Metal Slug 3
System: X-Box
Publisher: SNK Neo-Geo USA
Developer: SNK Neo-Geo USA
Released: May 2004
Genre: Side-scrolling Action
Capabilities: Memory Unit, Online Scoreboards

Review  Written: June 13, 2004

It’s good to see SNK back in the games business, and it’s even better to see them releasing their first title on Microsoft’s Xbox. For their debut Xbox title, SNK chose to port over 2000’s arcade hit, Metal Slug 3. It is the third installment of the side-scrolling 2D military action series. While certainly not a graphical powerhouse, it is one of the best damn animated sprite fests you’ll ever find to date. While the game doesn’t take all that long to complete, SNK did make sure to include a handful of extras for the console market.

MS3 is the first game of the series that ups the amount of selectable characters to four, where you can pick from Marco, Tarma, Eri, and Fio. The manual has a big three page description of the latest alien invasion to set up the storyline for the game, but there are no actual cut-scenes or anything of that nature to be found in the actual game, as you are automatically placed right in the beginning of the first mission as you start up the Arcade mode.

Arcade mode is the exact four-level port of the arcade version. Up to two players can team up throughout the entire game. Now MS3 isn’t just your regular run of the mill 2D action game, now you do start off with a weak handgun with an infinite amount of ammo and a limited supply of grenades like most other games in the genre. However, rescued hostages will grant you power-ups to the far-better machine guns, and rocket launchers. There are also other NPC’s that temporarily assist you throughout the game such as a diapered monkey, and even a rain cloud that fires off lightning bolts on your prey. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the monkey ally, as most computer opponents tend to overlook him altogether, and the monkey himself just fires one blast from his weak handgun every several seconds.

Besides running and gunning your way through levels, there are the patented Metal Slug machines such as the tank, sub, and mechs that you must commandeer. There is also a varied set of enemies in each of the four levels that offer quite a bit of variety in gameplay. The zombies you first run across in level two for example offer a bit of challenge, as if you come in contact with their clouds of vomit they hurl at you, then you yourself will turn into a zombie. One of the advantages of playing as a zombie is that instead of throwing a grenade, they will vomit up a big circular streak of blood, which is perfect for combating against aerial opponents!

Since this is a direct arcade port, the four levels of gameplay only take a handful of hours to fully complete. Now surely, I wouldn’t want to pay $40 for a game that is so short to beat, and SNK realized that too and included some extra content to tide us over. There are two extra side missions that are unlocked from beating Arcade mode. “Storming the UFO Mother Ship” is where you play as a soldier and attempt to rescue as many of your fellow comrades as possible and aid them in taking over the alien craft. Another bonus mini-game that is unlocked is dubbed, “Fat Island” where two players compete in blasting away countless enemies and trying to eat the many food power-ups they leave behind as to see who can reach the weight of 440 pounds first. These mini-games are nice little diversions, but their fun factor grows stale after going through them just a few times, and eventually I had my fill of them. Finally, there are online scoreboards via Xbox Live, to see where you rank with the top MS3 players around the world.

Now even though MS3 offers up an innovative 2D action game experience, it doesn’t escape the fact that it has its flaws. First off, since there are four characters, would it not have been ideal for there to be support for up to four players? The other nagging flaw in MS3 is its credits system. Once you use up your three (or up to five, depending on what you have your options set at) lives, and select to continue, you do not continue at that very point you left off at in the game. Instead, unlike the arcade version, you have to start off at the beginning of the level you were in. Imagine the agony after spending so much time trying to vanquish a boss, but end up on the losing end after he was so close to being destroyed and end up having to start the level all over again? This factor alone makes the game nearly unbeatable on the harder difficulty levels!

It would be unfair to compare the visuals of MS3 to any of the games out on the Xbox today. However, when comparing it to any other 2D sprite based, side-scrolling action game, the MS series was usually one of the best ones out there. The player models are big and finely detailed as far as sprites go, and the explosions were always an honor to marvel at. There are many different enemy models, and especially watching the zombies melt away after being lit on fire are a joy to these eyes. The audio effects are your typical action fare. All the gunfire, explosions, and blasts is what we are typically use to, and are even up to today’s standards I have to admit. Hints of nostalgia will be brought back as that classic voice-over is back that announces power-ups, and gives thanks from whenever you rescue a hostage.


Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 7.9
Gameplay: 7.2
Replay Value: 6.1

Overall: 7.0

This is still as much fun as I remember it at the arcades, and unfortunately, I think I’m going to stick to playing it there. The main arcade missions are done before you know it, and the lousy continue system doesn’t help matters that much more either. As I mentioned already, the extra missions are fun for a little while, but won’t hold your attention for all that long. In my view, it would have made more sense if SNK bundled two or three of the MS games in one package instead of just one. In the end, Metal Slug 3 is still the classic 2D action game we all know and love, but a rental at the very most will allow you to get the most out of this console release.


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