Review: Metal Slug XX (Sony PSP)

Metal Slug XX
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: Atlus
Genre: Action
Release Date: 02/23/2010

SNK has gone and done it again. Much like the revamp of Metal Slug 2, Metal Slug X, Metal Slug XX is a redo or revamp of Metal Slug 7 which came out on the DS a few years ago. Metal Slug XX is almost a direct port, with a few additions to take advantage of some of the PSPs built in features. But is this worth plunking down the dough if you’re not a Metal Slug fan? After all the Metal Slug Anthology featuring Metal Slug 1-6 and Metal Slug X were out in the US for PSP 3 years ago and are available right up there with Metal Slug XX for download. Does Double X really add enough to interest a casual fan, or better yet would a diehard Metal Slug fan be interested?

Story/Modes
There are two major modes of play with Metal Slug XX, the basic story mode that plays just like any other Metal Slug title in the arcade (which you won’t find for this version, a first for the series) and then a Challenge mode that takes elements from story mode and makes things, harder. The basic story mode is not very long. Depending on how many of the unlimited continues you have to use you can beat it in about an hour.

The basic plot is your choice of soldier, you have six to choose from, 7 if you spend the extra buck for the downloadable one off the PSN, is sent in on your first mission of the game to take out the evil enemy commander General Morden, who immediately gets back-up in the form of an army from the future and having something to do with Mars. So you get dispatched again to wade through the good General’s new army. Takes about an hour. Very thin plot, but you don’t play Metal Slug for the plot, do you? Sadly, Age of Zombies actually had more of a plot going on and that one was mindless fun too, and a bit less frustrating.

The Challenge Mode, or Battle Class as it’s called, pulls levels and other situations from the story part of the game and adds a few new. Basically the difficulty is still there from the main story, but you don’t have unlimited continues and only three lives to lose before the end of a challenge. These are very unforgiving and something most diehard Metal Slug fans will love. The rest of us are going to get frustrated and go back and hit on the instructor before putting the game down. And yes, I am serious, you can hit on the instructor. Hey, don’t look at me that way, she’s hot!

Story/Modes Rating: Above Average

Graphics
This version of Metal Slug is 2D much like every other Metal Slug title before it, and while the art and sprites and backgrounds do look great, there are some issues with this port over to the PSP from the DS. While there is a widescreen option for the game, none of the graphics have been redone for the PSP. Instead what they’ve done is simply stretched it out from the DS version. I didn’t notice it at first until I tried the 4:3 aspect version which would be the right ratio for the DS. And there it was staring me in the face.

So while they took the time to put co-op using the ad hoc options of the PSP why didn’t they bother re-tooling the graphics for the PSP? While I do appreciate the option to put it into the original ratio so it isn’t stretched it wouldn’t have killed them to make it a proper widescreen version on the PSP. The art is still great as always however, so I can’t fault them for that. I love the nostalgic feel but at the same time it looks good enough to compete with other modern titles of the same ilk.

Graphics Rating: Good

Sound
As far as sound goes, the usual action bits are there, explosions, gun fire, people screaming as they are shot to death. The music isn’t bad either, but it is fairly unremarkable and not very memorable at all. Really the concentration in the game is on the next group of enemies and less on the sounds you’re hearing. I actually went in and listened again just to pick up on the sound and it merely does the job and that’s it.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control and Gameplay
Controls are pretty straight-forward with this one. The D-pad and the analog stick control movement and firing direction (which can be a bad thing and I’ll explain in a moment), while your face buttons control firing your weapon and jumping. For the most part the controls are responsive, but there are a few issues with jumping and movement that may leave you frustrated. They aren’t game-breaking in the story mode, mainly because of the unlimited continues, but in the combat school it could hurt your performance a little. Sometimes when you hit jump it won’t go off exactly when you hit it and will send you dropping into a chasm costing you a life instead of getting you over safely to the other side.

The biggest issue I have with the controls is that it sticks to the movement/direction of fire on the same stick. This game would have really benefited from splitting the two up. So as it is now, if you want to fire in the upper right portion of the screen you’ll end up moving in that direction as well which will run you into enemies or tanks that’ll kill you in one hit. Not cool. If you want to fire straight down at enemies below you you have to jump and in mid-air fire downwards, which can be a big challenge as most of the enemies that attack you from below take more than one hit to destroy.

This awkward firing set-up extends into when you’re controlling the slugs. Although when you’re controlling them you can swing your fire arc around 360 and don’t have to jump to fire, but the moving and firing set-up still applies. While I can see keeping a certain mechanic within your game, this kind of set-up died in the 90’s when this game series was created. There’s nostalgia and then there’s creating a game that a more modern audience will appreciate, and unfortunately I think this set-up is too nostalgic for my liking. Setting it up so you could move with the d-pad and change your fire arc with the analog stick would have made the game a bit more playable on that end, but well there it is.

Gameplay consists of the more traditional side-scrolling 2D shooter that Metal Slug started out as. You can fire your weapon pretty much continuously as you move along. When you get close to enemy soldiers you switch to a hand weapon automatically, and you can fire off grenades or other explosives to help clear out enemy tanks and barricades even quicker. There is some jumping from platform to platform but it is very minimal, and for the most part is fairly easy. There are a few parts with moving platforms that can crush you if you land in front of them and not on them. At certain points you get to pilot mech or tanks and even a giant bird with a weapons platform. You’re also looking at a very harsh one-hit kill formula. Unless you’re in a mech, if you get hit once, you’re losing your life and you’ll have to put in another quarter soon. Or just press start as the PSP lacks a quarter slot. Mechs each have a certain amount of life to them that they lose when they get hit.

At the end of each area there’s the typical boss fight where you have to dodge incoming fire and pelt the large insanely powerful bosses with lots of firepower. If you’re careful you can even make it to the boss fights with a mech or tank intact to make it that much easier. One of the staples of older action games creeps in here and I wish it wasn’t in. At certain points you do have to move up or down in areas and if you move up past a certain point and fall, you die instantly. Yeah, even though there’s a ledge you were just on that’s barely out of sight, it counts as dropping to your death which can get highly annoying when you’re getting swarmed by enemies. There’s also POWs to rescue that will give you power ups throughout the level from new weapons to getting you more grenades to toss. But if you buy the farm before you actually manage to touch the POW after you’ve freed them, it doesn’t count and you’ll have to get them on the next run through.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

Replayability
The game is short. Like Age of Zombies short. You can beat it in one sitting easily, especially with the unlimited continues on the main story mode. What adds to it is the records keeping, the co-op ability if you know someone else with the game on the PSP (No you can’t share it over the ad hoc which is a bit ridiculous), and those damned counters keeping track of how many of the POWs you’ve managed to save through the levels. Yeah the completionist in me really wants those to read 100%. And one of the blessings they’ve given us with this version is three difficulty settings, so for those of us that take a bit of getting used to the set-up or are picking up an action game after a long-ass rpg, we can ease into it.

Then there’s Combat School. That really will keep you coming back. This is where the real challenge to the game lies and it will keep you coming back to it aside from trying to beat your high score and times in the main story. Combat School offers a real challenge trying to get through the missions with the limited lives they give you and no continues. One of the other nice options is being able to go into any mission once you’ve beaten the game in its entirety. So if you wanna just jump in on your favorite mission you can.

Replayability Rating: Incredible

Balance
As far as balance goes, with unlimited continues you’d think that would go right out the window, but thankfully that’s not the case. Sure you’ll be able to plow through and beat it but you’ll miss out on a ton of extra points from POWs you’ve rescued as once you continue, that counter gets reset. The difficulty settings scale really well and offer a challenge for new players to the series and for those people who grew up playing it in the arcade feeding the machine quarters.

Price wise, as a repackage of a DS game with the addition of a co-op mode that works with the PSP pretty well, you’re getting a really good deal. On the other hand, if you’re not already a fan of the series, or if you’re looking for more of the same, the Metal Slug Anthology is available on the PSN for the same price and you’re getting 7 games instead of just one. And really when you’re talking about the Metal Slug series, there isn’t much difference between the games themselves. This version is an improvement on the DS version, but honestly if you have that one, there isn’t much more here for a fan of the series.

Balance Rating: Above Average

Originality
As I’ve already said, the staples of the Metal Slug series are ever-present here, which is great for fans of the series, but even with the addition of some new weapons and levels, it’s still the same old Metal Slug series. The game has nothing innovative to it, the story is the same basic one the series has always had, and even worse it’s a worked over port of Metal Slug 7 off the DS. There isn’t anything really new or innovative here at all, I’m sorry to say as I did think that the game was fun, but it just offers nothing new for the run and gun crowd, just more of the same. Hell even the guest character you can download isn’t a new one, just an import character from King of Fighters.

Originality Rating: Very Bad

Addictiveness
Like any good arcade game, it has you sucked in, ready to pop another quarter in the machine to keep going and beat the game. Even with as short as it is, once you’ve started it, you find it hard to put down until you’ve wiped out the future army all over again. One thing for sure, this game beat out a certain RPG I’m working on a review for in this category in spades. There’s just something about being able to just move through and blow everything away on a map that makes even a challenging game a blast to play.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor
For fans of the Metal Slug series, the game appearing on yet another platform with an added co-op to add that arcade flavor even more to a game rife with it is a fantastic play. Unfortunately, the dated game play and lack of a true dedicated port to the PSP instead of just applying a stretched out visual to the game lacks any real dedication. Then the utter lack of infrastructure support to even boast about your scores on the PSN or play with other people is rather annoying, especially since to play with another person on the PSP itself you’re looking at having to fork out another chunk of change so they have a copy to play with you. Hell even Worms allows you to share the game for multiplayer purposes.

Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre

Miscellaneous
The game itself isn’t buggy and doesn’t take up much space on a memory stick. It’s also fun as hell to play even though it’s a bit dated and lacking in anything new to attract people that aren’t already fans of the series. I did like playing this one, but I still liked Age of Zombies a bit more as far as fun goes. Neither game really takes itself seriously, but Age of Zombies gameplay and controls were a lot more friendly to a modern audience. You do get more game with Metal Slug XX though, but honestly if I was really looking for more Metal Slug on my PSP I’d snag up the Anthology. It offers more play time and a wider variety of selection to the series. Either way you’re still picking up a Metal Slug game that was ported to the PSP.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Above Average
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay Rating: Good
Replayability Rating: Incredible
Balance Rating: Above Average
Originality Rating: Very Bad
Addictiveness Rating: Classic
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize Metal Slug XX is a revamp of Metal Slug 7 that came out on PSP 2 years ago. Ad Hoc has been added, but little else was done to port the game over to the PSP. At times the controls seem sluggish and the fact they didn’t bother re-doing the base graphics for the PSP screen, instead options to allow the player to do a 4:3 or stretch the graphics otherwise speaks volumes. A little more effort and a little bit less trying to cash in would have been nice to see on this. Metal Slug fans that already have 7 on the DS should pass unless you know someone else that has this on their PSP as that’s the only way to play co-op. The short play through, unlimited continues, and extra challenge areas make this a nice little portable title for the PSP otherwise.

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