The run and gun is the genre filling countless testosterone-induced boy’s joy with dreams of saving the world with only their guns and explosions. Starting with Ikari Warriors and Contra following suit in the mid-80s, the genre continued to impress audiences in the 90s with Gunstar Heroes, Sunset Riders, Alien Soldier, and Nazca’s (a company made up of former Irem developers) Metal Slug.
After the success of the first Metal Slug, SNK purchased the company before releasing Metal Slug 2. The game suffered from a tremendous amount of slowdown and several other issues. Nazaca responded to this updating MS 2 into Metal Slug X.
But fast forwarding to the year 2000, various arcade companies were on their last legs in an era where 3D has taken over the market. Correspondingly, SNK was noticing the writing on the walls that the end was near. As a result, Nazca prepared for the inevitable. Making sure they said their goodbyes to audiences worldwide by releasing the fourth installment in the Metal Slug series and the magnum opus of the Run and Gun genre, Ladies and Gentlemen, Metal Slug 3.
Metal Slug 3, released on the Neo Geo back in March of 2000. This was Nazca’s swan song and one of the final games SNK released before their bankruptcy the following year (The other being King of Fighters 2000).
After saving the world from General Morden and the Mars People, Marco and the gang return ending Morden’s Army. But a strange phenomenon occurs when the enemy is beyond organized than they originally conceived. Leading Marco and the gang to find out the real perpetrators behind this.
If you’ve played previous Metal Slugs, fortunately you’re in luck! the controls have not changed since the first game. Equally important, the option to choose from 4 characters: Marco, Tarma, Fiolina, and Eri is still here too. Though, there is no difference between any of them, it’s just a matter of personal preference until the second act of Mission 5.
Additionally, as with previous entries in the franchise, the game offers five different levels. At the same time, the game offers players the ability to choose from numerous routes in the middle of each stage,concluded by fighting the same boss at the end of each stage. This was trending in the genre since Hard Corps. This is probably what makes this game unique is that it offers players outstanding replay value.
Whether its fighting yetis and zombies while riding on an elephant that blows fire out of his trunk, up in the sky with an ostrich killing hundreds of people, destroying enormous snails and weird beetles, and diving underwater on a sub and killing giant crabs. In either case, all the different routes have their own unique flavor, making players appreciate how much effort Nazca put into the game.
Interestingly,the game borrows from aspects of the levels from unused levels from Metal Slug X discovered inside the game’s debug menu. At the same time, the last level is split into 4 different sections which makes for one satisfied experience but, I won’t spoil that.
Moreover, Metal Slug 3 introduces players to new items, slugs and transformations that will travel beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Firstly, the game introduces a few new slugs, countless that are exclusive to a certain route, including an ostrich slug, a submarine, a drill slug, a rocket ship, a Jetpack, and my favorite one, an elephant slug that can blow fire and electricity out of its trunk!!!
Additionally, new items debut here, including the Thunder cloud, which is a cloud that targets enemies and shoot them down with lighting, Utan, a baby monkey in diapers with a Uzi, and mobile satellite which is somewhat similar to Thunder cloud.
Not to mention, the debut of the best transformation in the series, the zombie mode, once a player becomes infected by zombie ooze, they transform into a zombie. As an illustration, the transformation makes the characters slow but immune to weapons. The player can only have their pistol and their grenade which is now a screen covering wave of blood, an amazing idea! Yet the only circumstance that can kill the player is zombie ooze.
The bosses are outrageous! Giant Hermit crabs with tanks, something that came straight out of 2001: Space Odyssey, and an ancient statue that releases dog spirits, needles, and turning the hero into coins. Even with an over the top design, comes remarkable power! Even the deaths as gruesome as they are, remind of something that came out of the cartoons of the yesteryear.
Be ready to die several times thanks to the game’s extreme difficulty. In other words, level memorization is critical to receive the best score concluding each level. When playing the original arcade version, be ready to bring your monthly allowance since you’re going to spend a heap-full of quarters.
Next, one of the best features of Metal Slug series is the stunning sprite work. As a matter of fact, Nazca put much time and effort ever since the game debuted in 1996. The Metal Slug series, often regarded for its highly detailed graphics and fluid animation. Though the game recycles from the previous entries, it’s not to say that it is awful. In fact, everything exhibiting fantastically within the game’s world.
Another key point, the music developed by Noise Factory (Rage of the Dragons, Sengoku 3, and KOF: Maximum Impact) is absolutely fantastic! The game borrows older tracks from previous games, but they added in major POWER and instruments fitting in with the overall vibe of the game.
Furthermore, hardcore Metal Slug fans will notice certain tracks pay tribute to Nazca’s final entry during their days with Irem, Gun Force II, which fans consider as the spiritual prequel to the series. But the newer tracks are among the BEST the series has to offer! Combining that heavy rock and military movie soundtrack, keeping the player motivated throughout the game. Notably, Tracks including the Yeti cave, the underwater stage, the space section in mission 5 and the beginning of the last mission are among the top compositions from the game.
All things considered, this game sets the bar high for the run and gun genre, a true definition of a magnum opus. Even if Nazca having gone their own ways, left players extremely satisfied. No other run and gun game after this has been able to emulate the impact that Metal Slug 3 brought forth. Even the rest of the series pales in comparison to this masterpiece, though I will admit I haven’t played 6 nor 7.
Above all, Metal Slug 3 executes this remarkably! not only improving on the foundation beginning with Commando, Contra, and, Gunstar Heroes but finds ways to present it in an original way, bringing in new ideas that were not regularly appearing in a run and gun games before. Nazca not only took cues from other run and gun games, but also borrowed from games they previously worked on during their days with Irem including: In the Hunt, Gun Force II, Armored Police Unit Gallop, and even R-Type.
I cannot stop praising the game hence, I’ll finish here.
There is no logic to not attempt this game, it’s basically committing a crime against gaming. Unless you absolutely find this type of genre mundane, there’s a special place for haters!
The game being ported to a plethora of different platforms, including the standalone ports on the Neo Geo AES, PS2 (JP and PAL only), Original Xbox (PAL and US only which contain mini games notably “Fat Island” where the players compete to determine which player can gain weight. “Storming the UFO mothership” is a minigame where the player play as one of Morden’s men and kill off several aliens as they can from the last level.That is to say, both ports offer unlimited continues,yet at the same time PS2 port has the player continuing where they died at, identical to the arcade. Whereas, the Xbox port makes the individual restart at the beginning of the level, making Ninja Gaiden Black strike as child’s play compared to this possibly turning people off. However, the Xbox version is only in 480i, but has a patch that brings it to 480p. Not to mention, the Xbox 360 version, in contrast, does not feature the mini games mentioned above, but offers online multiplayer and upscaled graphics. Next, the Metal Slug Anthology for the PS2, PSP and Wii which is an emulated version of the AES port and only in 480i. By and large, there also on the iOS, Android, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii Virtual Console (AES Version), Steam, Mac OS X, and Linux.
For the most part, there’s no excuse to not try the game at this point. Its affordable with the sole exception for the MVS cart fetching around out $150. In the event that you’re a bourgeoisie, by all means invest on the AES version which will be a substantial fee of $1500 or higher depending on what region the game originated from. I cannot recommend this game enough, it’s simply fantastic showing how something simple can be created into a masterpiece.