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RELEASE DATE (NA): May 24, 1996 GENRE: Action
// review by SoyBomb

Go get 'em, slugger!

If someone was to ask the average gamer what the greatest run-n'-gunner of all time is, the most popular response would naturally be Contra. But the second most popular response would likely be one of the Metal Slug games (or possibly Gunstar Heroes, because that game is also awesome). The Metal Slug series is actually celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, so why not nourish its celebrity status with a look back at the game that started it all?

Metal Slug is (as you probably already guessed) a run-and-gun game, requiring you to make your way past a seemingly endless flurry of bravehearted soldiers and other weapons of massive destruction, such as well-armed helicopters, tanks, and ships. Oh, and you also have to survive. For any of us computer nerds, it's a daunting task; I doubt I would make it past the first opposing soldier before surrendering and proclaiming insanity. But for military men such as Marco Rossi and Tarma Roving, there is no turning back. Armed with a meager (but powerful nonetheless) weapon, you're basically sent out on your own (well, I guess the buddy system is great in 2-player mode) to fend off the legions of followers of General Morden in an attempt to prevent his yearning for a "New World Order" to come to full fruition.

But unlike Contra of 1987, Metal Slug of the mid-1990s has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Contra was all about raw gun firepower, and aside from a few additional weapon upgrades, you were most assuredly on your own. Metal Slug helps you out a little, though weapon upgrades (flame thrower, rocket launcher, etc. -- you know, the works); if you get close to an enemy, your character can perform a nifty melee attack to conveniently toss him out of your way. Also tied up along your path are semi-naked hostages that, when freed, will offer you goods for extra points or weaponry upgrades... from their boxer shorts. You know you want them, but you'd rather not know where they were being stored or for how long. And I'm sure at this point, some confused reader is wondering, "What the hell IS a Metal Slug?" Well, it's the SV-001, a giant tank that seems to appear during almost every mission, ready for you to board and demolish your enemy's bases. Why is it always just sitting there, you ask? Well... um... frankly, it makes no sense, but it does add some bonus firepower in times of great need. That is, until you take too many hits and have to eject yourself quickly.

Bullets are always flying... hopefully, they're mostly AWAY from you.

The action in this game is wild, to say the least. There's always that lingering feeling that a frantic situation will appear, but with the adrenaline rush that comes with the territory, you should be fully prepared for quite a ride. And why not enjoy the scenery while you're at it? Unlike many games of its genre back then, all backgrounds and sprites were hand-drawn and animated to perfection, resulting in an experience that goes down smooth like a digital gin. Metal Slug (and its sequels) all sport a more relaxed visual style with all characters, structures, and vehicles appearing more comical than its stone-faced brethren. It's nice to see a military game not take itself too seriously -- you'll easily notice the occasional pair of soldiers enjoying a rotisserie barbecue while awaiting your arrival, for example. The music has a military anthemic vibe, but you might be more focused on the humorous annoyed grunts of every soldier you kill.

Metal Slug is a killer game, bogged down only by its daunting difficulty for those not used to this high-energy, reflex-demanding genre. For those that love a solid action title, look no further than the original Metal Slug to get your heart racing and keep your trigger finger busy. And for those who lack a Neo Geo system (and there are more than a few out there), the Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii, PSP, and PlayStation 2 is the way to go (and it also features six other games in the series), or you might be able to snag it on the original PlayStation, via the PlayStation Network, or on WiiWare. It's everywhere, man. Yes, it is.

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