Metal Slug is is easily one of the most popular Neo Geo games of all time, and one of the few to still be receiving sequels and re-releases to this day. This Neo Geo CD release is one of the most expensive Neo Geo CD titles to obtain, but can still be had for less than a hundred bucks. Metal Slug is a side scrolling action game and your goal is to obliterate everything in site, and free hostages. While this sounds like every other 2D action game of the 1990's, there is something special about Metal Slug.
The first thing you notice is the gorgeous visuals. This is one of the finest looking 2D games I have ever played, and still looks amazing 13 years after it's release. Metal Slug has aged beautifully. The levels feature tons of detail, and almost nothing repeats as you progress through the missions. A lot of effort was spent making these levels.
There are 6 missions total. They vary from half destroyed cities to lush swamps to snowy forests. Each mission has it's own unique look and feel and each is as pretty as the last. The missions are all have things you can destroy as well. Sometimes you will need to destroy buildings and enemy forts to move on, or obtain items. I found myself shooting everything that looked destructible just to see what would happen.
Everything is well animated as well. The playable characters, Marco and Tarma, are well animated, even their walking animation is leagues ahead of other games of the genre. Enemy soldiers, vehicles, bullets, all move very fluidly and help add to Metal Slug's beauty. However, all of this eye candy comes at a price. Metal Slug has some slow down. In the latter missions it becomes a major distraction as everything crawls to a halt.
The controls of the game are relatively straight forward. There are three action buttons, shoot, jump, and throw grenades. I actually prefer using an old-style Neo Geo arcade stick, rather than the newer style game pad so you can jump and shoot at the same time. The controls are very tight and respond directly to inputs. You can shoot left, right, and up. You can also shoot down when you jump. You can not shoot diagonally.
You start each mission with a pistol. If you are close enough to an enemy, you will knife them instead. The really nice thing about Metal Slug is you don't die when you touch an enemy. You only die if they attack you. This is actually really nice as you don't have to stop in front of an enemy and then knife or shoot them. You can run straight through them while attacking. This helps keep the action going.
Throughout the missions you can collect additional weapons including a flame blast, which shoots out giant fireballs. The heavy machine gun shoots rapid shots. A benefit of the heavy machine gun is that if you shoot up and then forward (left or right) rapidly, you can actually get some shots to go diagonally which helps to eliminate tough to reach enemies. The shotgun fires a massive short range blast that goes straight through hordes of enemies and is very effective against enemy tanks. The last gun is a rocket launcher, which shoots rockets. A unique feature of the rocket launcher is it can home in on enemies.
Each of the special weapons has a finite amount ammo, so you need to make sure you aren't wasting it as you may need to preserve it to take out a boss, sub-boss, or an enemy vehicle. This is where getting close to an enemy or knifing them can really come in handy.
Metal Slug gets its name from the Tank Slug vehicle that you get to use during the missions. The Tank Slug fires a heavy machine gun fire, and has a 180 degree radius. Unlike a real tank, the Tank Slug can jump and crouch, which comes in handy when dodging rockets and other projectiles. Additionally, the Tank Slug can take a few hits before it's spent. Once it's life bar empties, you have to jump out or it will explode and kill you.
And that is really where the magic of this game lies. You need to manage your weapons as your progress through beautifully crafted missions destroying equally beautiful enemies. Top this off with some of the most fluid controls I have ever played and you have a classic. Metal Slug really is that good.
I am not particularly great at action games, so I found the relatively modest challenge a real treat. The bosses are all pretty easy, and can be beaten easily if you have managed to preserve your Tank Slug and some grenades. Some hardcore fans may need a little more challenge from there action games, but most will not be able to beat the game on a single credit.
An advantage of Metal Slug on the Neo Geo CD is the improved soundtrack. While I don't have a a cartridge version to compare to, it definitely sounds better than any cartridge I have ever heard. In either case, the music is very fast paced, and heavy on the horns and drums, and sounds fantastic if you have a sub woofer. It really adds to game's atmosphere. Each vehicle also has it's own sounds, planes sound like planes, tanks sound like tanks, flame blasts sound like flame blasts. The enemies all make a dieing sound as you mow them down. Overall, the sounds are fantastic and help suck you into the game.
Metal Slug on the Neo Geo CD also features an exclusive art gallery, that features hundreds pictures of concept art. There is also a combat school which gives you challenges like beating the game in one credit, as well as beating individual missions in one credit. Lastly, though not exclusive, is a two player mode which allows you and a friend to play co-op through the game.
Overall, Metal Slug is a timeless classic that should be on every gaming enthusiasts shelf. Everything from the visuals, the sounds, and controls is nearly perfect. I had no problem playing through this game multiple times to write this review, and imagine it being a game I keep returning to in the future. Released at a time when 3D gaming on the PlayStation and Saturn was taking off, this game has held up through the test of time. Something 3D games of the era cannot do. Simply stunning.
Graphics - 9/10 Some minor slowdown is the only thing holding it back
Sound - 8/10
Game play - 10/10
Overall - 9/10 I would give this game a 10... but I need to leave room for Metal Slug 2, just in case