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Metal Slug 3

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

What Metal Slug 3 lacks in visual pizzazz and sparkle, it makes up for with style. The Metal Slug series has never been renown for its graphics. Sure it looks great for a 2D game, but still feels a step or two behind the hi-res stuff some other 2D games have shown. Regardless, the graphics do what they have to do and look good doing it.

Personality is the name of the game in Metal Slug 3. The four playable characters all have their own individual styles and movements. While you will face overwhelming hordes of like animated and similar looking enemies, a number of comical animations help ease things. Taking out a ship causes enemy soldiers to begin bailing out the ship while shooting (or slashing) a soldier will produce an over-the-top facial emote (complete with a high-pitched scream). Boss characters are big, over-exaggerated and a lot of fun. Lastly, who could forget the spectacular explosions and other fireworks going off all over the place? All in all, this is a 2D gamer's paradise.

Sound is decent, but really nothing that will stick out. Background music is fast-paced and fits each level without getting in the way. Honestly, you more than likely won't even hear the music a majority of the time due to the constant sounds of gunfire, explosions and the aforementioned high-pitched screams.


Gameplay:

Metal Slug 3 really isn't the most complicated of games, especially when compared to what's currently on the market. Meant primarily as an arcade shooter, Metal Slug 3 promotes non-stop action over things like plot and depth. Thumbing through the first few pages of the manual does, however, produce a long-winded story about alien invasions and stuff -- but I never saw much of a need for it. It's basically there as background fluff and an attempt to give you some legitimate reason for running around and shooting hordes of enemies -- like I really need one.

As already stated, the main gist of the game is to choose one of four characters and plow though a traditional 2D shooter. Think Contra only with more enemies. There's no real difference between the characters other than aesthetics, so choice isn't crucial to the process. As you go through the game's levels, you'll encounter soldiers, helicopters and tanks as well as some more outrageous enemies like mutant crabs and space aliens. You'll even encounter zombies who will turn you into one of their own (unless you find a cure or die -- whichever comes first).

Central to the game are the Slugs, which are machines that you can use to help ramp up the carnage. Slugs come in the form of tanks, planes, a robot suit and even an elephant. Although they bring a tremendous amount of firepower with them, Slugs aren't the most durable of things and will eventually blow-up.

Also scattered throughout the game are bearded POWs. Rescuing these downtrodden souls nets you weapon power-ups like the heavy machine gun, shotgun and rocket launcher. You can also rescue animals, like machine-gun toting monkeys and camels with rocket-launchers strapped to their backs to help you out. As if those weren't enough back up, you can even rescue lawyers (at least I think they were lawyers) who will summon a small rain cloud to zap enemies with a bolt of lighting. Hey, I never said the game took anything seriously.

The only thing better than playing through the game with gun wielding monkeys and lawyers is playing with a friend. Metal Slug 3 supports a 2-Player Co-op mode that is a blast to play through. Though the game sports the nice, shiny orange 'Live Enabled' marker, the online mode is only limited to an online scoreboard. This is a bit of a disappointment, but what can you do? Also included are two additional play modes that must be unlocked by completing the game: Fat Island and Storming the UFO Mother Ship.

Fat Island is a very unique 2-Player mode where you and a friend start at a certain weight. Every time you kill an enemy, food will drop. Picking up the food makes your character gain weight and turn into a fat blob (literally) - thus the point of the game. The trick is that the more weight you gain, the slower your character gets. This is where most of the strategy comes in since you have to learn how to best use the level to get more enemies (and food) to come to you.

Storming the UFO Mother Ship puts you in the boots of the Morden's soldiers (the guys you've been shooting at all along) as they try to overtake the UFO Mother Ship. You have a small group of soldiers and must progress though the level. As your army ventures deeper into the ship, you'll have to rescue comrades, increasing the size of your army.


Difficulty:

In a word, Metal Slug 3 is hard. In a few words, Metal Slug 3 is really freakin' hard. I'd say more words, but then I'd be subject to Internet decency laws. Regardless, since Metal Slug 3 is a port of an arcade game, it follows the same mantra as other arcade games, 'Give the player a good game for their quarter, but keep that game as short as possible.' Realistically, anyone could breeze through Metal Slug 3 in the arcades with a pocket full of quarters. This isn't the case with the Xbox version, which leads to a really puzzling decision on the part of SNK.

Like most 'old school' games, you are given 3 Lives (can be adjusted to 5 in the Options menu) with each Continue. You are also given an unlimited number of Continues. So far, so good - right? Well, the problem is that Continues never let you restart where you left off. Continues only allow you to restart from the beginning of a level. This gets more than a little frustrating when you get all the way to the end-level boss, die and have to slog your way back through the entire level again. Some will enjoy the added challenge, but I thought it was absurd. Limiting the number of continues would have been a better route.


Game Mechanics:

There's really not much to Metal Slug 3 in regards to the control scheme. One button jumps, one shoots and the other throws grenades. Things get a little dicey when riding in a Slug or on certain animals (like the camel) since you have to keep track of both your forward movement and the position of your cannons with the same control stick. It sounds much harder than it really is. Overall, the controls are very responsive, which is something you really want once the action picks up and you have enemies coming at you from every imaginable direction on the screen.

The Metal Slug series has always been a favorite of mine and I was ecstatic that it's finally out on home consoles. What's better, Metal Slug 3 is arguably one of the best in the series so it is a great place to start if you love 2D shooters but haven't been down to your local arcade lately. Old School gamers will dig Metal Slug 3 - even with its questionable Continue system. Those with an aversion to really hard games might want to either steer clear of this one or rent it first.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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