Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Metal Slug Is Advancing On Your Position

I've already written about how impressive it is that SNK was able to condense Metal Slug down into a Neo Geo Pocket Color game in 1999, but since then there have been quite a few portable Metal Slug games. Immediately following Metal Slug 1st Mission there was 2nd Mission, also on the Neo Geo Pocket Color, but then the company collapsed and it took a bit for the next to come along. In 2004, Noise Factory, the company best known for Rage of the Dragons and the later Power Instinct games, though they also assisted in developing Metal Slug 4 and 5, made Metal Slug Advance for the Game Boy Advance. This title expanded on the tweaks originally started in the NGPC games.

The most impressive thing about Metal Slug Advance is just how much of the arcade games it retains. The sprites, the high level of animation, the big enemies and giant bosses, most importantly the precise controls sense of action are all there. The total size of the screen may be smaller due to the lower resolution, but the difference isn't so great as to leave the player feeling cramped, and it allows for all of the great detail that gives the series it's trademark character to be maintained. Of course, it isn't perfect. I don't think there is ever quite as much stuff on screen as in the arcade games, and sadly there is no over-the-top blood and gore when killing enemies.

Like 1st Mission, Advance also incorporates a life bar instead of a set number of lives. There are also a good deal of healing items found throughout the missions or given to you by POW's. This makes taking a hit not a super annoying embarrassment, and it allows the game to continue to flow in spite of your mistakes. It is also just a lot friendlier. The game has five missions, which, once unlocked, can be selected and replayed at any time between missions. Each stage is separated into quite a few subsections, which is convenient because these separations also act as checkpoints. The player is given infinite continues, so the checkpoints are nice because if you have trouble with one section and keep dying, you don't need to keep replaying the entire mission.

Five missions isn't a whole lot, but the game encourages replayability with the card system. While playing through, the player can pick up or earn cards, which are accessed between missions. The only way to retain these cards is to not die between getting them and ending the mission, which demands the sort of perfection the series is known for. I like this because it lets people who aren't so good at the game to go through it, but it provides incentive for those with the necessary skill and drive to take the game more seriously. The cards aren't just worthless little cosmetic things either, they can grant special abilities and access to special Slugs, AKA cute little tanks that can murder the shit out of your enemies.

The story is pretty charming as well, even though it doesn't include Marco (bit of trivia, his full name is Marchrius Dennis Rossi, how awesome is that), the main character of the series. The player has the choice of Walter or Tyra, new military recruits that are on a training mission that gets interrupted by a real war. On the cover Walter looks like a serious man about to go into battle, which must make smiling Tyra a goddamn psychopath. So, Metal Slug Advance is a solid Metal Slug game and I would recommend it, especially to people that are new to Metal Slug. Even though nowadays the portable market is flooded with Metal Slug games, with 1 through 7 and X all playable on PSP with Metal Slug Anthology and Metal Slug XX, I still like to go back to Advance every once in a while.

This image sums up my experience with every Metal Slug game ever.

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