Metal Slug 3 is from a long franchise of 2D run and gun games known for their beautiful animation, graphics and over the top crazy sort of silliness. Sure you’re a hard nosed warrior with a gun trekking through hostile territory, but you’re facing not only well animated soldiers, helicopters and tanks, but giant crabs, yeti, gruesome zombies and squid aliens. In today’s video game landscape, zombies and aliens sound mundane like its almost expected now, but with Metal Slug 3’s fantastic graphics and animation, these enemies have a style that stands out from the pack. These zombies don’t just swarm you, they vomit on you and turn you into a zombie and die. These aren’t just aliens, they’re squid aliens with lasers and retro 1950s robot that you can turn into junk piles. Its a great level of detail that gives the game its overwhelming charm and enjoyment. You can even bring a friend with two player simultaneous online coop. You can even look for matches, but well, there weren’t any when I looked.
You’ve heard of NES hard, well then there’s arcade hard. You get three lives one hit means death. This version of Metal Slug 3 makes it easier with unlimited continues. You can select the amount of continues in the settings. Each continue doesn’t restart a level though, it only drops you back into the game. Every time you use your final life, a heavy machine gun icon drops to give you more incentive to pump in another quarter to even the odds against the enemies.
The controls are simple, you’ve got a jump, attack (shoot) and bomb throw buttons. You can’t just hold the attack button for rapid fire oh no, where’s the challenge in that? You need to keep pressing. Even with heavy machine guns and larger rapid fire weapons, one button press might release a lot of bullets, but those bullets end unless you hit the button again. If you’re close enough to something you’ll melee it instead of shooting. Its a nice level of detail to see. The sad part is that you seem to shoot in only four directions. I suppose I’m just used to Contra where you have 8 way shooting. Machine guns can still manage to shoot 8 ways, but only if you’re transitioning from left to up.
You start by selecting from one of four characters. These four characters feel important by the end of the game, or at least one does anyway. All which play exactly the same. The real challenge is that the characters just aren’t nimble. You’re there to shoot things dead, not dodge projectiles. You can still crouch and jump, but you can easily get overwhelmed. Metal Slug 3 doesn’t just let you ignore enemies, it will lock the screen in place until you take them out. They begin with a standard pea shooter pistol so its necessary to find bigger weapons and quick!
There are new weapons all over the place, and you get them by saving prisoners of war. When a bullet hits them, they’re released and pace around. You’re just so good that you manage to break them from their bondage without killing them. When you touch them, they reward you with extra bombs, points or weapons.
As for the weapons, you’ve got homing crush missiles, a shotgun so powerful that it can literally rip an asteroid in half, a heavy machine gun, some sort of bouncing projectile ball bearing gun and rockets to name a few. The arcade announcer will always tell you what you get and he specifically says rocket launcher with a deliberate accent, rocket lowncha. These great weapons have limited ammunition, but you can always find more. There is even a flame thrower that won’t just kill enemies, its engulfs them in flames. These caveman POWs are everywhere. You have a limited supply of 10 grenades that you throw. I always end up forgetting about them. You can even find monkeys with guns to help you and satellites or storm clouds to rain death on your enemies.
There are vehicles you can hop into, but for a loss of shooting accuracy, the vehicles can take a lot more damage than you can. If the vehicle’s health gets low, you can jump out or eject to keep from dying when the machine explodes. By loss of shooting accuracy I mean the turrets seem to rotate around. Like if you’re shooting right, then you move left, the turret will be angled diagonally right. The more you move less, the more the turret rotates. Its not like that with all vehicles, just most. The vehicles are a nice touch, I just feel like I’m better without them for the most part. Oh and its not just vehicles, its elephants and camels that you can mount.
Its not just side scrolling run and gun action though, certain segments of the game turn into top down vertical shoot’em ups and side scrolling shoot’em ups. It all fits the game. You’ll hop in a jet and fly to the right, if the jet explodes, you’ll come in on a jet pack. It always makes me laugh when I’ve forgotten about it. One stage has a swimming level that is just a side scrolling shoot’em up under water. Its the same for the top down shoot’em up as well.
The animation and detail hit a whole new level with the Metal Slug series. You’ll see a boat take visible damage and begin to sink. Soldiers will come out and start bailing the water with buckets only to have you shoot them. It explodes and sinks.
The enemies have a lot of flavor to them all with detailed animations. Soldiers won’t just run up to kill you, they’ll shoot, reload their guns, hit you with the butt of their rifle, crouch, prawn, get scared and run away. Its an amazing level of detail that makes the game fun and memorable. There are giant crabs that shoot bubbles at you. Plants that will chase and devour you if you get close enough. That’s why the game lets you get fat, so you can’t get swallowed! Even as a morbidly obese soldier, you can jump, and fire fat bullets and throw fat bombs. Yeti will freeze you into snowmen where you need to wiggle and jump to break free before they bash you with a bone hammer. Zombies will smash their own heads to have brain matter fly all over you. Its not just one type of zombie, there are several detailed zombies all with their own attacks.
When you become a zombie, you’ll move slow and have a drunken walk with a shallow jump. Instead of a grenade, you have a powerful almost screen clearing blood vomit. If you’re a zombie and you get hit, you’re still dead. For real this time and not just undead. Its all building up to something at the end of the game.
Its not all silliness, there are tanks, helicopters, deadly insects and several other forms of death in the game. The bosses are all giant and diverse. Everything from a super mega crab with guns, to aliens that circle around firing, before they start dropping monoliths from the sky to fighting giant hovering things that shoot white ghost wolves and belch purple energy! Its a lot of creativity and fun, all while sticking within the realm of the game’s logic. Like after fighting soldiers, aliens and zombies, you won’t suddenly fight a pink cow for the laughs.
These soldiers, aliens and zombies all tie in together brilliantly later on in the game. Metal Slug 3 doesn’t bore you with stories or cut scenes, you see everything unfold for yourself all in game. In fact, I’d say its one of the best stories for a run and gun I’ve ever seen and I hate story in games!
Even after you complete the game, you realize that there are different paths! So there’s incentive for when you go back and play through it! It all so nice, brilliant, fun and detailed. The game’s leader boards also help to keep you playing. There are even four levels of difficulty if the game is too baby for you. I still think its a lot tougher than Contra ever was, but this game was meant to eat your quarters.
I’ve got this game for several platforms, even for Android and X-Box. This feels like the best version for all its settings and great frills. There are several different settings, resolutions and even a gallery full of incredibly detailed if not horrific artwork. Well worth going out of my way to find them all.