Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone
















SNK’s legendary Metal Slug series has always been an elusive beast. First appearing on the company’s legendary Neo-Geo arcade system, this well-reviewed title hit the hardcore gaming community squarely between the eyes with its stripped-down incredibly addictive, classic play mechanics. Another version made an appearance on the Saturn, but the trick here was that it was an import-only game, those lucky enough to have a copy of this outstanding edition were loath to part with it, and thus the game fetched a pretty penny in online auctions.

Finally, the series was given not one but two shots on SNK’s ill-fated portable system in the US , the late, lamented Neo-Geo Pocket Color featured two outstanding installments of the series that were unfortunately pulled off shelves when the system’s plug was pulled prematurely and SNK went bankrupt. So, was this unfortunate turn of events the end of this excellent cult series in the US ? Not entirely. Agetec, those friends of hardcore gamers everywhere scooped up the domestic rights to Metal Slug X, what is probably one of the last versions of the game ever to be made, and have released it for the venerable platform. So finally, gamers everywhere will finally have the chance to play Metal Slug on a stable platform, the Playstation, and at a reasonable price to boot.

Thankfully, this version of the series remains faithful to the original titles and hasn’t been watered down that much from previous installments. If you’re unfamiliar with the games, a quick introduction follows. Imagine what Contra would’ve been like if it had stayed true to its roots and you’ll have a good idea of what Metal Slug X is like. It’s a traditional 2D side-scrolling blaster with loads of power-ups. The object of MSX is to destroy all the enemies onscreen while avoiding getting killed yourself. Players will also need to rescue hostages along the way, this earns you bonus points and the hostages will occasionally help you out once you free them as well.

Metal Slug’s levels are quite challenging with enemies coming at you from many directions at once. It’s very reminiscent of Contra in the way it controls with the added feature of being able to jump into one of several different Metal Slugs, armored vehicles which increase your firepower exponentially and allows you to take multiple hits before dying. There are four different types of these in all throughout the game, as well as numerous power-ups which include rocket launchers and grenades. The best thing about Metal Slug X are its huge, screen-filling bosses which take dozens of hits to destroy and make for some extremely impressive adversaries and are a pleasant throwback to the more innocent Genesis and SNES days of a decade ago. This is, as is the series reputation, a very difficult game that will take all your skill to master and beat. It makes no difference; you are going to need skill and excellent reflexes. Of course, this is all part of the Metal Slug mystique – and very well deserved. However good you are, there’s little doubt that you’ll need to hit the continue button frequently to get very far in the game.

Metal Slug has evolved with each installment and those who’ve followed the series through its journey from system to system know that each installment has something new. MSX is no exception to this rule and introduces new playable characters; there are now four in all with some old favorites joining new faces. Additionally, players can go into combat school mode to tune up their skills or take a journey into the gallery mode to learn more about the game’s back story. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the sheer fun of the games, which is alive and well, and shines brightly with this installment not diverging from the successful formula enough to cause alarm.

SNK’s traditional 2D graphical excellence remains intact with lush, colorful levels, excellent sprite animation and dazzling weapons-based special effects making this a visual treat, especially for those who loved the previous installments. The boss designs are particularly cool, showcasing imagination and creativity that seems to be lacking in many of today’s games. Tight, super-responsive controls have also been implemented to make the experience that much more enjoyable. On top of all of this, two players can go at the game simultaneously, making Metal Slug X an outstanding party game for any gathering of hardcore gamers.

Cynics might complain that this game has been done before and maybe it does feel just a bit dated in comparison to today’s more sophisticated titles. However, the simple controls and thumb-blistering gameplay make it very easy to get hooked on its addictive play. However, Metal Slug X is extremely hard to beat – giving it a high replay value, especially for those willing to make the effort to go through the game honestly without cheating or leaning on the continues too much. Attempting to make a game in the mold of this classic formula is difficult and probably not really worth it from a commercial standpoint. Yet that’s exactly what Metal Slug X has successfully done. This means that it is a bit of a rarity these days when games of its type are becoming scarcer by the moment, one needs to really stop sometimes and appreciate these small treasures. While this type of game is becoming less and less common, Agetec deserves credit and thanks for bringing this out and players who remember the golden age of the 16-bit consoles owe it to themselves to seek out and play this outstanding title, for it may be one of the last of its kind.