Metal Slug 7 DS
I may as well admit this before I go any further. I am not particularly good at the Metal Slug games. I die a lot, retry a lot, and use up my continues in quick succession. Regardless, I still enjoy playing the titles, and relished my time with pretty much all the predecessors leading up to this effort. However, I will say this love of the series did not instantly carry over to Metal Slug 7. In fact, immediately after the first time I ran out of continues (mission 2 on normal – see I told you I sucked!), I powered down my DS and pocketed it for quite some time, as the game seemed to lack that usual special feeling.
If you have not played a Metal Slug game before, which is an amazing feat in itself seeing as a version is available almost everywhere, it is best described as a twitch run and gun shooter – one in which high-speed reactions are king. You almost always die if you come in contact with a bullet or other projectile, unless you are aboard one of the many vehicles in the game, of which there is one available on almost every level. When in one of these, a life bar pops up, which will deteriorate as you take hits, before signalling you to jump out when it is about to explode.
Under these circumstance, the games throws a veritable bucket load of enemies your way over the course of its missions, and it is up to you, and you alone, to take them down. You do this by tackling them head-on with your selection of guns, which can be temporally upgraded by nabbing pick-ups on each of the levels, and moving about with lightspeed reactions to dodge anything they throw your way.
As always, there is a story in there too, which will go over the head of most people. This time it’s all about a bloke called General Morden, mixed up with a little bit of time travelling, along with a Stargate type thing that looks like it was ripped directly from the TV show of the same name. The zaniness of the story does not matter though, as you come to Metal Slug for the gameplay, not for an excellently scribed tale.
So, best talk about that gameplay then. In the move to DS the 15 year old formula has not changed much. The core gameplay remains the same, with the only unique feature of the DS implemented being the touch screen, which is used sparingly as a map. Initially, the inclusion of a map in a game where you constantly move in a singular direction may seem silly, but with the realisation it is used to find prisoners hidden off-screen, it becomes a nice, albeit still somewhat half-hearted addition.
Other than that, the rest of the game is very familiar. The set of characters on show is directly carried over from Metal Slug 6, with Marco, Tarma, Fio, Eri, Ralf, and Clark back for another go. Each of the characters have their own strengths that series aficionados will use to their advantage. For example, Marco’s starting weapon will always have twice the ordinary strength of other characters guns, and Eri will have extra grenades when starting a level. There is no co-op on show at all this time though, so you’ll have to venture through the mission with your sole character of choice all by your lonesome.
It should be noted that the missions on show, of which there are 7, are not as clean looking as some of the games in the past, but they are still certainly above just being serviceable. Almost all of them are nice to look at visually, but none ever stand out as being particularly unique in terms of gameplay, which is something we’ve grown to expect from the series in the past.
Apart from the final boss, almost all the boss encounters are not all that memorable. The beautiful animations are also toned down this time around, with none of the characters boasting the intrinsic little touches other titles had. Furthermore, framerate glitches and other technical issues crop up at points throughout the game, which further tarnish things.
All in all, MS7 is certainly a Metal Slug title at heart, although it seems to lack some of the core charm possessed by other entries in the series. Right now I don’t have any real urge to want to return to the game, even though I have just finished it for the first time a few short hours before writing this. Conversely, I am still happy to replay many of the older games in the series years after their initial release, so that really points to something being amiss this time around.
Nevertheless, what we’ve ended up with is still a highly playable version of Metal Slug on the DS, and regardless of the steps back to suit the hardware, the end result is not all that bad. You can’t help but wish for more, although for any game to be truly special on its eight iteration is a very big ask.