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7.5 / 10
Brings back old school side scrolling shooter, with accompanying high challenge level
- Good graphical presentation that’s true to the original game
- Can use metal slug vehicles to annihilate the enemy
- Classic boss battles against mighty machines
Just five levels (with some hidden bonus levels)
- Only about five hours of gameplay
- Card collecting does nothing to affect the gameplay
"... the entire game can be completed in just a few
Contra may be considered the most famous “old school” 2D side-scrolling shooter, but right behind it is the Metal Slug series. Although Metal Slug “borrowed” heavily form the “soldiers vs. large enemies” gameplay the Contra originated, Metal Slug added a whole lot of hell-breaking-loose carnage, including major explosions and gunfire at every turn. The Meal Slug series actually returned last year with a vengeance to the Xbox and PS2 in Metal Slug 3 (a combo Metal Slug 4 & 5 will be coming next month). And now the series comes to the Game Boy Advance in Metal Slug Advance
(MSA), which doesn’t quite slug you with the same impressiveness of the console versions.
There’s really not much of a story to MSA, although there’s a three-paragraph intro in the game’s manual that explains about a generic government recruiting base in the South Pacific. You’re a new soldier recruit (you can pick either Walter Ryan or Tyra Nelson as your character. Each is rather scrawny by soldier standards: Ryan’s 5’9” and 172 pounds, while petite Elson is just 5’4” and weighs just 104 pounds. Guess they don’t make big, muscle-bound soldier recruits like they used to).
Pretty much, MSA throws worries about a story out the window and instead concentrates on massive amounts of gunfire, explosions and general mayhem, just what you would expect from its old-school shooter roots. Rocket launchers, shotguns, flamethrowers, and
Mech-type slugs give plenty a MSA a high-powered arsenal. Using the slugs gives you the chance to turn the metal table on your enemies by jacking the slugs (planes, tanks, and
Mech-style robotic-looking giant man-o-wars) and using them to your advantage in battle. That’s MSA’s great charm: for those looking for a great handheld shooter that packs a major action punch, MSA is a perfect fit. Concentrating solely on shooting everything in sight, MSA provides plenty of shooting action that old-school gamers will appreciate, including the Big Boss battle at the end of every stage that will test your shooting game skills.
With only five levels to play, there’s not a lot to MSA. But this is not only old-school in its
gameplay, it is old-school in its challenge difficulty too. Face it, games including Metal Slug were a lot tougher and more challenging to defeat back in the day, and MSA doesn’t wuss out by lowering the difficulty level for today’s gamer (although there are two difficulty settings to choose, even the “normal” setting is a hellacious challenge). It’s a good thing that MSA is so tough, because there are only a few hours of gameplay necessary to invest to
actually get through the entire game, which is okay if you’re only looking for a day’s worth of gaming diversion, but doesn’t endear itself to those looking for a game that has a lot of replay value.
One mistake that SNK made is trying to reach out to the Pokemon generation by including card collecting as part of the
gameplay, like that’s supposed to be such a huge selling point. The game has cards for all the prisoners that you save, and other items that power up your guns and health. While the health and weaponry upgrades kick in right away, the prisoner cards don’t affect the gameplay on bit, and seem merely included a replay excuse (can’t
picture too many gamers saying “can’t stop playing until I get that last prisoner card!”). Card collecting is a totally unnecessary addition that wasn’t needed or if it was deemed necessary, should have made a bigger dent on the gameplay somehow.
Graphically, MSA retains the classic look of the Metal Slug series, and that’s impressive. The characters are detailed in their 16 & 32-bit glory, as is the entire visual package. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to appreciate the look of the game on the small GBA screen, which just doesn’t do the MSA visuals justice due to their onscreen smallness.
While its old school side-scrolling shooting action may not appeal to younger gamers, an older
GBA-playing crowd will appreciate Metal Slug Advance and its high challenge level. But the entire game can be completed in just a few hours, and the card collecting aspect of the game added in to appease the Pokemon crowd does absolutely nothing to increase either the fun or gameplay element of
MSA. Okay for a few hours of diversionary shooting action on a plane, train, or automobile ride, but don’t expect MSA to do much more than that.