Wii

North America

Metal Slug Anthology

by Jon Lindemann - April 2, 2007, 6:36 pm PDT
Total comments: 12

6

I hope you still have those GameCube controllers.

The original Metal Slug first appeared on the arcade scene in 1996. Fans of 2-D run'n'gunners were immediately impressed by its crazy weapons, over-the-top bosses, and wild two-player cooperative gameplay. To celebrate the series' 10-year anniversary, SNK Playmore gives us Metal Slug Anthology, a collection of the seven Metal Slug arcade games released thus far.

As far as bang for your buck goes, Metal Slug Anthology is quite a value. Its lineup consists of Metal Slug 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and Metal Slug X (a remix of Metal Slug 2 that uses the Metal Slug 3 game engine). Each game is an arcade-perfect, pixel-for-pixel, sound-for-sound transalation of the original. You can play on free play with unlimited lives, or you can play arcade-style with limited lives for a real challenge. Even on free play, beating any game in this compilation is a tall order. If you really suck it up and want to win using limited lives, prepare to put some time in.

These games aren't called Metal Slug for nothing. Bullets fly everywhere, and there are new ways to die around every corner. Each game features an obligatory back story involving stuff like rebels, evil generals, and even alien invaders, but all you need to know is that you (and a buddy, preferably) select a character and then destroy everything in sight.

Of course, the destruction wouldn't be any fun without a wide range of weaponry at your disposal. Similar to Konami's Contra, you start off with a generic pistol and upgrade to cool stuff like flamethrowers and rocket launchers by picking up weapon icons dropped by enemies. You can also throw grenades, very helpful when dealing with large groups of enemies or bigger baddies like cannons, mortars, and tanks.

You have your own tanks, too. The franchise's main gimmick is its wide variety of Metal Slug tanks, "super-vehicles" that allow you to run roughshod over enemy forces for a limited time. In Metal Slug 1 only one tank is available, and it's relatively tame (it only has a cannon and a machine gun), but in later games the tank designs get pretty far-out. Later Slugs include a submarine and helicopter, and even an ostrich, camel, and elephant. One of the most entertaining aspects of the series is seeing what kind of tank is going to pop up next.

Graphically, the Metal Slug series contains some of the best hand-drawn artwork that 2-D gaming has to offer. Environments range from war-torn villages to underwater canyons, and character sprites are drawn in a humorous, cartoony style. If you aren't careful, an enemy will turn your character into an alternate form like a mummy or a fat guy to make warfare a little more difficult. Some games feature pseudo-3-D effects, with sprite objects (such as vehicles, enemies, and missles) moving from the background into the foreground. Sound is great as well, with hilarious voice samples, heroic music, and satisfying explosions throughout. It's very well done, and was often well ahead of its time.

The game's presentation, however, is a different story. While some compilation packages feature slick menus and loads of cool extras, Metal Slug Anthology is as bare-bones as you can get. The title selection screen is a series of static pictures from each game, and all menus are presented in a generic font. The extras consist of game art galleries, and a text - yes, text - interview with the developers. It's pretty obvious that adding extra material was an afterthought, which is very disappointing considering the popularity and pedigree of this franchise.

Menu navigation is also lackluster. Moving up and down in the menus is always mapped to the default Wii Remote settings (i.e. when it's held like a TV remote), even when your game controls are set to hold the Wii Remote on its side like an NES pad. It's unintuitive, and indicative of the overall lack of effort put into the game's front-end.

What's worse is that the game's control schemes are unintuitive as well. For some baffling reason, Metal Slug Anthology features no support whatsoever for the Wii Classic Controller. Instead, you must use a GameCube controller or choose one of five different Wii-specific control schemes. The Wii controls range from absolutely unplayable (holding the Wii Remote upright in your left hand to simulate a joystick, while holding the nunchuck in your right and using its buttons), to tolerable but goofy (holding the Wii Remote like an NES pad, with grenade-throwing mapped to flicking the remote). After experimenting with the Wii control schemes, switching to the GameCube controller makes you say, "Oh, so THAT'S how these games are supposed to play." The decision to exclude usage of the Classic Controller makes the Wii version of Metal Slug Anthology inferior to every other platform, which is a damn shame because the games themselves are top-notch.

On the one hand, the games included in Metal Slug Anthology are a blast, they're translated perfectly from the arcade, and they're just as fun, over-the-top, and well-designed as they were ten years ago. On the other hand, this is a stripped-down package with no meaningful extras to speak of, its Wii-specific control options are an almost complete bust, and the lack of Classic Controller support is puzzling to say the least. Even when playing with the GameCube controller, you can't help but wonder what could have been. If Wii is the only console you own and you're a die-hard Metal Slug fan, Anthology is a serviceable way to satisfy your Metal Slug jones. If you own any other console or portable, pick up that version instead.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 7.5 4 8 7.5 6
Graphics
7.5

Some of the best 2-D graphics you're going to see, and humorously done at that. Enemy and vehicle designs are great, and you never know what kind of wacky stuff you're going to uncover next. Sorely lacking in presentation, with a hastily thrown-together front end full of generic fonts and screen captures.

Sound
7.5

Good music, booming explosions and hilarious voice samples. You'll be hearing "Rocket Launnnnncha!" in your sleep for days.

Control
4

Plenty of control schemes to choose from, and not one of them is ideal. Wii-specific controls are mostly unusable, and the GameCube controller support only makes you yearn for the Classic Controller. GameCube controls would score an 8.5 on their own (the GC controller's buttons aren't ideal for mapping retro-style games like these, but the layout still works well), but the mostly horrible Wii-specific control schemes really bring the whole package down.

Gameplay
8

Using the right control method, Metal Slug Anthology's games are some of the best shooters ever made. They're incredibly fun, feature great character and enemy design, and deliver nothing but non-stop action. The bosses are huge and challenging, and beating any of these titles - even on Free Play - is an accomplishment.

Lastability
7.5

You have seven games to play through, several unlockables, and the option to play through with a buddy. You can put a lot of time into this title if you feel so inclined.

Final
6

A great selection of great games crippled by poor controls. Why Classic Controller support wasn't added is a mystery for the ages, but the GameCube controller is a reasonable (but not ideal) substitute. The Wii-specific controls should be used only if no other options are available. Not a whole lot of extras for a compilation, and the game's presentation is as vanilla as they come. The bottom line is if you can buy this game on another platform, do so and avoid all of the control issues.

Summary

Pros
  • Each game is a perfect translation of its arcade counterpart
  • Excellent 2-D graphics and humorous sound effects
  • Seven of the greatest run'n'gun games ever in one package
Cons
  • No support for Classic Controller
  • Very bare-bones for a compilation package
  • Wii-specific control schemes are almost entirely useless
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

CalibanApril 02, 2007

I think it deserves a 7, but if it did have Classic Controller support then I would have given it a 9.

ZapApril 02, 2007

laugh-ola no classic controller support... Must've been one of those 5th-string development teams Miyamoto was talking about

NephilimApril 02, 2007

Is there really that big difference between classic and gamecube control?

A lot of 2D action games like Metal Slug really don't work well with the weird button layout of the GameCube controller. They also tend to control better with a D-pad, but the GC controller's D-pad is tiny and very stiff.

My brother and I didn't have problems using the analog sticks. *shrug* Played through the entire thing in one VERY satisfying night, getting our money's worth right there and then. We just found a control setup we could live with, and enjoyed the game from there on in: I think the controller difficulties are a little exagerated.

~Carmine "Cai" M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

planetidiotApril 03, 2007

Not to mention the game doesn't even support the gamecube's d-pad. Unless you have an X-Arcade or some other stick where you can map the digital stick to analog, you are SOL. 3 seconds of testing with any fan would have raised all sorts of red flags on this.

Luigi DudeApril 03, 2007

I say you should have given this game an even lower score because SNK tryed to blame their own lazyness on Nintendo. Back in December there was some article on IGN with someone from SNK and they said the reason the game didn't use the Classic Controller was because Nintendo wasn't allowing third parties to use it right away because they wanted all attention on the Wiimote. But what SNK said was complete sh!t since Dragon Ball Z, which came out a MONTH EARLIER as a launch game used the Classic Controller.

I would have given the game a 1 just for that fact alone. It's one thing for a SNK to be lazy, but it's another for them to blame Nintendo just to cover their own sorry asses.

Luigi Dude, you're absolutely right. I never realized it, but Dragonball Z came out a week before MSA and it supports the Classic Controller. The whole "SNK Playmore (or Terminal Reality) didn't have permission from Nintendo to use the Classic Controller" defense doesn't fly. Like the rest of the game (e.g. the boring menus, the lame extras), the lack of CC support is pure laziness. With that in mind, I think that my 6.0 is generous.

The exclusion of Classic Controller support is inexcusable. When I first started playing MSA, in the spirit of giving a fair and balanced review I made sure to go through all of the Wii control schemes to try them out. I found that only one of them was usable, so I noted that and then thought "OK, now let's play this game the way it should be played, with a normal controller." I then looked in the manual and saw that only the GC controller was supported. You could have knocked me over with a feather. The fact that you couldn't use a CLASSIC controller for a compilation of CLASSIC games was astonishing. It was like saying, "Oh, we know you just bought this game for the Xbox 360, but all of control setups for the 360 controller suck so you'll have to use your old Xbox controllers". How silly is that?

Couple all this with the way SNK hyped up the specialized Wii controls, and you can see why I took a dump all over this game. It should have been released with GameCube Controller and Classic Controller support, period. It's been a long time since I've been as disappointed with a game as I was with MSA.

thatguyApril 03, 2007

Well, it's good to see that the score is low because the compilation is poor quality. I'm glad you rated the gameplay pretty high to show the contrast. I'll be getting the game eventually, but I'll make sure to remember my GC controllers when I do. Nice review.

WanderingApril 03, 2007

I'm not excusing the lack of classic controller support, but, from what I've played, I think flicking the wiimote to throw a grenade works pretty well. To say that you'd rather....*shudder*...use the gamecube controller....I mean, I'd sooner browse the internet on the Wii than use the Cube controller to control a 2d game.

planetidiotApril 04, 2007

Oh also also, it has no progressive scan support. So basically I've played this game about twice because I have to switch my TV over every time I play it.

No progressive scan support? I don't have a fancy-schmancy TV so I didn't even factor that in. Once again, WEAK.

At first I thought that throwing a grenade by flicking the wiimote was fine too, until I actually got into some really intense action for an extended period of time. By the time I had a couple of levels under my belt, my wrists were cramping up pretty bad. You throw a LOT of grenades in these games.

If you want to simulate the wiimote flick=grenade throw play style, play a gamecube game with a GC controller like you would normally, but sit there and shake the controller repeatedly as if you were making Shake'N'Bake. It gets tiring pretty quickly.

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Metal Slug Anthology Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Terminal Reality
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Metal Slug Anthology
Release Dec 14, 2006
PublisherSNK Playmore
RatingTeen
eu: Metal Slug Anthology
Release Mar 30, 2007
PublisherIgnition Entertainment
Rating12+
aus: Metal Slug Anthology
Release May 30, 2007
RatingMature

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