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Sean Pettibone


Metal Slug Anthology
(SNK Playmore for PSP & PS2)

By Michael Palisano

Representing a definitive compilation of the classic side-scrolling series, SNK's Metal Slug Anthology has arrived in fine form on both the PSP and PS2 systems after first appearing on the Wii several months ago. Both versions include classic gameplay, tight controls and near flawless animation along with extra features and other items. The games have held up well, with finely tuned presentations, addictive gameplay and have lost little of their appeal. While both versions are excellent, they both suffer from load times, though this is more pronounced on the PSP. Read on and find out why these collections are both outstanding throwbacks to gaming's 2D heyday.

The hard-core Neo-Geo crowd has always known SNK had some of the best games around and their legendary Metal Slug series has finally arrived in style for the mass market with the release of Metal Slug Anthology for both the PS2 and PSP. Containing all seven arcade titles, (Metal Slug 1-6 plus Metal Slug X) this release includes every single Metal Slug title reproduced perfectly thanks to the wonders of arcade emulation. The gameplay doesn't need much explanation; you run and shoot at enemies, collect power-ups, face off against massive bosses and rescue any hostages you encounter along the way. In addition, each game includes a number of Slugs, or vehicles which you can jump into to increase your firepower. These Metal Slugs take different forms including tanks, camels, jet packs, helicopters and other clever inventions. Each of these has a different feel to it and gives you an additional set of weapons to use. In addition to your standard shots, you have bombs or grenades that you can fling at enemies and boss characters. These can also be used to break through walls or massive objects, so you need to save them for these points. You have a fairly standard arsenal of weapons, such as machine guns but can add cool extras like flame-throwers as well. Before you begin each game, you select which of the characters you want to use, some of them run faster, while others seem to have more accurate aim. The number of characters available varies from game to game, and range from four in the first title to seven or eight in the latest release.

From a gameplay standpoint, all the Metal Slug titles are quite enjoyable with the earlier games offering simpler structures and more straightforward layouts. The latter games offer more complicated level designs with multiple paths and more power-ups. Some of these stages contain enemies that will fire shots at you, causing your character to be transformed into a usually slower and less powerful character. These are funny at first, but can become frustrating later on as they can impede your progress. Metal Slug seems to have developed a winning formula over the years, and most of the games in the Anthology don't diverge too far from established norms, mostly tweaking and refining the basic elements of previous games. There are some surprises along the way, with off balance humor and strangely perverse level designs, but the basic rhythm and flow established in the first game remains intact. This remarkable level of consistency between the games makes this an even more enjoyable package for fans of the arcade titles. The intuitive controls and straightforward interface of these classic games means players can spend hours between each title, mastering the intricacies and nuances of the games without having to commit to long play sessions.

Metal Slug Anthology's simple gameplay and mechanics make it instantly accessible, and players should have no trouble getting through the earlier stages. However, the level of difficulty becomes more apparent as you delve deeper into the games and their later levels. This is a classic approach to gaming that emphasizes the player's skill rather than gimmicks or other items. From a visual standpoint, the games look almost exactly the same as their arcade counterparts, with all the smooth animation, brilliant sprite, sense of humor and lush backgrounds that the series has become famous for. The boss battles can become quite intense as well, which adds to the challenge. Fortunately, both versions allow you to customize the games with unique difficulty settings and number of continues which makes the play easier.

You will notice a few changes between the titles such as semi-3D effects in Metal Gear 6, but the basics don't change much. The games' sound is fairly consistent as well and players looking for elaborate cut-scenes won't find them here. From a technical standpoint, the games' emulation is nearly flawless with the biggest difference loading screens that interrupt but don't change the feel of the action substantially. While this isn't such a big deal on the PS2 version, which mainly stops between levels and at bootup, the PSP seems a bit slower and needs to pause more often which makes the game's flow not as consistent as one would want.

Unlike the gimmicky Wii version, Metal Slug Anthology on the PS2 plays things fairly straightforward with a standard button configuration that doesn't require you to shake the controller in order to throw grenades. Since you can focus on the gameplay and not the controls, you'll definitely find this version much more enjoyable. The PS2 version also works perfectly with a number of arcade controllers, and this helps to make the experience feel all the more authentic and enjoyable. While the load times on the PS2 are slightly annoying the convience and reduced cost versus Neo-Geo cartridges makes for a somewhat acceptable tradeoff. One the PSP, the controls are likewise fairly easy to understand, with movement and shooting controlled in a fairly traditional fashion that makes playing much simpler. The PSP's screen is well-suited for Metal Slug and the games look sharp and crisp on the portable system. Both versions offer an almost identical set of options and extras, which makes them feel almost interchangeable, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

These releases should please fans with the sheer number of titles available and the high quality presentation, complete with extra artwork and music. While previous commercial Metal Slug compilations have included only one or two games at a time, this one goes all out. There are numerous little touches, such as the Neo Geo Bios bootup screens that make this feel even more authentic. While both version offer an identical set of games, the PS2 edition's support of standard controls and arcade sticks makes it superior to the Wii edition for die-hard gamers. As for the PSP edition, it offers a decent translation of the games, but suffers in comparison due to its long load times which hurt it over the long term, though its cool to play these on the go in authentic form. Both versions of Metal Slug Anthology are fine compliations that should please SNK's legions of arcade fans.

- Michael Palisano


> Related Reviews

Metal Slug Anthology (Nintendo Wii)
Metal Slug 3 (Xbox)
Metal Slug 4 & 5 (Xbox)
Metal Slug X (Playstation)

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