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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Metal Slug XX (PSP) 

Metal Slug XX is essentially the same game as last year's Metal Slug 7 on the DS, the PSP edition of the game features some extra enhancements such as downloadable content, co-op play on wifi mode and some slight visual upgrades. The gameplay in MSXX unfolds exactly as you'd expect it to, with the intense, frenetic action players have come to expect from the series. With six playable characters, tons of weapons upgrades and ingenious level design, Metal Slug XX is another solid installment in the series. One key twist this time around is the new combat school mode, where you unlock extras by completing mini-games. It adds tons of replay value and while the game largely treads on familiar ground, Metal Slug XX remains an enjoyable diversion.

Not much has changed in the Metal Slug series since its inception back in the 90's on the legendary Neo Geo arcade system. The latest installment brings a few minor tweaks, but the basic formula and presentation have remained true to form for more than a decade. SNK has apparently decided not to mess too much with a good thing, and Slug now stands alone as the premiere 2D action title still in production. Metal Slug XX is an excellent conversion of the DS title Metal Slug 7, and features mostly the same levels, bosses and weapons. The basic play mechanics that players have seen in previous titles remain unchanged this time around. It's a traditional 2D scrolling action title in a classic mode. Going from left to right, players maneuver one of six different soldiers as they battle through waves of enemies until they reach the boss character at the end of the stage. Each of the different characters brings a different ability to the game, for example, they might start off with the heavy machine gun, or have twice as much firepower in a specific weapon. Which one you choose is going to depend in large part on your playing style. In addition, SNK is promising to offer additional players for download, which should make the game even better.

As they progress through the game's stages, players will be able to take advantage of defeated foes since they drop power-ups including heavy machine guns and grenades that give the player added firepower. Collecting all of these plays a big role in how deep you can get into the game. Along the way, in certain sections, there are what are known as Slugs, which are the series' trademark devices. These metallic weapons allow the player to jump in and reward them with added firepower and extra armor that protects them from damage for a short time. These are especially useful when you encounter multiple enemies at the same time. There are several types of these in the game including the famous ostrich slug that lets you jump over large gaps and even a cool train slug that lets you chain multiple devices together for massive firepower. These give you an advantage when you use them and create some of the most enjoyable parts of the game. During each mission stage, there are numerous hostages that can be rescued and saving them gives you a bonus at the end of each stage. Rescuing multiple hostages can also build up their strength and they'll come back and assist you when you have enough saved. This gives another layer of strategy to the game and all of these elements make Metal Slug XX another highly-playable game that stays true to series conventions.

Most of the level designs are fairly straightforward, with a strictly linear progression, but there are some sections where players have to hit a switch to use elevators or move platforms around. This adds some puzzle elements to the game, but these are minor diversions, since the primary gameplay mechanic remains shooting at anything that moves while avoiding their shots. Metal Slug XX's standard enemy soldiers are fairly easy to kill, but there are harder foes waiting in the wings. Players will also have to look out for various deadly obstacles such as fire pits and large rolling bombs that will deplete their stock. Each level is bracketed by intense boss battles to make this an occasionally difficult title where skill is rewarded with consistent progress. Players have a large stack of continues and the game's adjustable level of difficulty makes it possible for new gamers to jump in for a quick round, or presents a solid challenge that will tax even veteran players. This mix of accessibility and challenge is what has kept the series so appealing for all these years, and Metal Slug XX doesn't stray too far from this proven approach. Its sort of like comfort food for gamers, and the straightforward, action-packed approach remains quite appealing.

Metal Slug XX's single player game is solid and rings very true to its arcade roots, but the PSP edition also allows for co-op play with another player via its wi-fi mode, which makes the game even more enjoyable. Another element that adds to the game's depth and replay value is the Combat School mode. In this portion of the game, players have to complete a series of mini-games with specific objectives, such as getting through a section without losing a life or collecting all the hostages. Doing so lets you move up in the ranks and unlocks additional missions and unlockable items such as art galleries and extra characters. Most of these are fairly quick and their short duration makes them perfectly suited to portable play. This is definitely one of the more interesting parts of the game and also quite fun. Since you can choose which missions to perform and in what order, combat school brings a non-linear mini-game style of play that's very much appreciated.

With all these extra modes and its solid gameplay mechanics intact, Metal Slug XX is an excellent release for PSP owners looking for traditional arcade-style gameplay. While the DS edition was a decent attempt, there's no denying that it felt a little bit constrained by the system's inherent limitations. Conversely, the PSP edition benefits from its larger, single screen presentation and shines on the handheld. The graphics no longer feel squished-down and the widescreen view allows the game's excellent animation and vibrant design to shine. This is especially true when you hook up the PSP to a monitor and see all the details emerge. Its controls are fairly responsive as you'd expect and, the game delivers the solid gameplay and addictive mechanics you've come to expect from the series. Metal Slug XX delivers a solid single player experience, and its extra wi-fi and combat schools only add to its replay value. This makes the game an excellent value overall and solid addition to any hardcore gamer's PSP collection.                                                                

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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