Metal Slug Tactics is a turn-based take on SNK's classic arcade action

Metal Slug Tactics is a new isometric, turn-based tactics take on the arcade action series, and it's one of the first retro surprises of the E3 2021 season.

The original Metal Slug games from SNK remain pinnacles of arcade action decades later, and this new game from Dotemu, SNK, and Leikir Studio reimagines its intense battles for turn-based tactics. The reveal trailer for the game mixes stylish animated segments with gameplay footage, showing how Metal Slug's famed pixel art has made the transition to this new three-quarters perspective.

The short answer is very well, at least going from what we see of the trailer's vibrant, characterful, and easy-to-read action - even with chaotic elements such as air strikes and collapsing overpasses unfolding in the battle. While the animated scenes are fun, seeing the familiar cast of Metal Slug heroes taking on legions of goons really is the star of the trailer - and they're all in perfect form even from this new viewpoint.

While it feels like blasting your way eternally toward the right side of the screen in classic arcade action could hardly be more different from carefully plotting out your moves in a turn-based tactics game, it's clear that Dotemu and Leikir Studio are building in love for Metal Slug at every turn. For instance - you can still get in a tank and blow up scads of enemies all at once, and you can still take on oversized bosses in tricky battles. It has some modern touches too, including skill trees and perks to upgrade your heroes' to your specific needs, and an adrenaline system for busting out special attacks when you need to turn the tide of battle.

The original Metal Slug kicked off the series back in 1996 with its first game for Neo Geo, with sequels following all the way through Metal Slug 7 for Nintendo DS back in 2008. While the series has had its share of spinoffs as well, this is a first for tactical action in the Metal Slug world.

See what else is on the way in the weeks ahead with our complete E3 2021 schedule. 

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.