Review By: Brittany Vincent
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If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed shoot-em-up/brawler, the Metal Slug series has always been a safe bet. Its latest incarnation, Metal Slug 7, is no different. Released exclusively for the DS, it offers more of the same run-and-gun action you're used to, but without little twists to cater to the DS's more sensitive features such as the microphone and touch screen. No, the DS's latest entry into the Metal Slug series is devoid of any amenities you would expect a game on the little console that could to provide. Though it doesn't power the genre forward from its humble beginnings back in 1998, it's still an enjoyable 2D shoot-'em-up that is tons of fun, if you can get past a few of its bugs.
If you're interested in a story mode, there is little to tell here aside from the fact that it acts as a prequel to Metal Slug 4. Otherwise, there isn't much to attain from the story that, well, is nonexistent. All you really need to know here is the fact that baddies abound. Shoot them down, and you'll be fine. That's the best way to explain Metal Slug as a whole: shoot everything that moves. If it's onscreen, it probably needs to be blown away. If not, you'll find yourself losing yet another life. And another. And another. Because it only takes one hit to get you down.
When you choose mission mode, you can opt to play as one of six different characters, each with their own specialty. You can choose from Ralf, a CQC expert, Marco the balanced machine-gunner, Eri, the explosives and grenades specialist, Clark, throwing knives connoisseur, Fio the armor-piercer, and Tarma, deadly with tanks and fighter planes. Upon beginning a mission, you have unlimited ammunition for the character that you've chosen. In my playthrough, I went with Marco and the "normal" difficulty (there's Easy, Normal, and Expert). The top screen displays the action, while the bottom is reserved for a relatively useless map window that can be manipulated via stylus.
As stated before, the key word is to SHOOT. A myriad of soldiers clad in familiar green outfits, menacing mechs, and malevolent robots are always advancing. Once you've taken all of the enemies onscreen out, you will be prompted to move on via a "GO!" sign lit up at the top right of the top screen. Occasionally, you'll need to free some hostages who have found themselves caught by the enemy. Simply nearing them and pressing the same button you use to shoot with will free them by way of a bayonet. With a short "Thank you!" they'll scurry off to safety and will, perchance, leave treasures or special powerups. At the end of each level you'll be awarded point values for each captive you rescue, so it's important to rescue as many as you can.
When you aren't shooting or scurrying about for your life, occasionally you will need to jump. Sometimes the smallest of gaps will be the difference between life or death, though some gaps go unnoticed as you are continually running to the right to clear a stage. This can prove extremely annoying at times, especially when you don't know exactly when a jump is coming up. This brings us to another point - bugs. Three times during the first mission, I made a jump over a gap and my character, Marco, was stuck between the level's floor and the bottom of the screen. No amount of pressing buttons or wiggling the D-pad could remove him, either. This is quite unacceptable seeing as there isn't so much to the game that testing for glitches should be ignored, and extremely frustrating, as the occasional glitch ran rampant throughout the rest of the game.
Graphics are an interesting throwback to the old days of the arcade - you even have an "insert coin" and "continues" image to look at when you're trying to deduce how many lives are remaining. Lush 2D sprites abound, and when detailed machinery isn't trying to blow you to smithereens, it's really not bad to look at. Except there is no real progression here. It's the same Metal Slug we've always seen. It would have been nice to have seen some graphics that weren't just a typical retread of the entire seven game series, but what was provided was more than sufficient. As far music goes, it's your average driving beats designed to get you through the level. It is amusing to hear prisoners exclaim "THANK YOU!" and a "MISSION COMPLETE!" as you blaze through the game, but even that is fairly low-quality and sounds terribly muffled through the DS's speakers. If Final Fantasy IV can create great-sounding voiceovers, I'm sure Metal Slug can.
This is an extremely short, albeit challenging game. There are in total seven missions to complete. On the easiest difficulty it wouldn't be a surprise if you completed the game in less than an hour. However, if you ramp up how hard you're going to play the game can get extremely brutal extremely fast - but that's just how the series has always been. Still, for the price tag it's hard to recommend the game as a buy, especially since it is devoid of any special extras or even DS capabilities. You cannot even play through co-op in this iteration, which is sorely missed.
It's difficult to recommend Metal Slug 7 simply because of its pricetag. However, if money is not an issue, and you're a fan of the series, it's more of the same that you're most likely used to by now. Seven challenging levels, six characters to choose from, and good old retro arcade action is available in droves. Beware of the bugs, however, as they can quickly ruin a good time. If you're hungry for simple run-and-gun action and you don't mind spending the hefty pricetag for a very short gameplay experience, then by all means pick it up. Otherwise, borrow or wait for the inevitable Xbox Live Arcade release.
Posted: 2009-04-08 09:23:30 PST