2D side-scrollers are mostly dead, other than some decent developer folk revitalising the genre with the likes of Cuphead or the occasional revisited game from yesteryear. For the latter, we have Metal Slug 3, originally on the NeoGeo back in the 90s – now on multiple platforms. I’ll be tackling the PS4 version via PS Now.
To say I’m a big fan of the Metal Slug series would be wrong. Y’see, I came to the franchise quite late and because I was priced out of playing it. What kid owns a Neo Geo? I’m sure my first experience was in my local arcade. Metal Slug, not when I bumped uglies. Needless to say, there have been so many ports, but they weren’t actively promoted in my neck of the woods and I kind of… forgot about it. There’s no real reason why I couldn’t have got this for the PlayStation – even the Wii.
Cut to the chase, and I saw that Metal Slug 3 was available to download via PS Now. My internet connection is better than average, but not enough to rely on streaming, I opted to download it and have a ‘quick game’. Sure, Metal Slug 3 is an instant starter – no faffing about other than choosing a character and getting stuck into the shooter action.
Nothing To Do With Solid Snake
New to the Metal Slug series? In a nutshell, this run and gun series follows the heroes Marco and Tarma, from Peregrine Falcon Strike Force (say 20 times fast), in a battle against the wrong ‘un, General Morden and his army. The General is on the verge of taking over the world with sheer force, notably with his mobile tank unit, the Metal Slug. In each series, you choose one of the characters, blasting enemy soldiers and vehicles in a side-scrolling 2D adventure. With Metal Slug 3, the same formula applies only, spoiler… extraterrestrials are involved. Plus you have a choice of two extra characters – Eri and Fiolina – also special forces, from the group the S.P.A.R.R.O.W.S (also say 20 times fasts, saying each letter). If you want to know the acronym, look it up. I’ll only make something up.
Starting with the first mission (there are five in total), you’re parachuted on a beach lobbing grenades at monster hermit crabs. It begins as it means to go on. Your character will plod from left to right, shooting anything that moves, collecting power-ups along the way. Power-ups in Metal Slug 3 are literally that as you get anything from a super shotgun to a rocket launcher, though the ammo is limited. Once used up, or if you lose a life, it resorts to the standard gun which has infinite ammo. Included in your arsenal are bombs – superb for crowd control and bosses – and a knife for close up attacks. Sticking things with pointy objects is my favourite, and as contact with enemies doesn’t kill you (though they do bite back with their own melee attacks), I like to get nice and snug with them – then shank ’em!
Enemies approach from all over the place, and they’ll be ballistics galore. There is no ‘block’, but you can manoeuvre about accordingly and try to pre-empt their attacks as they all follow a system. Your weapon doesn’t just shoot ahead as you can aim diagonally and shoot directly up or down on a respective platform. Controls are very tight and easy to get used to and is pure arcade perfection, in mein humble opinione. Did I mention you can also use an abundance of vehicles? Anything from helicopters to armoured elephants and camels (well, they’re actually variations of the Metal Slugs). There is just so much choice. You can even turn into a zombie and blast your undead claret top and bottom.
Infinite Scores Within A Square
Metal Slug 3 is effectively mayhem. As there is so much going on, and it’s an arcade game, goals are point-based – gotta get the highest score! This can be done by killing bad guys but also rescuing hostages along the way. Simply walk up to them and hit attack which releases them from their restraints and in return, award you with a power-up. Be it a big bastard gun or a refill on grenades. It can also be played as a co-op to help bring in that high score, but if you’re looking to rank on the available online leaderboards, the settings need to be in default. Why on Earth would you change the settings? Well, 1) because you can 2) depending on your level of proficiency, you will die a lot in this game.
Without jumping back into the game, I think you have about five lives to start with then once they’re up, you use a credit as you would have in the arcades. Just don’t put any coins in your console, schmuck. When you die, you can select a different player. I don’t believe they have any perks to them, so just choose the one you like the look of or randomise it as I did. There’s no random button, just use your thumbs, baby. I could get to stage three or four without using a credit (pretty chuffed with this), but stage five got hairy. So, I decided to top up the number of lives I could have just so I could finish the story at least. The total number of lives (or credit) is 99, I think, though you can keep continuing regardless. Trophies are awarded for not using credits in each stage, and one of the challenges is to finish the game on a single credit. Not a chance for me, but this speed run will confirm.
I made a couple of notes on what to write about when playing this and if I don’t mention it now, I’ll only come back to it. As you can choose how many lives you have in the game, you can also adjust how the game looks. That doesn’t mean switching it to polygons, fool, but changing the screen ratio to a fuller, stretched image – if that’s your thing. What is my thing is scanlines, and any opportunity to add these in an arcade game (quick plug The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors), I will add them. Whether you like looking at them or not – I do. No apologies. If you’re a purist like me (ish) and keep the ratio to 4:3, you can change the bezels(?) either side of the screen to show Metal Slug 3 artwork or photos of women (or men) in bikinis. That isn’t true, but if you want to, perhaps cut out from a magazine and tape them to your TV. Worked for my friend that isn’t me.
‘ave It, You Sluuuuug!
Hands down, this is one of the best looking 2D games I’ve ever played – more so when it first came out and why I so wanted a Neo Geo at the time. It hasn’t aged – this is precisely the type of game I would play in the arcade, shoving my pocket money down the slots of the cabinets in the attempt to finish a level. Think Narc or Ikari Warriors. I must have put the equivalent of a house deposit on those. While there’s so much going on, you have plenty of chances to see the little nuances and subtlety (probably the wrong word in a Metal Slug game) of the animation and humour. In fact, humour is one of the biggest standouts of this game. It’s simply a perfect arcade game in my world. I know that some have complained that there is slowdown when things get heavy, though. Still, I never noticed – I was just trying to get an acceptable score or at the very least, stay alive.
There isn’t really any excuse why I couldn’t have played this sooner as it came out on the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Wii, the fridge – most appliances. I just got swarmed with all the other titles and forgot about this. If you haven’t played the series or just want a walk down memory lane without physically having to walk, I highly recommend giving this a go. I haven’t played it on the Switch but would assume it’s perfect, what with it being portable. The game code shouldn’t be too taxing on the system either.
Disclaimer: Like any veteran says “You weren’t there, man”. Well, I was there for the arcades, and as I said near the beginning, I’m sure I played this in the arcade back in the day. Regardless, I played games like Metal Slug 3, and this is pure nostalgia. Even if you’re only just fresh out of school or an egg, give this a go – it’s so much fun. If you’re skilled, I think you can finish in less than an hour or so. Still, there’s plenty of replay value as you can go different paths in the game (doesn’t affect the outcome of the game but unlocks different weapons – sometimes). Or if you have a friend, only the one, get them to play with you. You and the game, not your naughty bits.
My recommendation is via PS Now. As of writing (13:30), it’s about £8.99 – that’s 24 Gil – for a month. Alternatively, get it on the Switch which is most likely that price for the game, but totally worth it. Additionally, Bitmap Books’ Metal Slug: The Ultimate History book is out now. I don’t get any rupees to plug it, just spreading the love as it’s near the top of my list. Roger.