Arcades are a thing of the past. It's a bold statement to make, yes, considering they are still around, but they're not what they used to be. From the 80's up until the early 2000's, arcades were the place to go to hang out with friends, compete with one another, and just have a fun time. Spaces inside malls that used to be dedicated to rows upon rows of quarter-stealing machines are now shoe stores, and if you want an arcade now, you have to go to a movie theater or a Dave and Buster's, but it's not the same as it used to be. Nostalgic rambling aside, arcades allowed publishers to rank in the big dough, and companies such as Namco, Sega, Midway, and SNK dominated the market.
Speaking of SNK, during the 90's, you couldn't walk into an arcade without seeing at least one SNK arcade game. The King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, and Samurai Showdown are the ones gamers tend to remember the most, but then there was Metal Slug, a.k.a. SNK's answer to Contra. In modern times, the series has gone quiet, with the last installment being Metal Slug XX, a remake of Metal Slug 7. Aside from various mobile spin-offs and ports, Metal Slug has fallen dormant. Until it makes a proper comeback, one way to enjoy the series is through Metal Slug Anthology, a collection containing seven games from the beloved franchise.
Metal Slug isn't renowned for having a deep, thought-provoking story. The basic set-up is there's an bad guy named General Morden who wants to take over the world, and the only people who can stop him are a ragtag group of commandos. For those wondering, the name "Metal Slug" refers to a tank used by the good guys. In the original Metal Slug, Morden is the only antagonist, but as the series progressed, he would be joined by a bevy of strange, unusual creatures. In Metal Slug 2, aliens show up towards the end of the game and kidnap Morden, so the heroes must team up briefly with Modern's forces to stop the aliens. Metal Slug 3 brings back the aliens, but also adds zombies, Sasquatches, killer plant monsters, and tons of other outrageous beasts. Metal Slug 5 lacks Morden, and instead the primary antagonist is jungle rebels and natives under the influence of an evil mask.
|Where's Brendan Fraser when you need him?|
Metal Slug Anthology includes Metal Slug to Metal Slug 6, as well as Metal Slug X, an enhanced version of the second entry. All seven games play the same but feature little nuances between one another. The first title is a basic affair. The only playable characters are Marco and Tarma, with the second player controlling Tarma, and the only enemy faction to worry about is General Morden and his never-ending supply of troops and vehicles. From Metal Slug 2 and onwards, there are four selectable characters, with 2 adding Eri and Fio. Tarma and Fio are replaced by Trevor and Nadia in the fourth installment but are back for the fifth one. Lastly, Metal Slug 6 adds Ralph and Clark from The King of Fighters.
Every title consists of six stages, and the goal is to go from point A to point B and kill anything in one's way. Scattered about each level are POWs to rescue. Saving them rewards you with either a weapon, more grenades, or an item for bonus points. In rare circumstances, they'll tag along and unleash hadoukens at nearby enemies until you die, I'm no kidding. POWs also act as a score multiplier because if you manage to beat a stage without dying, all rescued POWs count towards your overall score. In Metal Slug, each one is worth a thousand points, while in the sequels, they're 10,000 points each. However, if you die, which will happen, you lose your current POW count.
To even the odds, there's an eclectic selection of weapons and vehicles to acquire in each stage. The default firearm is a pistol with infinite ammo, plus ten grenades, but there are various weapon pick-ups to make things easier. Heavy weapons include machine guns, rocket launchers, heat-seeking missiles, shotguns, laser cannons, exploding RC cars, grenade launchers, katanas, and a flamethrower, because flamethrowers are awesome. Heavy weapons take up ammo, which is possible to find, but it's not common. Besides a boatload of firepower, there's various vehicles to pilot as well. The Metal Slug is the most common one you'll find, and it's a tank equipped with a Gatling gun and artillery shells. Other vehicles include a motorcycle, a submarine, a plane, plus animals such as camels and donkeys. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of the enemy more than camels equipped with machine guns.
|Yes, that's a giant enemy crab, now attack it's weak point|
for massive damage!
Compilations tend to have titles which aren't as good as the others in the roster, but Metal Slug Anthology is one of the instances where every title is fun to play. All of the games in this collection are solid, with my personal favorites being Metal Slug 2/Metal Slug X and Metal Slug 3. Metal Slug 4 is fine, even though it recycles a lot of content from past entries, while Metal Slug 6 is probably the most difficult entry. Besides featuring seven games to play, the collection also has various extras to unlock via tokens which are rewarded whenever you beat any of the games. These include art galleries, music, and an interview with the creators of the series.
On other consoles, Metal Slug Anthology controls well, but the Wii version boasts a selection of gimmicky options in addition to the traditional methods. Using the Wii remote and holding it sideways like an NES controller feels good, as does the Gamecube controller, but for some reason, the makers of Anthology tacked on a bevy of novelty options. Why would I want to hold the Wii remote like a joystick and tilt it to move the character? Why would I want to only use the nunchuck? Considering this came out not long after the Wii's release, it only feels like the developers are trying to cash in on the motion-control craze than anything else.
SNK games are renewed for their impressive 2D graphics, and Metal Slug is no exception. Characters, locations, and animations look fantastic, and I like the comical details put into the sprites and backgrounds, which only adds to the game's sense of humor. However, the Wii version suffers from tons of loading that occurs whenever you're transitioning from one part of the level to the next; oddly, Metal Slug 6 is the only one to not such issues. Slowdown is frequent as well in Metal Slug 2 whenever there's too much action, but the re-release, Metal Slug X, fixes this problem. Voice acting is limited to a handful of catchphrases and enemy screams, all of which are hilarious to hear. The music for all the games is excellent, although the audio in Metal Slug 4 sounds compressed, but it's not a huge issue.
|Michael Bay would be proud.|
FINAL SCORE: 7/10 (WII VERSION), 8/10 (OTHER CONSOLES)