Review: Metal Slug XX (PSP Import)

Metal Slug XX
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: SNK
Genre: Platform Shooter
Release Date: 12/23/2009

The Metal Slug series began life on the AES Neo Geo, wowing gamers with its hand-drawn sprite graphics and intense battles. Fans of the series have seen a large amount of sequels and ports, and nearly all of the games in the series are playable on multiple systems.

Metal Slug 7 was released exclusively on the Nintendo DS in 2008, so it was only a matter of time before it began its adventure being ported to other systems. Now the game comes to Sony PSP as Metal Slug XX, an enhanced port that brings the next chapter of Metal Slug to the other major handheld. Is it worthy of its legacy?

1. Modes/Story

Despite having played all the games in the series, I’m still a little unclear what the storyline actually is. It’s a war, against Nazis I believe, and the other guys have a TON of soldiers.

The game is a series of seven missions of increasing difficulty. There is also an extensive training mode with dozens of goals made up of parts of the various missions. The single player game can be tackled on Easy, Normal, or Hard mode, with Hard mode limiting continues severely. On the other difficulties, there are unlimited continues, meaning you can play through the whole game during your first time with the game (albeit with hundreds upon hundreds of deaths).

Modes/Story Rating: MEDIOCRE

2. Graphics

The graphics in Metal Slug haven’t come that far over the years, sticking with the same general visual style. Metal Slug XX continues that trend, with detailed, highly animated sprites making up the entirety of the game. There are a few parts that use 3D models to show some depth to the screen, including some bosses, but for the most part it’s entirely 2D.

Unlike some entries in the series, there is little or no slowdown present in Metal Slug XX, even when the action gets super intense. On the Final Missions, there is a sequence in a vehicle where dozens of soldiers are shooting a myriad of weapons and the screen gets literally filled with debris. In the olden days there might be flickering or slowdown, but the game runs smoothly throughout.

There are some new tricks added to some of the everyday soldiers too, with better effects used for laser beams and some vibrant colors, especially in the fire/fireballs that truly light up the screen.

Compared with Metal Slug 7 on DS, Metal Slug XX looks cleaner and crisper, and has been extended to fill the full PSP widescreen. Given a choice between the 2 versions, the PSP version is preferable.

Graphics Rating: ENJOYABLE

3. Sound

Not much to report for the sound design, as it continues to use the hard driving soundtrack the series has always presented. The sound effects present a nice array of explosions, death sounds, and burning. With the volume on, Metal Slug XX, like all of the games in the series, is a cacophony of explosions and screams, and does help to get the player immersed in the cartoonish violent world of Metal Slug.

Other gamers just mute the sound anyway.

Sound Rating: MEDIOCRE

4. Control & Gameplay

Metal Slug XX gives the player choice of six different characters to play as, and each is slightly different.

The bulk of the game is running, jumping, and shooting. There is a secondary more powerful weapon, in which the soldier is a bomb, but has various forms in the various vehicle upgrades. One of the newer characters has a “second life” where after death, he gets back up with no energy for one final push. Nice little touch.

It wouldn’t be a new Metal Slug without some crazy new vehicles, and Metal Slug XX does not disappoint. In addition to the expected tanks and the like, there is a giant running ostrich who can jump super far, and a gigantic screen-tall mech that can step on tanks in its path. The vehicle portions are always a fun part of the series, and the developers did a great job of balancing traditional run-and-gun sequences with the vehicle portions.

I found I preferred playing the game with the PSP D-Pad to the analog nub, as the nub didn’t give me the precision I needed in some of the more intense boss scenes.

Control and Gameplay Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE

5. Replayability

The core game itself is short, but jam-packed with diverse action that rarely repeats in each of the missions. On Easy or Normal, there are unlimited continues, an unthinkable idea for old school arcade players. The game on Hard is almost impossible at first, until you learn each part, each path, and each mid-boss and boss to a point where you are jumping and weaving and shooting with exact precision.

Rather than just offering up Hard mode and letting gamers subject themselves to constant failure, the developers have added a training mode that has a ton of usually very hard tasks, but at least they are split up into smaller pieces.

Replayability Rating: DECENT

6. Balance

Metal Slug XX goes from hard to impossible over the course of seven levels. On Normal and Easy mode you can continue as much as you want – on my first playthrough I continued 5 times on one late-game boss. Going back through the game on Hard builds in difficulty, as the first two-three levels can be done relatively easily compared with the last four. The last level in particular is grueling on Hard.

Balance Rating: GOOD

7. Originality

There are two ways that originality can play for a game like Metal Slug XX. For the series, the 7th entry didn’t do very much to add to the series variety, reusing some sprites and having a deja vu feeling that this has all been seen before.

Another way to think about it is in the grand scheme of the 2010 gaming landscape, and then it stands out a bit more. For a side scrolling 2D shooter, it’s one of the best new games available.

Originality Rating: BAD

8. Addictiveness

Metal Slug XX is a fun game, and it appeals to the masochistic gamer who thrives on perfect performances in precise games. It’s fun just to blow everything up and die constantly too, so there is something addictive to the nature of the action in Metal Slug XX. For the amount of effort put into the graphics (not that much), it’s really a shame there are only seven levels. You’d think there would be 50 levels by now for a game series that has largely used the same framework for almost two decades.

Addictiveness Rating: MEDIOCRE

9. Appeal Factor

Unlike some of the retro 2D entries in popular series like Mega Man, Contra, and Mario, Metal Slug XX is a throwback without even trying. The series has never veered away from what it is, and the entire gaming universe seems to have come full circle to make it relevant again.

It doesn’t get much better for 2D side scrolling platform shooters than the Metal Slug series, and Metal Slug XX brings an intense level of action to the PSP. The short length makes it hard to recommend to gamers who don’t already have the Metal Slug Anthology, but longtime fans of the series won’t be disappointed by the newest PSP entry.

Appeal Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE

10. Miscellaneous

Like a lot of the staff at Diehard Gamefan, I have a longtime soft spot for SNK/Neo Geo games and how they fare through the years. I do give games like King of the Fighters 12 credit for trying to bring the series to a new more modern level, but ultimately I find myself more drawn to a game like Metal Slug XX because of how true it remains to the original. I’m a huge fan of new, deep, and epic 3D action games, but there is also room for classic, simple 2D games that are unapologetic. You shoot everything. The story is irrelevant.

Note that this game features a multiplayer ad-hoc mode. I was unable to test being that this is a Japanese import and I live in New York. There will apparently also be a new seventh character added as paid DLC when it’s released.

Miscellaneous Rating: MEDIOCRE

The Scores
Story: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: ENJOYABLE
Sound: MEDIOCRE
Control & Gameplay: ABOVE AVERAGE
Replayability: DECENT
Balance: GOOD
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Appeal Factor: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: MEDIOCRE
Final Score: DECENT

Short Attention Span Summary
Metal Slug XX is Metal Slug 7 now on your PSP. Until finishing this review, I could have recommended an import of the recently released Japanese version (like I did), but given it will be available in just a few weeks for $20, it’s ridiculous to consider importing at this point. Even if you have Metal Slug 7, for longtime fans of the series, it’s worth seeing it with improved visuals in this PSP port.

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