It’s a rare game franchise that can resist shifting preferences to stay popular but unchanging through seven releases, but the Metal Slug series has managed it.
The ageless series seems as much at home in today’s retro-styled indie culture as it did in its period beginning.
So let’s take a look at the Metal Slug series and how it has shot down the opposition.
The first instalment of the Metal Slug series was a game that was developed by Irem, a company that was already famous for producing games like R-Type, In the Hunt, and Gunforce. Metal Slug was a direct descendent of one of these games.
The former two gave birth to Metal Slug, which was created by former employees of Irem who had moved on to establish a new firm called Nazca Corporation.
It took the frenetic shoot-em-up gameplay style of the team’s prior games and coupled it with the knowledge gained throughout the production of those games to produce a final result that was pure, distilled excellence in terms of game design.
Metal Slug’s gameplay was presented in an aesthetic that is now iconic but will never go out of style, which helped the game become arguably one of the most comprehensive bundles in the gaming industry.
The strange name of the series comes from the Metal Slug tank, which also serves as the series’ mascot weapon and shares a name with another video game franchise with a similar moniker, the Metal Gear series.
Before the protagonists of the game were changed to human beings, this was going to be the primary entity that the player had influence over in the game.
The Metal Slug is still playable in the game’s first iteration, and it was soon followed by a whole variety of additional player vehicles, all of which were also referred to as “Slugs.”
The first version of the game was presented in 1996 for the Neo Geo arcade software and for its home consoles. However, throughout the course of the 90s, it was also ported to a variety of other platforms.
Metal Slug’s graphics and visual design were so outstanding that the game still looks great even now, as if it were an independent game that was just designed to seem like a vintage classic.
The style of Metal Slug is easily recognisable because to its massive, bulbous shape. It even brings organic curves and bulges to mechanised troops, which is quite a feat.
Fights against several of the game’s bosses and enemy machines are made more enjoyable due to the elegant complexity of their designs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the series has maintained a strong connection to that style across its numerous incarnations.
The first Metal Slug was a financial and critical success, and it was followed by Metal Slug 2 in 1998 and Metal Slug 3 in 2000. Despite this, the creators of the series, Nazca, merged with SNK before the release of the third instalment.
Character changes were introduced to the series by Metal Slug 2, along with a number of other improvements and new features. It was possible for characters to put on weight or turn into mummies, both of which had a significant impact on how they were managed.
The sequel, Metal Slug 2, was eventually reworked and published as the ultimate version, Metal Slug X, the following year.
The most significant improvement that Metal Slug 3 brought to the series was the addition of branching pathways, which made the game more fun to play several times.
Many people believe that Metal Slug 3 is the pinnacle of the series, the game that perfectly encapsulates all of the elements that make Metal Slug such an enjoyable experience.
SNK was in a precarious financial situation in the early 2000s, and the company finally filed bankruptcy, which compelled it to transfer the rights to many of its in-house intellectual properties (IPs), including the Metal Slug series.
After obtaining the rights to the Metal Slug property, the development companies Mega Enterprise and Noise Factory would go on to create Metal Slug 4, which would be their first instalment in the series.
Metal Slug 4 did not take any major risks and instead adhered very closely to the pattern that had been set by the creators of the series.
In contrast, it included a scoring mechanism that kept count of the number of adversaries vanquished within a certain amount of time, in addition to introducing a new metamorphosis and a number of new vehicles.
Metal Slug 4 was met with a response that was generally favourable, and it demonstrated, for the most part, that the new developers were able to replicate the previous team’s level of commercial success.
On the other hand, this would turn out to be the sole game produced during the interim period between SNK’s bankruptcy and its rebirth as Playmore Corporation, which would subsequently be renamed SNK Playmore.
SNK Playmore became the game’s developer once again for Metal Slug 6, having just repurchased the rights to the Metal Slug franchise.
Leaving the Neo Geo in the dust, this edition was designed for the Sammy Atomiswave arcade platform first, and then in the same year it was converted to the Playstation 2 console.
The narrative of Metal Slug 6, which included rebels and Martians, continued from where Metal Slug 3 left off. Metal Slug 6 offered two different difficulties, with the easy option providing players with more firepower at the penalty of the game ending sooner.
As is customary, a slew of brand-new vehicles appeared with some old favourites, and each playable character acquired access to a set of skills that were unique to them.
It may not seem revolutionary, but this was the first Metal Slug game to offer weapon swapping, which allowed players to carry numerous weapons at the same time. Players may switch between their weapons at any time.
The Future is Now
The year 2008 saw the release of the mainstream franchise’s most recent instalment. Metal Slug 7 was built for portable gaming and was released for the Nintendo DS. The game was produced once again by SNK Playmore.
Metal Slug 7 was the first game to utilise the twin displays of the Nintendo DS to include a touchscreen level map. This gave players an overview of the stage they were currently playing, which they could use to navigate around the level with more information available to them than in prior games.
After some time had passed, a revamped version of the game known as Metal Slug XX was created for the Playstation Portable and made available on Xbox Live Arcade.
This version completely redesigned and enlarged on the previous one, incorporating branching routes that increased the game’s replayability and harkened back to the alterations that were made in Metal Slug 3.
Even though this brings an end to the primary series, it is still important to discuss the many spin-offs, compilations, and remakes that have been released.
We won’t go into the specifics here, but Metal Slug has been adapted for a number of portable platforms as well as mobile games, with the latter having a particularly spotty track record. In its whole, the Metal Slug series encompasses more than 30 different video games.
Since the release of Metal Slug 7 in 2008, the primary Metal Slug series has been without a new instalment. Metal Slug, like its remote progenitor R-Type, is a game that belongs to a genre that is underrepresented in games of the current day.
Titanfall by Respawn Entertainment is an arcade-friendly 2D shooter that bears little similarities to games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. However, the game does have a whiff of the over-the-top action and ridiculous vehicles that can be found in other games.
It is more probable that players searching for a new Metal Slug will find it in the indie sector, in games ranging from Cuphead to more direct relatives like Blazing Chrome. A number of other vintage compilations include video games from the same time period as the original Metal Slug series.
Metal Slug may not be known for its history of radical invention, but the game still has a good deal of ammo to offer. The Neo Geo arcade brand has just had a resurgence in the form of the Neo Geo X, and SNK has also said that they have plans to release a Neo Geo 2 in the near future.
After a decade of games that were more peaceful than action-packed, it could be time for some sleek, stylized combat in the style of Metal Slug 8, which would be a logical companion to the platform.