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By Nazca/SNK Arcade 1996


Of course a snub-nose, malformed creation like the Metal Slug would never have got off the drawing board in real life..

I have to admit though that the first time I ever saw SNK's Metal Slug in the arcades a rather big grin came over my face. In Metal Slug, you see, you play a soldier of fortune sent into a brilliantly conceived cartoonish sub-WW2 world, in order to win the War against a regime bearing an uncanny Nazi resemblance, singlehandedly. Oh and fry as many bad guys as possible. With big guns and stuff. And Tanks.

Never could work out what this sub was doing lying
around in the middle of the desert though..

The graphical attention to detail throughout the game's
six stages is superb. This is especially apparent in the
bosses, above are the first three.

All aboard the Super Vehicle-001!
Enter the gung-ho world of cartoon-style heavy artillery in SNK's Metal Slug...

Like most blokes of my generation I had a mania about all things WWII when I was a kid. You know.. visiting the Imperial War Museum to see Panzer tanks, Spitfires and Hurricanes, and watching The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone avidly each time they came on the telly..
I guess these things glamourised the Second World War, made it look really cool and romantic to have played a part in.. to drive a tank or fly a fighter plane, or even be a POW and plot a daring escape from some innaccesible castle prison (those Nazi guards in WWII films were hopeless, how did any of them ever get the job? A trained monkey could have guarded a prison camp or whatever better than some of these guys..) Anyway, now I realise that the real thing was of course probably not a lot of fun.. War, as they say is, and will always be, Hell.

While Metal Slug owes a huge debt of gratitude to previous arcade titles like Konami's Contra and Irem's Gunforce, being a millitaristic platform-based shoot 'em up of very similar style, what it does, it does with such imagination, humour, attention to detail and visual flair as to make the games in the series really rather special. The animation alone is very impressive indeed. The first few levels alone for example, cartoon-styled enemy soldiers sit toasting marshmallows over a camp fire, drinking a bevvy, or sunbathing on the deck of a gunboat, until you enter onscreen waving a gun in their general direction. At which point they do a Warner Brothers cartoon double-take, and run off waving their arms over their head in panic. Friendly but gaunt-looking hostages appear bound in ropes, gently struggling, only to give you the thumbs up and whip out a weapon-power up from their attire when you cut them free. Odd, almost surreal occurences of cutesy animals and small children, strangely unaffected by all the mayhem, crop up from time to time. And an array of anime style sub-bosses and bosses, some huge creations packed with visual detail and often amusing touches, are encountered along the way. The games humourous styling runs riot throughout. And if you know the code, there's rather a lot of cartoon blood flying about too..

In my opinion, the best thing about the game is the Metal Slug itself, a neat little cartoon tank which seems to have a personality of its own. Take control of one of these beauties and you become immune to enemy firepower for a while, long enough to let rip with a rotatable machine gun and lethal cannon and cause destruction to the enemy on a grand and highly satisfying scale... until of course you run out of armour and have to jump back out again before the darn thing blows up. ;)

A follow up to the original game, Metal Slug 2 was released in 1998 with some even more varied and impressive levels and stunning bosses. The third sequel Metal Slug X, was released in mid 1999. Those with a Neo-Geo console can enjoy the original arcade game perfectly of course, being the same platform as the arcade. There was later a practically arcade-perfect Saturn conversion, which requires the 1MB or 4MB RAM cart (highly recommended if you can track it down) , plus a Playstation version which I've not seen. Of course if you have MAME or NEO-RAGE and you can play the games that way, with full sound. Hooray! Tankie Tankie!


See also: Metal Slug 3 Preview
Coming soon.. Metal Slug: The Bosses!
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