When asking someone about Neo Geo, you will invariably hear about Metal Slug. King of Fighters will likely be mentioned, and maybe Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, and Art of Fighting as well. While the legacy of fighting games on Neo Geo is indisputable, with King of Fighters donning the crown, with ten games on the platform (released each year between 1994 and 2003), the hardcore aspect of the platform is best reflected in the Metal Slug series. In order to preserve the spirit of 2D arcade gaming, I have photographed the television screen directly, which may explain the lower quality of the images here.
Having recently obtained Metal Slug 4 on Neo Geo AES, I decided to talk a bit about it. Of the games in this series which I've played, this fourth game is definitely the most action-packed. The previous ones feel more polished, but Metal Slug 4 is a spectacle of in-your-face action, explosions, firepower, and casualties.
From an early start, you find the Double Heavy Machine Gun (DHMG) upgrade, which makes its debut in this fourth installment of the series. I consider the Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) the most iconic Metal Slug weapon, possibly because I avoid continuing, always starting from the beginning once my credit is spent. This means that I often don't get to see the more exotic weapons in the game. Using the DHMG simply felt right. I'm surprised it took this long for them to figure out that in order to make the HMG better, you just have to add another one! Sure, it eats through your ammunition supply at an alarming rate, but it's still my favourite.
As far as the enemies and characters go, man oh man does it get crazy; pirates, zombies, mummies, mummy dogs, scientist which turn you into a monkey, yetis, and a bear who helps you fight yetis are all found in this game.
A new medal combo scoring system was added to Metal Slug 4, which awards bonus points based on kills scored within a short time interval. While score itself isn't nearly as important as actually finishing stages and beating bosses in this game series, it does add a sense of urgency which further accelerates the already relentless action!
In terms of audio, the sound effects have stayed largely the same; the announcer voice seems different slightly. I found the background music to be heavier than the other Slugs, better creating a sense of urgency.
Not much to say about the graphics. The Metal Slug series is, in my opinion, the best and most complex drawn 2D graphics, running on the best 2D arcade/home platform. Well done... well done. It features believable, yet cartoony buildings, and it creates a great feeling of immersion with its vibrant backgrounds. Everything (sprites, projectiles, vehicles) just makes sense, and fits really well together.
One thing I really like about Metal Slug 4 is its first level, and the way you must either destroy obstacles (such as dilapidated cars and trucks) or jump over them, since they are directly in your way. Let's be honest here, nobody is going to NOT destroy the cars. I think that just plowing through these defenceless vehicles and seeing them blow up and crumbling in front of you gives you a sense of progress, and a rush of excitement. I'm glad that the designers paid attention to even the animation frames of such cannon fodder obstacles.
In conclusion, Metal Slug 4 is filled with frantic run-and-gun action, possibly more so than its predecessors. Despite being more poorly received than others in the series, I believe it is a great game, and a worthy bearer of its legacy.