For those not initiated in the Metal Slug universe, it’s a series of highly polished Run ‘n Gun shooters from SNK. With HAMSTER on hand, this is one of many classic Neo Geo games to hit the Nintendo Switch eShop.
It’s a very simple gameplay concept. Kill all the enemies as you make your way to the end of each level. For this Switch version you shoot with Y, throw grenades with B and jump with X. Personally, even though it’s trying to mirror the original arcade machine, my platforming reflex memory just can’t accept the default controls and so with a quick swap of the B and X and everything’s grand.
You can choose 1 of four characters, not that they offer anything different between themselves, and follow an absolutely bonkers storyline. You wouldn’t truly understand the story without reading up on it however as the game offers very little in explanation, but that’s okay. The visual storytelling is bizarre enough for you to enjoy as you fight your way through. What you will notice is that Metal Slug is dripping with comedy, with character reactions and random things popping up in stages. It’s incredibly contradicting to the blood and violence of the gameplay, but glorious nonetheless.
As a series staple, there are a handful of vehicles to commandeer. From standard things like mechs or helicopters, Metal Slug’s wacky side is highly pronounced when you ride elephants and ostriches with machine guns strapped to them. Vehicles give you a lot more fire power and allow you to take a few more hits so they’re well worth using. They are a little awkward though. Aiming their weapons is really unorthodox as the machine guns rotate to the position you’re walking, but walking and aiming don’t go hand in hand and so you end up constantly having to readjust yourself.
A new addition from previous games is that this game has branching routes, plenty of them too! While they both end up leading to the same place, it’s nice having alternative paths to follow, some of them can be quite lengthy too. After playing through the hour or so campaign once or twice, however, you do end up constantly picking your favourite path every time so its significance does begin to wane after a while.
What may be an issue for some is the length. As said, it’s a pretty short experience and even the alternative routes, while welcome, don’t offer that much in terms of adding time to the game. It’s an arcade game which is to be expected. You go for the high scores more than anything. And I think because of its nature, it is actually a rather large game, there aren’t many arcade games that offer this much gameplay. In fact on the laugh out loud epic final mission I often thought to myself “How has this not ended yet!”.
It’s all sounding rather swell and good. And it is. There’s just one other problem that may grate on you not long after starting: Metal Slug 3 is an absolute coin guzzler. It’s one hit, one kill and on the default setting of “Level 4” difficulty, enemies overwhelm you like nobody’s business. You’ll die constantly. While you can continue as many times as you please in this port, it’s still disheartening to fail your way through the game and results in a rather unsatisfactory feeling. Thankfully, among the many options HAMSTER have implemented is the ability to change the difficulty and give you as many lives as you want. While you may consider this the easy way out, trust me, the game is far more enjoyable this way as it still offers a fair challenge on Level 1 difficulty.
While Metal Slug 3 is a solid single player game, there is of course two player co-op action and this is where the game really shines. Blasting through the game (which you will with double the fire power) is a lot of fun as you laugh and awe at what the game presents to you. It’s a highly recommended multiplayer game.
I’ve mentioned it many times already, but HAMSTER really have done a stellar job with giving the players options. You can customise your experience as much as you like, you’re not restricted within the harsh boundaries of the original arcade game and it’s great. Aside from the options, there’s also a couple of extra modes. The first is Hi_score mode which you only have 1 credit to get the highest score possible. The second is the oddly named Caravan mode with gives you 5 minutes to rack up as many points as you can. Something that kind of concerned me was that the game didn’t seem to save my high score which I would have thought would display on the right hand side of the screen. I don’t know if I’m missing something or the game is.
Now lets talk about the looks, because Metal Slug 3 is an absolutely gorgeous game, right from the almost steampunk Miyazaki art style to the lovingly generous animation of the sprites. It’s a timeless look. While it’s not the most colourful game in the world, it doesn’t need to be. It’s just there to be admired. While it was released well into the “3D era” I can imagine Metal Slug would have turned heads even at that time for its 2D graphics.
Usually when reviewing a game, I need to specifically pay attention to the soundtrack in order to form an opinion on it. It’s very easy for a games musical accompaniment to pass you by unnoticed. Metal Slug 3’s soundtrack, however, hits you in the face so hard with its awesomeness that it is completely impossible to ignore it. When people talk about greatest soundtracks ever, I’ve never seen Metal Slug 3 mentioned but now I’m puzzled as to why. It’s truly a momentous force of musical prowess.
Overall, Metal Slug 3 is an excellent port of a classic arcade game. Not only is it one of the best looking 2D games ever, it also plays like it and sounds like it. Sadly, as a game wanting as much money from you as possible the default settings can make it frustrating rather than enjoyable. Thanks to HAMSTER’s conversion however, you can customise the game to make it a better home console experience. Either having fun playing on your own or with a friend, Metal Slug 3 is an excellent option.