Metal Slug Anthology Wii Review

One of videogaming’s best kept secrets, with original NeoGeo copies fetching unreal sums of money on eBay, the Metal Slug series celebrates its 10th birthday this year with the release of this anthology, ported to every format that will allow it – and for a reasonable price too.

A particular interest is shown in this – the Wii version. A console that has already proven its worth at handling hardcore shooters; Gunstar Heroes on the Virtual Console being a standout, the only thing that could go wrong is if the team responsible for the port decide to shoehorn in some Wiimote functionality, when the Metal Slug series really doesn’t need any.

Seven perfect ports, running all the incredibly detailed animation the series is known for, loads of unlockables to keep you busy and replay value coming out of the wazoo, so why did they almost ruin everything by adding some truly ridiculous controls?

Most of the configurations are utterly useless hybrids of the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, ranging from the interesting “use the remote like an arcade stick” one to the “what the hell were they thinking” one where you have to move the remote to move your character, with the UP direction on the dpad to jump. The only real workable setting is the default, which lets you turn the ‘mote sideways, like a NES pad, and battle through the waves of enemies using 1 and 2 to jump and shoot. This would be absolutely perfect if it wasn’t for the fact that you have to SHAKE the remote to throw your grenades! It’s a method that reeks of the kind of gimmickry Nintendo spent a year trying to shed from people’s perception of the DS and, perhaps worse, simply isn’t quite as responsive as you’d like it to be. Just try dodging a hail of bullets during a particularly chaotic boss fight and fire off a few grenades in quick succession. It is a mess, and usually results in you losing another precious life, although how else they would implement this grenade throwing is another question altogether, and one that outlines one of the problems with Nintendo’s new controller. What button would make the most sense? The A button? That would come at the expense of movement, unless you have such a long thumb on your right hand that you can keep your left thumb on the dpad the entire time. What about B? It’s under the pad for starters, and could be a tad too unintuitive for a game played at such a high pace. Metal Slug is hardly the most complex game, but strip out the ‘waggle’ and the Wiimote has difficulty coping with the action – hopefully, not a sign of things to come in future games. Interestingly, you can’t use the classic controller on this game, which is the perfect pad for this kind of game. You can, however, always use the Gamecube pad, but unless you are planning on playing Resident Evil 4, you shouldn’t have to.

The presentation is functional at best, which always seems to be the way with these Ignition ports of SNK games – lazy menus that look at odds with the otherwise beautiful 2D art and animation. The unlockables at first appear to be excellent additions to the package, from art galleries to an interview with the developer. Sadly, this ‘interview’ isn’t a video or even an audio clip, but a page or so of on screen text that just screams ‘DISAPPOINTMENT’ at you. Still, despite these issues, the overall quality of the games shine through. Easily seven of the best shoot ’em ups you can get hold of, each one of them bringing their own cacophony of destruction to your screen.

Perhaps the big selling point – certainly for fans of the series, at least – is the inclusion of the latest game in the series; Metal Slug 6. After the relative staleness of 4 and 5 (especially after the magnificent series highlight that is Metal Slug 3) 6 is a return to form. Obviously, to expect any radical gameplay changes would be foolish, but the smaller ones – such as the ability to store and change weapons and a difficulty select – make the game more accessible to newcomers, while experts can revel in the new depth provided by working out which weapon is best for the situation. It’s actually the perfect starting point in the Metal Slug series and an excellent addition to this anthology.

For fans of the series, Metal Slug Anthology represents the definitive collection of the games. For those less versed in SNK’s premier blaster, this is a baptism of firepower that at its most intense, even Gears of War and Halo can’t match. Unfortunately for Wii owners, the gimmickry of the console’s controller has been forcibly and poorly implemented, detracting from an already excellent game rather than enhancing the experience with motion controls. Much like the first year of the DS, it’s a teething process, working out what works best with what game and when NOT to use it, rather than throwing in a bunch of gesture controls simply because you can.

Of course, you can always just plug in a Gamecube controller and have, quite literally, a blast.

Should have been a perfect fit, but some design conflict between the software and hardware mean that this isn’t the definitive version of the definitive collection.

7 out of 10
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