Retro Coin Op Synopsis
In a world of 3-D first-person shooters and one-on-one fighting games, the Nazca Corporation and SNK went for a little retro, 2-D side-scrolling combat action in 1996’s Metal Slug. This was no cheapskate graphical shortcut, however. Metal Slug packed every frame with vibrant cartoon graphics, mixing action and comedy into one quick-shooting whole.
There were no difficult concepts or controls to learn. One button made our commando heroes jump, another made them shoot, and a third launched a grenade. The object: rescue P.O.W.’s, shoot the mess out of anyone or anything that got in your way. It was a complete downshift from the combo moves, secret rooms/bosses and other complex tricks filling most of Metal Slug’s game contemporaries.
Not that anyone complained that Metal Slug was too easy… The game launched literally hundreds of enemies in your direction, and each progressive level was capped off by a bigger and deadlier boss—tanks, battleships and other mechanical monstrosities. At the center of this firestorm were two lonely soldiers—Marco and Tarma, combat specialists who didn’t seem to mind the odds against them. The pair fought their way through the game’s stages with a knife, gun, power-ups (machine gun, rocket launcher, flame gun, etc.) and with the mother of all weapons, the Metal Slug itself.
The title machine was a stubby tank with strong armor and a powerful cannon. Once Marco and Tarma ran across a waiting Metal Slug at various points in the game, they hopped in to unleash some well-deserved devastation. The Metal Slug was still no match for the ultra-tough bosses, but even when things got desperate, the Slug had a final trick to pull. By pressing both the shoot and jump buttons simultaneously, the tank activated its “Metal Slug Attack,” charging into the enemy as Marko and Termo leapt free.
As frantic as Metal Slug often got, Nazca gave players plenty of reasons to simply stop and enjoy the sights. Characters and backgrounds were lushly animated, and beyond that, they had personality. Enemies screamed and fled if he action got too intense, and they even laughed when your character died. The game’s sense of humor balanced out the sheer fury of having to press the fire button so many times, and gamers kept coming back for more.
That sense of humor carried over into the game’s sequel, Metal Slug 2, released in 1998. Three more Slugs were added to the game, one of which was a well-armed camel (the other two were a Harrier jet and a robotic SlugNoid). Two female characters were also added to the mix, but the game remained a one- or two-player affair.
Metal Slug 2 took gamers on six new missions, ranging from an underwater sequence to one in the Middle East. Gameplay remained as elegantly simple as ever, but with one major innovation. Hundreds of video games have used food items to restore lost energy, but Metal Slug was the first to introduce the concept of overeating. If Marko, Termo or the ladies overdid it on the food intake, they ballooned up into fat versions of themselves. The chubbier, slower soldiers then had to huff and puff their way (literally) through the stage until they found a handy “diet” item.
One year later, SNK released Metal Slug X, an upgrade to Metal Slug 2. Much remained the same, but a few tweaks were made to work out problems in the original, and just to keep things fresh, the game changed the end-of-level bosses. Metal Slug X also added mummification to the list of dangers facing our brave heroes. If your character got mummified, he or she could only fire a slow version of the basic gun until the proper elixir was found. It was an odd addition to an action game, but that was part of the Metal Slug charm.
Players still loved their polygon-driven shooters, fighters, etc., but everyone needs a change of pace now and then. Metal Slug offered a welcome one, and with Metal Slug 3 keeping the franchise alive and well in 2000, this particular brand of quirky, yet manic gameplay shows no sign of slowing down.
Arcade Machine Release History1996 - Metal Slug
1998 - Metal Slug 2
1999 - Metal Slug X
2000 - Metal Slug 3