Chances are you’ve seen or played at least one of the Metal Slug titles back in the day when they ruled arcades on the Neo-Geo. But if you haven’t, you’re missing out on some of the most fun and zaniest videogames ever conceived. SNK/Playmore’s bizarre run ‘n gun franchise has always been a great counter to Konami’s more serious Contra series, and now Metal Slug 3, which originally debuted way back in 2000 as a last gasp effort on the aged Neo-Geo (and for the original SNK), is available for brave iOS and Android users. While casual gamers may find some fun here, clunky touch controls practically guarantee that only the most dedicated hardcore gamers will be able to slug their way through to the final credits.
In Metal Slug 3, you get to choose from four zany military characters who fight to save the world from enemy militia guys and aliens attempting to take over the world. Dealing with these two enemy factions also means fighting some crazy bosses, which range from giant tanks and mechs, to huge creature-like beings and structures. Along the way, you’ll find crazy power-ups such as turning fat from eating too much food the enemies drop (but increases the damage your weapons cause), or becoming a zombie and using puke to take out foes. Of course, there’s the standard weapons you can upgrade to like the shotgun and missile launcher, as well as “slug” vehicles like the Metal Slug tank and Mech Slug. You’ll also find plenty of prisoners to rescue that will drop ammo and other items for your character and slug machines as you progress.
While the controls are simple, they’re a bit difficult at the same time, which I’ll get into later. There’s your virtual joystick on the left side of the touchscreen that you use to maneuver your character around, while jump, shoot, and grenade buttons are featured on the right side along with a pause button that gives you a break from the action while also letting you configure your options such as joystick and button placement, video options, etc.
Now I say the controls can be difficult because the Metal Slug games were meant to be played with a physical controller, as they require pinpoint precision when the action heats up. As any touchscreen gamer knows, virtual controls aren’t exactly the most precise around. So while the controls are accessible enough for some casual fun, serious players are bound to get frustrated when accidental button presses and movements become the norm in the insanely – yet fun – heated boss battles, which is made worse by the fact your character dies from one hit when not in a vehicle. Even with several difficulty levels, even on easy it’s tough with just three lives and five continues.
Thankfully, there’s a mission select mode where you can choose any level you want to get some much-needed practice on getting through them before playing all of them together on the main mission mode. And if you have a friend nearby, there’s a multiplayer co-op mode where you can connect via Bluetooth with another player and tackle the missions together.
Not all is gloom and doom here, as Metal Slug 3 is easiest one of the best looking titles to grace a portable device, despite being a tad blurry on the Retina Display-packing new iPad (version reviewed). It’s not too distracting though, as you’re guaranteed to enjoy all of the amazing details and fluid animation on the characters, enemies, and backgrounds while fighting your way through. The sounds are also right on point, as the catchy music, agonizing death screams from slain enemies, and gunfire all ring in loud and clear.
Metal Slug 3 is one of the coolest arcade ports I’ve seen on iOS and Android devices, but the iffy touchscreen controls keep it from being one of the best ever. It’s remarkable that a 12-year old game still manages to be as visually impressive as it ever was, but that’s the power of meticulous hand drawn sprites for you. Insanely-detailed artwork, fluid animation, perfect sound effects and a rocking soundtrack make this as perfect an arcade port as you’re likely to find in every area minus the one that counts the most – the controls. As it stands, for a $7 universal app that’s difficult to control, only the most hardcore of gamers or those who enjoy extreme challenges need only apply for slugging it out on this title.
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