Arcade veterans have a love hate relationship with the Metal Slug series. They love the addictive gameplay, insane weapons, and over-the-top action. On the other hand, they hate the cheap quarter-eating tactics which are holdovers from the arcade era. The $9.00 PSN Metal Slug 2 re-release exemplifies this, and adds a ton of slowdown on top of that which dampers what would be a near-perfect arcade shooter.
The mechanics are simple: You have a button for grenades, shooting your weapon, and jumping that you use to kill enemies while dodging shots. The artillery reigns in from very direction, which makes for one of the most chaotic and twitch-based games of all time. You will be challenged.
Taking out baddies stays varied and interesting throughout the game due to the large number of weapons and vehicles. The shotgun blasts away multiple enemies, the laser zaps an entire enemy line with one shot (or you fire a continuous beam that destroys vehicles quickly), and you can pilot a jet on which other players can ride. Players can also eject from the plane and sending it crashing into enemy targets Kamikaze-style. The destruction that your solider causes is quite remarkable.
That said, the game does show its age in some places. The cutesy (yet hardcore) hand-drawn graphics become really pixelated during intense combat, and constant slowdown is extremely annoying. The game isn’t by any means unplayable, but it is frustrating, and makes what would be an extremely polished and great game an average title. Why SNK Playmore didn’t fix this problem for the PSN re-release baffles me. There aren’t any HD alterations made to the game which is a bummer, especially since other old school re-releases tend to improve the graphics a bit.
Playing with a friend is optimal. The game is a bit easier with two people and adds a level of coordination to the madness. Players have to smartly manage and share power-ups, and plan strategically to take out enemies quickly. All the action on the screen is matched by an energetic soundtrack filled with heavy guitar riffs, and classic arcade sounds. Network support is also included making it even easier to team up with someone.
Overall, Metal Slug 2 is a decent shooting game that serves as an enjoyable history lesson. However nostalgia alone isn’t enough to make me erase its flaws. The brutal difficulty is only magnified by the horrible slow down, and makes this a tough purchase to recommend. At $9.00 it’s truly a hard pill to swallow, but if you’re a purist I doubt any of this matters.