Players: 1 [or 2-player via Ad Hoc]
Price: $39.99
Developer: Terminal Reality
Publisher: SNK/Playmore
ESRB: Teen [violence, blood]

I’ve always loved Metal Slug games: they gave players a sense of hard-knuckled adventure and over-the-top challenging action like no other side-scroller on the market. Metal Slug – named after the in-game heavy armored tank that players can mow down enemies with – offered all kinds of fantastic platform scenarios and various weapons and vehicles to use. The side-scroller showered gamers with cartoon-style animations and great looking painted backdrops. The series has come a long way over the years, and while gameplay additions have been minor, they have been (mostly) acceptable. It’s the same way for this 10th anniversary collection for the PSP.

If you need more depth or reason to take interest in this game, then keep on reading. But if you know what Metal Slug is and you want to play Metal Slug 6 on the PSP, then don’t bother reading reviews about a series of games that hasn’t changed much over the years...just buy it. I’ll admit that Metal Slug 4 has always been the black sheep of the group, and as a standalone was not worth the bother. But with the anthology offering up seven games with a 2-player Ad Hoc option intact, save-anywhere feature and more projectile fire than any single Bruce Willis movie, Metal Slug: Anthology is the complete collection for fans of the series.

I’ll try to sum up the experience you’ll retrieve from the collection, as simple as possible. And it starts with the ridiculously funny, sometimes witty, and mostly campy story about a group of soldiers (e.g., Marco Rossi, Tarma Roving, Eri Kasamoto and Fio Germi who are later joined by Nadia Cassel and Trevor Spacey) who must battle a Saddam Hussein-esque dictator, Mars People (literally from outer space), zombies, and the typical cyborg terminators. Metal Slug 3, in my opinion, is the best Metal Slug in the series. The game is still completely frantic, fast-paced and the multiple routes offered up tons of replay (and I’m talking about the one on the PSP anthology). I loved the way the game had players flying into space with the soldiers; battling the aliens all the way up to their mother ship, where a final assault is amassed against the brain behind the alien assault. Everything came together in Metal Slug 3 that could have proven to be an excellent way to end the series. However, there’s still Metal Slug 4 to spoil some of the fun.

MS4 isn’t a bad game by a long shot. It controls like the rest of the games in the series, and plays just fine on the PSP. But compared to the previous (and later) entries in the series, Metal Slug 4 is probably the least favorable. The pacing was shallow, the ending wasn’t quite as expansive, and the entire thing just seemed like a tack-on to Metal Slug in general. Thankfully, MS5 and MS6 were far better than the miscreant that is Metal Slug 4. Positive weapon and vehicle additions, alongside better multiple routes made the latter two games an easy redeemer for the Metal Slug series.

Also, this is the first time Metal Slug 6 will be appearing on a North American handheld, and I should note that if you haven’t played this game in the arcades you might be pleasantly surprised to know about the new additions to the game. While Metal Slug 5 introduced the mech version of the heavy armored attack vehicle, Metal Slug 6 introduced two characters from KOF fame: Ralf Jones and (according to the MS Anthology) Clark Still. Um, but King of Fighter fans know that it’s Clark Steel. Anyway, the cool part about these two guys is that they keep some of their famous specials from the classic fighting series. Ralf has his blazing fist combos and Clark can body-throw enemies, just like from KOF. It definitely mixes up the gameplay and adds a necessary flair to the stagnating character selection.

The music and sound effects in the anthology are the same tried and true themes that echoed throughout the arcade halls. Offering gamers the purposely cheesy overtures, and raucous explosions and screams we’ve come to love from the franchise. The graphics in all of the games are as cartoony and appeasing as always. If you’re not into well-animated sprites, though, you probably won’t be thrilled with the visuals in any Metal Slug game. But fans of the series shouldn’t be disappointed with the compact graphics found on the PSP...especially with the overly-animated Metal Slug 6.

All in all, it’s every Metal Slug – except for 4 – that makes the anthology a fun reminder of why SNK kept the series going for as long as they have. With the exception of the PSP’s load times (mostly for rom/bios checking), and plentiful but uninspired extras, this collection is a darn good effort from SNK. So if you need a fun side-scrolling shooter to pass some time while you’re alone or via Ad Hoc, Metal Slug: Anthology provides you with seven of them. I can’t say everybody will love this series, but SNK fans definitely shouldn’t pass this one up.

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