.

Sound rating: 8/10

4. Control

It’s a 2D game, so no crappy camera angles here folks! And the controls are tight. One button to shoot, one button to jump, one button for grenades. That’s it. Three buttons being used. I know! You could play this on a Sega Genesis controller! Metal Slug 3 proves a game can have simple controls, and still be a lot of fun.

The only downside to the controls comes with certain metal slugs because what you use to aim the Vulcan cannon and to move is the same thing: The D pad. I would have liked to see those be two separate controls to eliminate any awkwardness, but you learn to compensate pretty quickly with it. Or to just use missiles the whole time.

Some people might have a problem with the fact you have to jump and then press down and shoot to hit things beneath you, or that your main gun doesn’t fire diagonally, but again, those are to be expected in a 2D shooter. Plus it makes the special weapons all the more special.

Although the controls are excellent, people not used to this genre may have quibbles because they are used to 360 degree rotation and movement? Me though? I love it!

Control Rating: 7/10

5. Balance

Now, this game is hard. Very hard. If you get shot even once, you die. And this was common place in the days of yore (1980’s). In most shooter, you get hit once, you die. It’s always been that simple. Ikari Warriors? Check! Contra? Check! Metal Slug? CHECK!

And all I hear is people saying, “Wah! This game is so hard! Boo hoo!” And the fact of the matter is the only thing truly hard about it is getting this current generation of gamers to realize they’ve gone soft. They’re so used to hit points or a life gage that they just go in guns blazing and if they get hit, they get it. It doesn’t kill them. Well welcome to what we crusty old curmudgeonly gamers call a CHALLENGE. You can’t just button mash or cheese your way through Metal Slug like you can through so many other games. Here you actually have to have skill and hand to eye co-ordination. You have to be able to dodge and predict where the next hail of firepower is coming from. Metal Slug and other 2D shooters separate gamers from those that think they have skill, and those that do. Or to put it another way, it separates gamers from those that don’t get scary type obsessed with a game and those that are too stubborn to let a computer program get the better of them even if it means jamming quarter after quarter after quarter into the coin slot with your grubby hands screaming “I WILL beat you Smash TV! I WILL BEAT YOU!”

Or something like that…

Look. Metal Slug lets you have up to 5 lives and 5 continues. That’s twenty five tries. And even nicer of them, once you beat a level you can start at that level from then on. So if you make it to level 2, you can always start the game with up to 5 lives and 5 continues. That’s 25 times to beat a level people. If you can’t do that, then you seriously should consider another genre of gaming to try.

Some people will then whine that when you get a continue, you have to start at the beginning of the level again. To that I say two things: First, you got five lives that started you back where you died. What more do you want? And Second, SHUT THE HELL UP!

My god, what kind of day and age to we live in where people seem to NEED unlimited continues? People, the point of a game is not just to keeping continuing over and over again so you can beat it the first day by just outliving your enemy and then saying, “This game was too easy.” Or “What’s the point. I already beat the game day one.” If you are one of those gamers, please…put the controller down and stop ruining this form of entertainment for the rest of us. Look at the sales figures I mentioned earlier. The public has spoken! 2D gaming lives! REAL shooters still live! Games that are insanely hard STILL LIVE! Call it retro, call it a revolution, call it everything going full circle, but it’s about time with franchises like Shining Force, Metal Slug, and Ninja Gaiden coming back, we are seeing people enjoying games that are a challenge again. Ones that aren’t a cakewalk or that don’t require button mashing. Take the overly nice gesture SNK gave you with the ability to have more than the norm in terms of lives and continues and be happy with it. Maybe then when you beat a stage, the feeling of satisfaction will finally hit you, or you’ll be able to fathom why old school gamers sit there and bitch and moan like old men about how easy games are today.

In terms of balance, this game is what gaming should be like. A difficulty scale that slides all over the map, and leave you giddy when you beat a stage, much less the game itself. Is it hard? God yes, but like any good tough game, they give you tons of ways to beat it, from special weapons to the occasional help from a thunder cloud or a monkey.

Am I obviously bitter and pissed? Hell yes I am. I saw SNK go out of business once before because of the fact gaming was going the way of the lowest common denominator where it became about graphics over gameplay and big titty women over scripted plots or memorable characters. And now they’re back. And according to Gamespot and EBGames sales charts, they’re back on top. Where they belong. And I want nothing more than to see the Next metal Slug game be on the charts. The next KoF game back on the charts. The next Samurai Shodown on the charts. Because it will show me that like myself, you gamers are getting sick of scores of crappy games lining the selves with 50$ pricetag that lack any real control or gameplay and most of all, lacking in FUN. I want to believe I’m not along in taking great pleasure at seeing games like Thief: Deadly Shadows and Metal Slug 3 at the top of the charts. And more importantly, that I’m not alone in wanting to see the trend continue. From ceasing to exist, to #2 on the charts, welcome back SNK, you beautiful motherf*ckers. I’ve missed you so.

Balance Rating: 8/10

6. Replayability

Now, the crappy gamer will go, “WAH! Only five stages. A game you can beat in two hours. Why should I buy that?” You see, long long ago, when I was still a lad unable to think of a day when carts were no more, there was a little thing we used to do. It’s called “Playing a game to get better at it.” So many games are designed to be played once and then traded or if worth money or from a low print run, to be stuck on a shelf for 5 years and sold on ebay.

You play the game to get better at it. To see how far you can get on one life. To rack up a massive high score. Do you know how much I miss having a high score on fighting games? Or games that you can beat in 2-3 hours but are so fun, you don’t care that you won because you want to play almost immediately. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve beaten games like Gradius or Contra or R-Type or Mars Matrix or House of the Dead 2 or Dungeon and Dragons the Arcade game or Wrestlefest and the list goes on and on. All short games. All give you the same ending. All are mostly the same every time you play. But they were/are so god damned fun, you can’t help but want to play them again!

Metal Slug 3 is one of those games. I am very ecstatic that I can now get to stage 3 with only dying once and without a continue. That I can ALMOST beat the game without a continue now. Because it is so much fun!

Metal Slug gives you a ton of items to find and collect, ONE THOUSAND POW’s to rescue and log. Multiple paths for each stage so you never have to play each level the same way twice in a row! And there are two bonus modes of play you can unlock once you finally beat the game. How can you ask for anything more. The length of a game does not matter. It’s how much fun it is. It’s about the memories it creates. It’s about the joy you get from multiplayer mode. Length doesn’t matter, graphics don’t matter, only the fact you had a great time with a game and can’t imagine trading it in even after you beat it. Metal Slug 3 is one of those games that, although once plentiful in nature long ago, is a rare commodity now. If I have an hour to kill, it won’t be an RPG I pull of my shelf, it’ll be a game like Metal Slug 3. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s addicting. It’s all I want my games to be.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

7. Originality

There are 6 MS games: 1, 2, x, 3, 4 & 5. There are also 2 for the NGPC. And one coming out for the GBA this summer. Each one has similar gameplay, but with different stages, monsters, villains, and giant bosses to blow up. However, in the end, it all comes down to the fact they are basically the same engine with a face lift each time. Wonderful to play, but you could exchange any Metal Slug for each other and have just as good a time. Still doesn’t change the fact a Metal Slug is a Metal Slug is a Metal Slug.

HOWEVER, thanks to the addition of two new Xbox exclusive playing modes: Fat Island and Storming the UFO Mother Ship, we see SNK giving gamers more for their buck. Both modes are exceptionally fun and insanely funny. Nothing really shows you how hilarious Metal Slug games can be better than these two unlockables. I love them both.

So yeah, Metal Slug has stayed the same for the most part through countless variations, but each one is unique, features different slugs and is fun in their own specific style. And the extra minigames added here don’t hurt either.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8. Appeal

Well originally, I’d have give this low appeal due to difficulty and being in 3D and outdated graphics and the fact there are no boobs in it, but you the American Public have spoken and said you really want this game and have bought it in droves. Thank you for that. And SNK thanks you even more I bet…

It’s good for a quick game when you have nothing to do for 30 minutes. It’s great for playing with a friends. It’s great just to play as it’s a great game. Even if it reduces you to tears the first dozen times you play it because you’re not used to the style of difficulty, keep at it! You won’t regret it.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

9. Addictiveness:

I really enjoy this game. While playing it you have to get pretty intensely in to it. Or die. But the great thing is when you shut off the box, there’s no clamoring to play it again immediately afterwards. After 5 continues if you haven’t beaten it, you can just turn it off and walk away. And then once you get good at it or beat the game, you don’t feel the extreme urge to beat the thing as you did when you couldn’t even get past stage 1. It’s not one of those games you will stay up playing all night because you will either get too damn frustrated with it and throw your controller, or you’ll beat it and go, “Yay.” Then you will move on to something else. It’s a fun game, but it won’t own your soul.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

What are the extras? First, you can put your high score up on Xbox Live. Always a plus considering the type of game this is. Like I said earlier, I miss the days of trying to beat high scores. To get your three letters, numbers or symbols on the game for all to see. Watching complete strangers trying to beat your score, unaware that the person right next to them is the one who they are trying to dethrone.

There’s also the two mini games. Although you have to beat the game to unlock them, which is a terrific task in and of itself, they are loads of fun. Storming the UFO Mother Ship places you not as a hero, but one of the many nameless grunt pieces of cannon fodder you kill throughout the game. The goal is to free a ton of your fellow soldiers that are being held captive. There’s strength in numbers with these grunts as you well know from playing the main game, and it’s a lot of fun to see your screen lines up with 8 or so soldiers running around on your behalf. You get a choice of three playable characters. But if you thought the main game was hard, then you will pull your hair out here. Once again you get hit once and you die. But to make it even harder, you get no extra lives or continues! Get ready for a very fun challenge here.

The other mini game is FAT ISLAND. Although you can play a one player version of this game, the fun level goes up infinitely. The object is to kill enemies and eat food items that appear. The more you eat, the fatter you get. The first to 440 lbs (200 KG) wins! It’s cute and quick and just plain silly. I’m glad it is in the game.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

Short Attention Span Summary
I thought R-Type Final was going to be the shooter to beat this year, but it looks like Metal Slug 3 is now the reigning champ for 2004. Gradius V and a few others still have a chance to defeat it, but I don’t think it’ll happen. If you’re looking for an exceptionally fun game that is tough as nails, and yet can be played in 2 hours or less, this is the game for you.