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SummarySNK and the little tank that could.
The GoodMetal Slug was a runaway hit when it came out on the arcades around 95/96, carving it's own niche and setting the grounds for a successful franchise that keeps going to this day.
Basically Metal Slug takes the run'n'gun sidescrolling gameplay first introduced by games like Contra, and then updates the graphics by adding the detailed animation SNK was known for, and basically that's it. You play as a couple of cartoony commandos sent in to destroy a Nazi-like army (complete with funky insignias and german-looking uniforms) and destroying their bases in several war movie-inspired locales such as a dense tropical jungle, bombarded eastern-europe cities, sea-bases, etc... all lovingly detailed thanks to the talented artists at SNK which also included lots of destructible areas that trigger all sorts of different gags.
Regardless of how inconsequential they might seem to a game's overall quality, the graphics are the key to Metal Slug's success, and that's because they include the most gorgeous example of SNK 2D animation prowess. Every sprite has an incredibly detailed animation, showing Capcom that there's at least one thing SNK does right. Furthermore, the graphics are also important, because they don't exactly match the tone of the gameplay. What am I talking about here? Well, Metal Slug is an incredibly furious action game, with lots of gore and lots of gunplay and explosions, but in a stellar design choice, SNK gave the game a cartoony and almost childish look that seems unfit for a game where you can slice an enemy's jugular and watch the blood spurt out from the wound. Still, the resulting combination ends up making the action/gore overdose much more bearable and the simple and clichéd gameplay remains entertaining and hardly ever becomes tiresome.
The level design is also a fantastic work of game design, with each level playing out like a mini-war movie in which the enemy soldiers pour on you by the thousands until you eventually have to face off against gigantic war machines with dozens of cannons coming out of their hulls and other powerful enemies that take hundreds of hits to defeat, a tricky feat to accomplish when you consider that only 1 hit is enough to kill your character. To even the odds somewhat you have a collection of weapon power-ups and the ability to climb on a Slug tank which is the star of the game and which gives you an energy bar and increased firepower when you are riding it. Those gimmicks along with the difficult task of releasing every hostage in the levels are enough to seal the package on what's essentially a fantastically charming action game.
Having said that, the game wouldn't have been worth jackshit unless it had been ported correctly, and while it isn't a stellar port (as it should have become obvious when you saw the words 2D and Playstation in the same place) it still manages to deliver the kickass gameplay along with most of the graphic charm while adding some value-increasing options such as the combat school game mode and some galleries and extras to browse.
Oh, and the ending is absolutely precious, with a melancholic yet tongue-in-cheek look at war that mimics the ending of a few war movies and which is simply priceless.
The Bad2D and PSX don't go together, and you know it. Missing frames, pixellated explosions, and other problems like garbled audio make the game quite less impressive than it's arcade original. And then you have those load times.... ugh....
The Bottom LineMetal Slug belongs to that small group of cute, itty, bitty simple games that also happen to be ultra violent action fests that you can never get enough of (See: SmashTV). SNK proves that when it directs it's efforts to something else than ripping off Capcom's then good things happen.
No action gamer can let this one pass up, and it's charming detail and animations are sure to be enough to lure reflex-allergic people to it. Yes, the PSX version is far from being a perfect port, but you could do a lot worse, so quit your whinning and go raise some hell!!