Game Description: In Metal Slug 4 you'll take the battle to the air, sea and land as you once again battle Morden's forces. In the year 20XX, a cyber-terrorist group has struck out at the world by unleashing a computer virus to hijack the world's militaries. You'll fight to stop the distribution of the virus before it's too late. Then move on to Metal Slug 5, where the secrets of next-generation Metal Slug technology have been stolen. Lead your team into the "Corridor Of Fire" to recover the secrets and destroy the paramilitary syndicate known as the Ptolemaic Army.
So, that's it? Really? Maybe it's just me, but it seems that in this day and age people expect more from a port of an arcade game than just the arcade game. Twelve years ago SNK could get away with this sort of thing. While home consoles struggled to put more than 32 colors on screen at once without major framerate issues, the Neo-Geo offered lavish arcade-quality graphics for a paltry 200 dollars per game. Then something strange happened. Or didn't happen, really. As other companies moved into the third dimension and embraced new videogame technology, SNK chugged along, producing the same sprite-based shooting and fighting games that had long been their trademark. Fighting games, if they're any good at all, have the replayability built right into them—side-scrolling shooters (which generally play the same way each time) need something more to keep the attention of an audience now used to seeing games with estimated play times that rarely drop below two digits—something that Metal Slug 4&5 sorely lacks.
That's not to say that the Metal Slugs contained in this two-pack aren't good games. No, they're nearly flawless in their design—from the beautiful graphics to the tight controls and an extremely varied well-balanced arsenal, these games are the ultimate evolution (to date) of a genre that has gone fundamentally unchanged since it was created twenty years ago with the game Contra. Every detail of the game is brought to life with fantastic character animation—each game features dozens of unique enemies, each with a number of different death animations, so the various types of massacring the player is asked to do always seems fresh for the entire length of the games. Although this is probably helped by the fact that, even considering limited branching paths, each game is no more than 50 minutes long.
While that's an incredibly short play length by console standards, it's an eternity in arcade game terms, and make no mistake about it, these are arcade games, through and through. If the short length weren't enough of a clue, then the boss fights certainly should be. I suppose I've been lulled into a false sense of security by modern game design, which (at its best) goes out of its way to find the balance between challenge and fairness in boss fights—I can't remember the last time I had to replay a boss fight more than two or three times. Even by classic arcade standards, the 12 bosses that appear across these two games are evil, sadistic bastards, carved from the brimstone of hell itself with one purpose in mind—to steal as many quarters as possible from unsuspecting gamers. If I were actually being asked to spend money to defeat some of these characters it's doubtful whether I'd actually have finished either of these games. Being given free and unlimited continues makes the difficulty level a little easier to swallow.
As sequels to the Metal Slug franchise, these games acquit themselves quite nicely—fans of the series will no doubt appreciate the new vehicle and level designs, and the fact that now, in addition to the frequent option of playing as mummies, one level offers players the opportunity to become zombies possessed of a singularly disgusting special attack. As well-designed as the games are, though, I couldn't help but feel that there really isn't enough here to justify a release. Other companies have realized just how limited the shooter gameplay is and have come up with plenty of ways to stretch their discs out to 'Feature Length'. Mini-games, time attack modes, unlockable characters and weapons, boss-fight-only modes… all of these have successfully expanded the length and replayability of other such limited titles. It's to these titles' discredit that they don't feature anything of the sort. Even the most basic extra, an art gallery—which would seem like a natural addition, given the series famously excellent art—is nowhere to be found.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that the two games come on separate discs—almost as if the company had intended to release them as two different titles, but realized at the last minute that they just wouldn't be seen as a decent value on their own without any bells or whistles. While I always appreciate getting two things for the price of one, the sad fact is that without anything to pad out the length, Metal Slug 4&5 is really just a rental at best. For anyone but die-hard fans of the franchise or genre, these two games just aren't worth the price of one.
Dan is right on the money in saying that the lack of extras in Metal Slug 4 & 5 is very disappointing. This is my third review of a Metal Slug title for GameCritics, and over the last few re-releases, the decline in value for each game has been fairly obvious.
Metal Slug X for the original PlayStation was the best effort so far. Not only was it the same hard-core action and beautiful animation that the series is known for, there were a slew of skill-testing mini games and art galleries to unlock. Clearly, the developers went above and beyond when they put this project together.
Metal Slug 3 wasn't as fully-loaded as X was, but it did have a few perks and because the developers eliminated the unlimited continue system, it gave an extremely serious challenge. After sweating and working my fingers to the bone, I'd have to say that finishing that game was an achievement I'm proud of— I look back on 3 with fond memories.
Metal Slug 4 & 5 are great because it's always nice to get two games with one purchase, but compared to what came before, SNK Playmore definitely took the no-frills approach. So, while I did enjoy my time shooting zombie vomit across the screen and piloting one wacky vehicle after another, I echo the sentiment that there should have been more.
On the plus side (at least, some will see it as a plus) the infinite continues are back, so people who don't feel like going insane can actually make it through these games. It's always nice to have a friend along as well, and old-school two-player gigs are few and far between. For this feature alone, it gets props.
Besides giving it an extra point, I agree with Dan's opinion all the way down the line. It might make for a boring second opinion, but Metal Slug is Metal Slug—you either love it or don't, and I do. Although the world of videogaming presses ever onwards (and SNK is being left behind), it's nice to see that some things are just as enjoyable now as they were then.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood, Violence
Parents should probably think twice before getting this for their children. Although it seems harmlessly cartoonish enough, the game really is shockingly violent, with huge spurts of lavishly-animated gore flowing at every turn.
Shooter Fans will find themselves treated to varied gameplay, lush character designs, and all the twitch gameplay they can handle, making this something of a must-purchase.
Deaf and hard of hearing gamers will have no problems with the game-there's no plot to be confused by the lack of, nor any dialogue. All you'll be missing out on are the sound effects.