Originally I was going to start off this review by praising the fine people of SNK Neo Geo for bringing to the big table an amazing action game that brings together old school gameplay and todays challenging standards. I was going to start in this fashion, but then I realized that the addicts out there would be thinking what I am starting to think. Dont tell me Rich is on another of his old school kicks. Every other game review and article he has written has been about or referenced the old days of gaming. And after wrestling around with the decision for a few minutes, I decided to stick to my old school guns. So as I clutch tightly to my A-Team lunch box and watch Teen Wolf on DVD, I will try my best to hold down the talk of the old days when describing Metal Slug 3the greatest old school style, side-scrolling shooter to hit Xbox to date.
The legacy of Metal Slug began back in the day when arcades were vibrant (and when it cost a mere twenty-five cents to play) in malls and in small plazas all around the North America. Metal Slug, in a short amount of time, made its presence known around the gaming circuit and when it game time to move to console, it stayed with Neo Geo and was released only on the Neo Geo console, which did not do so hot in the gaming war because of its near one thousand dollar price tag. Unfortunately, this left Metal Slug and its sequel circulating only in arcades until its next crack at making it into homes all around the world via Neo Geos handheld system, the Neo Geo Pocket. While the Pocket saw better days then the original Neo Geo console, it was still berried alive thanks to the Gameboy. Again, this left the Metal Slug series in a virtual limbo, until now when Metal Slug series decided to jump the Neo Geo console ship and land feet first onto the secure vessel known as the Xbox.
One of the major indications that Metal Slug 3 retains its roots is its lack of storyline. Aside from the small blurb on the back of the box, there is nothing in the way of story telling. We follow our four misfit soldiers as they venture forward in their pursuit to stop the ruthless General Morden, but that mission will not be easy. Standing in your way are not only Mordens troopers, but mutant crabs, zombies, submarines, video cameras equipped with major weapons, and a borage of other things out to make sure you and your comrades get nowhere near the General. But none of this should worry you because you have Tarma, Eri, Marco and Fio, all of which are armed to the teeth, tearing though the jungle, the beach, the water, the desert, graveyards and other exotic locations using anything they can get their hands on in order to complete their mission. If youre looking for major cinematic cut scenes containing interesting plot twists and character development, you are looking at the wrong kind of game. As one level ends, there is a couple of seconds of black and the next mission begins, just like the old side-scrolling shooters Contra and Midnight Resistance.
Concerning the game length, the main arcade mode is very short. Its very conceivable that a player could finish the main mode in less than two hours (perhaps closer to the one hour mark). Containing only five main missions and a final boss mission, the game remains true to the short and sweet philosophy of the old days, long before games needed to be saved on memory cards and strategy guides were the key to advancing to the next level. While this seems like a waste of money being such a short game, there are two bonus missions, one of which puts you into the shoes of an enemy soldier and the other the has you taking on many enemy soldiers after youve ballooned up in weight from eating entirely too much. Both of these games are fun, but they dont do much for the overall length of the game.
Much like the length of the game, it should take you zero time to learn the controls. Anyone who has ever complained that todays games utilize entirely too many buttons will love Metal Slug 3. In fact, about half of the controller will never be used in the majority of this game. All you need to know is the left thumbstick moves you, X shoots your gun, B throws bombs and A allows you to jump. Things will go a bit different when using vehicles, especially when using the Metal Slug Attack. This attack, executed when pushing A and the L Trigger, will cause you to escape your vehicle, send it into enemies and finally exploding in a rather large ball of flame (freakin cool). This control scheme would be perfect for a first time gamer to the complex world of Xboxs Controller S.
Graphically speaking, things arent looking too different to the from the days of the arcade. Things are a bit brighter, and a theres more detail in the enemies, but it seems that the graphics could have been better and more utilizing of the graphical capabilities of the Xbox. The boss enemies are the shining star of Metal Slug 3. While the seem enormously grotesque in detail, they almost seem beautiful in their artistic size. Oddly enough, the best designed creature is the giant eel that shoots across the screen and you must avoid unless you want to be dinner along with a giant jellyfish. Dont look for the detail in the background. Look for it in the evil villains.
Sounds like a basic level shooter from the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The music walks the fine line between almost forgettable background score and annoyingly overdone in order to over dramatize the more intense situations. Sound effects have been pulled out of a time capsule that was sealed and buried into the earth some fifteen years ago. They almost remind me of the simplicity of canned laughter on old sitcoms from the 1970s. While this may seem like a turnoff to most people, I think the simplicity of the soundtrack works being that this is an old school game and isnt trying to be anything more. In this case, it works wonderfully.
I think the main problem with Metal Slug 3 is a combination of its extremely short length and its price tag. While Ill be the first to say that a short length game isnt necessary a bad thing, I think things could have gone a bit longer (perhaps ten levels instead of five) especially with a $39.99 price tag. MS3 would have been better suited to have a $19.99 price, something to wet the lips of the gamers out their in preparation for the release of Metal Slug 4 & 5 on a single disc before the end of the year. Hopefully the combined length of these two games will at least equal seven or eight hours of solid game play in addition to many more mini games.
Overall, Metal Slug 3 is a simple side-scrolling shooter with big aspirations for greatness. In a time of full immersion game like Halo and Chronicles of Riddick, it is difficult for a simple 2D game like this to make even a ripple in the massive ocean that is the world of gaming, but you have to give them credit for trying. Yes, it is short and not very complicated, but MS3 will present a difficult little game that will make you want to come back for more. So to the fine people of SNK Neo Geo, I say congratulations and good job on putting together a challenging and fun game that you can taken out in the span of a rainy day. I highly encourage all of you to give this simple game a chance and dont let it fly under the radar like so many other great games that looked small to bother with.