Metal Slug 7 - hands-on

Metal Slug 7 marks a handful of firsts for the 12-year-old 2D action series: It’s the first Metal Slug without an arcade release, and the first on the DS. But don’t expect a stylus-driven touch-screen-based reboot of the franchise at all. From what we’ve played, this is a traditional Metal Slug experience through and through: gore-tastic 2D graphics, giant screen-filling bosses and plenty of things that go boom.

There are six characters to take through the game’s seven stages: the sharpshooter, the gearhead, the ballistics expert and the girl-with-a-ton-of-grenades are all returning archetypes. Clark and Ralf, whom you might remember from the King of Fighters series, are also in attendance here. Clark can toss enemies in the air for instant kills and bonus points, while Ralf has a special punch that can take out groups of enemies in a single blow, but leaves him open if he misses.

The weaponry’s as much the star of any Metal Slug as anything else, though, and Metal Slug 7’s arsenal includes a gun that fires a toy plane that explodes on enemy contact, a rifle that fires a stream of electricity that’ll snake its way toward nearby foes, and a ridiculously powerful shotgun, among others. There’s plenty for gearheads to get excited about too, with vehicles like a gigantic mech with a machine gun strapped to its crotch, in addition to the requisite tanks and planes.

The only thing that outs the game as a DS title (aside from low-detail sprites here and there) is a map on the bottom screen that you can pan around with the stylus, and that displays the locations of power-ups and POWs in need of rescue. Another new addition is the “Combat School” mode, in which you’re tasked with special objectives, like killing all enemies or rescuing all POWs in a given stage.

Ultimately, the only thing that might be really irksome to diehard fans is the lack of any multiplayer. Whether portability and the convenience of not having to spend a pocketful of quarters to beat the final stage will make up for that is something we’ll have until Metal Slug 7’s Nov. 18 release to decide.

Sep 22, 2008