Title: Metal Slug
Developer: Nazca Corporation
Platform: Neo Geo
Genre: Shoot ’em up, Run and Gun
I have fond memories of seeing Metal Slug in the arcade as a child. I remember standing in front of the cabinet witnessing the bright and flashy colors with explosively loud sounds blaring out. Watch a little cartoon soldier blowing everything up in sight across a colorful side-scrolling environment made my eyes as wide as dinner plates. I was hooked from that moment on.
The first in a very long series that spans to this day, Metal Slug was original released for the Neo Geo arcade system and the Neo Geo AES home console. The game takes place during a world war in the year 2026 and centers around two special forces members who in a last ditch effort are sent to kill an enemy general who leads an army intent on global conquest.
However, the plot is barely focused on that. (I myself was unaware of it until nearly two decades after the fact.) This is an action game in every sense of the word. More specifically, it is of the run-and-gun shooter genre which was popularized by the NES classic Contra.
The player character starts each level with a pistol containing unlimited ammunition and a few grenades. The player must run to the end of the level shooting everything in sight. Enemies include other soldiers armed with various different kinds of weapons, as well as heavy vehicles such as jeeps, planes, and tanks. One hit from any enemy or their projectiles will instantly kill the player, unless inside of a tank. This creates quite a high-intensity environment where every mistake you can make is lethal. However, your character is more than capable of handling the situation and quite often it feels like you are a one-man killing machine, and power-ups for high powered guns and rocket launchers can easily be obtained throughout the levels.
Those familiar with Contra will find Metal Slug far more forgiving and less frustrating. Along the way, the player can rescue POWs for extra points as well as power-ups. Upon reaching the end of a level, the player must face a boss which is usually some kind of war machine. Beating these bosses requires patience and figuring out their patterns and weak points, as it takes many shots to finally destroy them.
What sets Metal Slug apart from other games of the genre is how light-hearted it is. Despite the fact that you are fighting in war-torn countries laying nearly everything you see to waste, the game doesn’t take itself seriously. The graphics are fluid and cartoonish, death animations as well as passive character actions can be humorous, and there’s absolutely no gore.
Metal Slug stands the test of time. It is still very much enjoyable to this day and still holds its own as being one of the most laid-back and enjoyable action games of all time.