They don’t make silly, shoot-everything-then-go-right games like the Metal Slug series anymore… unless you count the most recent entry in the 7-game Metal Slug Anthology, which just hit arcades this year. So, um… yeah, okay, they do still make games like that. But when they slap a whole clip of 'em onto one PS2 disc, it's still cause for celebration.
The title of this side-scrolling shooter refers to super vehicles - metal slugs - that come in the form of tanks, submarines, mech walkers, mules, camels, elephants (they shoot lightning out of their trunks, of course) and whatever else the weirdo developers could turn into a mobile dealer of destruction. When you’re not inside one of them blasting enemy soldiers, alien attackers, abominable snowmen and terrorist dictators to smithereens, you’re doing it on foot, swapping weapons like laser rifles, bouncing grenades and flamethrowers in the process. There's humor here, too. Walking the line between cuddly and deadly gives the Metal Slug games their charm.
Above: A screenshot from the Wii version
Anthology rounds up Metal Slugs 1 through 5 (plus the upgraded/fixed version of Metal Slug 2, dubbed Metal Slug X), then throws in the just-released-in-arcades Metal Slug 6 to give all the arcade editions a single home on your PS2. Known for its difficulty as much as its art style, the Slug series has its share of duds (Slug 2 still shows some slowdown, while Slug 4 lacks both imagination and length), but if you like one, you’ll like them all – especially when you and a pal aren’t shoving quarters into a coinbox to finish the game cooperatively.
Metal Slug 3 still feels like the best of the bunch, but new kid Slug 6 ain’t no slouch. The merciless difficulty, creepy alien enemies, enormous stage-ending bosses and the addition of Ikari Warriors/King of Fighters alumni Ralf and Clark to the character roster all feel like natural extensions of the 10-year-old franchise. Even the novel new melee moves feel comfortable after a few plays.
Happily for PS2 owners, this is the best version as well, by a longshot. With five different configurations of the Wiimote and Nunchuk, the best option on the Wii version was… a GameCube controller. And the PSP had good controls but some oddly cumbersome load times. PS2 gives you the best of both worlds - quick (but not absent) loads and the best controls this side of an arcade stick - which also works.
Above: Another screenshot from the Wii version. Which actually looks about the same - this is old-school, baby.
As in the originals, you can’t aim diagonally (you can only fire stray shots as you pass through the four compass points) and you’ll find no gauges during boss battles to let you know how close you are to defeating the alien or crab or spaceship or train or whatever.