Fourteen years ago, SNK blessed us with a terrific shooter named Metal Slug for their Neo-Geo system. Gamers quickly fell in love with their expressive, well-drawn characters, environments, and vehicles, not to mention the over-the-top gore and kickin' soundtrack. Though it's had numerous releases on home consoles, Metal Slug was always a game meant to be played at an arcade, standing up next to a buddy, screaming at each other over who deserved which power up. Metal Slug 7, the confusingly-titled Eighth game in the venerable series, is the first game in the main series released on portable systems without so much as a single arcade cabinet. It performed admirably on the DS, its tiny hardware easily beating out that of an entire arcade machine, and soon Atlus brought the game to the PSP with an enhanced version called Metal Slug Double-X.
Once again, General Morden is up to no good, but this time he's got some help in the form of an army of goons from the future. The Peregrine Falcons must once again fight their way through hundreds of enemies, using numerous weapons and a few new tricks to put the general away once and for all. It's fairly simple and standard for the Metal Slug series, although the time travel element helps to bring in some newer, more technologically advanced enemies that help to keep the game fresh.
Like in the previous Metal Slug game, you can select between Marco, Tarma, Eri, Fio, Ralf and Clark to battle the forces of Vaguely World War II-ish helmeted blood sausages, and like in Metal Slug 6, each character has their own unique strengths. Marco's an expert with the handgun, Tarma's slugs are tougher and stronger, Eri's grenades are more plentiful and easier to aim, Fio begins play with a machine gun and gets extra ammo, Ralf can take an extra hit but gets less ammo, and Clark can toss enemies away with a brutal physical attack. This iteration, however, adds in the awesome ability to switch between their weapons to conserve ammunition or choose the right firearm for the situation. Not only that, but for a mere ninety-nine cents, you can download the beautiful, deadly Leona, whose special abilities take a bit from each of her compatriots and adds in the sweetness of not losing her guns when she loses a life. This ability wouldn't have been possible on the old hardware, given that it would use more than four buttons, and would probably make for a ridiculously complex arcade console, so it's good to see the designers taking advantage of the new hardware to freshen up some of the more frustrating aspects of gameplay.
This time around, the arcade mode is seven stages long, and won't take you too long to beat, especially on easy mode, where you're given a heavy machine gun with unlimited ammo. The truly hardcore, however, will stick around for combat school, where the game dares you to become a lifeless zombie by requesting seemingly impossible tasks like completing stages in a single life, destroying bosses without any weapon pickups, and...um..bouncing...a ball. It's harder than it looks, damn it! As you complete each task, you're given points that apply towards your rank, and you can advance all the way up the Army's ranks, from private to...SATAN? Yes, that's right, Metal Slug XX added in Lucifer as an obtainable rank, and why do you want it? To impress Sexy McDrillSargeant here, who won't even bat an eye at a lowly corporal. In all seriousness, though, combat school is an excellent way to hone your skills, and after spending a few hours training, you'll be able to make your way through the first few levels without losing a single life.
Most of the character and enemy art is taken from the previous games, and due to its hand-drawn style, still looks good today, especially on a handheld system. The new enemies are just as well-drawn, with your usual weirdo giant mechs taking up most of the screen and looking, as they should, like patchwork hunks of junk that can still level a city. The animations are crisp and fluid, and the game doesn't try to shoehorn in needless 3-D effects. There is one graphical beef, though, and that's with the backgrounds. While they don't look particularly bad, they don't match up with the cartoony graphics that make up the entire rest of the game. Backgrounds in XX look pre-rendered in some places, lazy in others, and dreadfully boring when compared to previous games. They look particularly bad in zoom mode, but it's not a tremendous issue unless it's one of the few spots where it's hard to tell what's solid ground and what isn't.
The music is, for the most part, classic Metal Slug, with themes harkening back to the older games. Nothing as memorable as Metal Slug 3, but certainly not so bland or boring as to make you want to turn it down. Blaring music and sound effects are a part of the metal slug experience, and XX certainly delivers on that front. The classic announcer has not returned, instead being replaced by someone who knows how to pronounce "Rocket Launcher". I'm not sure whether most people will consider that a good thing or a bad thing.
If you already have Metal Slug 7 on the DS, there's only one reason you might want this game, and that's if you're crazy about Leona Heidern and want to have her slaughter hordes of baddies while pretending she's going through the Orochi Blood Riot. If you don't have the DS version of this game, however, 7 is a great experience, and though it doesn't have everything it would take to make the perfect Metal Slug game, like, I don't know, the zombie transformation, it's still a great addition to the series that I would recommend to anyone who likes to shoot things and watch them blow up. If you're lucky enough to have a friend with a PSP and a similar desire for destruction, Metal Slug XX is a can't-miss title.
article id: 1013 | poster: OG