Believe it or not Metal Slug 7 is the first “proper” Metal Slug game I’ve played – it’s a series I have admired from afar for some time. The Metal Slug games always look lovely (I am a fan of pixel art) but for some reason I’ve never had a chance to enjoy them for myself. Metal Slug 7 is the latest in a long line of arcade style platform shoot ’em ups. This time bringing the series to the Nintendo DS.
The series has been around for many years starting in the arcade and then visiting pretty much every major console format. You play the part of one of a selection of marines, each with marginally different abilities, as you run and jump and shoot the hell out of a 6 sizeable levels.
The game has changed little from it’s arcade roots. It makes little use of the DS’s dual screens, opting for a simple map on the bottom screen, and the action and enemies are relentless – in some stages overwhelming.
I must admit I found the lives and restarts system a little archaic. The system is copied almost directly from the arcade. the game has one hit kills. 2 deaths and you use a credit (continue). 9 credits and you have to start again. Unfortunately this is all rendered pointless by a level unlocking system that let’s you pick the level you start from which means the only thing that’s really effected is your score.
Personally I would have liked to have seen a proper health bar and lives system. If they remove the credits and add health and life pickups it would make the game a lot more accessible to the more casual game buying public (DS users?) – and would also give less advanced users the opportunity to complete the game on a single credit.
Because of the saves system the easy difficulty can be finished quite quickly – but there are two more to go. There is also the “Combat School” mode which gets you to replay the levels using different objectives (eg complete stage 1 without dieing and kill everyone). With the credits/ restarts removed I found this to be a lot more challenging than the main game and can see it appealing to hardcore gamers and fans of the series.
Visually the game captures the spirit of the Metal Slug series very nicely. I may not have played the games before but I have admired the artwork for some time. Being on the DS things have been scaled down but everything is clear and easy to understand and the sprites are still surprisingly detailed.
The variety in the levels is good. Spread around are 5 “Metal Slugs” which are actually vehicles for you to travel in. They are most often robots but there are a couple of others as well. These vehicles give you some protection from the enemies and some additional fire power. They also stop the game from being the same thing with different backgrounds. There are also other interactions you can have such as a parachute level later on.
The bosses clearly deserve a mention as well – they’re big. Very big! They’re as creative as you would expect from a game such as Metal Slug and they serve to bookend the levels very nicely.
I think Metal Slug is a really nice game, but I am slightly concerned that the majority of DS users will not understand or appreciate it as they should. This is definitely a more hardcore game than the average DS fare – however as a middlecore gamer (between casual and hardcore) I found it a pleasant change of pace from the games I have been playing recently.