Game Title: Metal Slug 3
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 171 MB
Availability: Digital Download (Europe, N. America, Japan)
Battery Life: 3.5 – 5.5 Hours
Supported Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
I’ll admit that I don’t have a massive amount of experience with the Metal Slug series of horizontal Shooters / Shoot-em-up games. I never got a chance to play them in the arcades, though I did end up playing a couple of them via emulation on newer consoles.
So, when I started seeing the series popping up in the Neo Geo “Virtual Console” games for the Nintendo Switch, it was the perfect chance to dive back into the series. As many people that watched my stream a couple weeks back saw, I grabbed the series’ third entry, which is highly regarded as one of the best.
So, without further delay, here is my review of the Nintendo Switch version of Metal Slug 3!
The plot of 3 takes place several years after Metal Slug 2. The assumed-defeated Morden’s armies are being taken out, but once unsurprising organization is shown, the special Strike Force that once took him down are re-assembled on the assumption that the Aliens that Morden was once allies with are back and aiming to take over Planet Earth once again.
The story of Metal Slug 3 does sound surprisingly deep, but the series never really had a focus on story. You see a lot of story progressing in each stage, but there are no story scenes or set dialogue pieces that tell you the story. It’s more or less just you picking up on things based on boss fights and what happens at the ends of each stage.
Metal Slug 3 is a Side-Scrolling shooting game or a “Run and Gun Shooter” as many like to call it. As the name suggests, you’ll be side-scrolling through 2D arenas, constantly shooting at mass hordes of enemies that are placed against you. The best comparison I can make for it is Contra, but more arcady and more geared towards Co-Operative Play.
As far as features go, this is based on the original Neo Geo version of Metal Slug 3 ported from Arcades. There are 4 different Game Modes you can go through. 2 are the original game, which features the Japanese and English versions of the game. You’ve got Hi Score Mode, which gauges your score until you get a Game Over and Caravan Mode, which is like a “Timed” version of Hi Score, pitting you in 5-minute segments.
The biggest addition here, in my opinion, is the options for emulation. When you hit the + button in-game, you get the Options Menu, which gives you a ton of customization and convenience options. The first is Creating Interrupt Save Data, which is basically a Save State. It lets you save anywhere and resume at that point later on. There are other settings here, like Control Options, a Manual, Online Score Rankings, Game Reset, and Game Settings that let you set the Difficulty, Number of Players, Language, Blood, Tutorial, etc.
The biggest customization option, though, is for the Display. The Neo Geo version of MS3 is locked to a 4:3 ratio, which means that it will display in its original resolution with borders to the left and right. This is similar to Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus on the PS Vita or any PS One Classic on the PlayStation TV. Display Settings let you stretch the game to the edges of the screen as well as apply filters to smooth edges and remove pixelated graphics. A great addition, especially considering the age of the game and the ability to play it on a TV.
To play Metal Slug 3, you start a game, choose a character, and go at it. You’re spawned in the first stage and you endlessly shoot at all of the enemies, vehicles, and obstructions in your way. The goal is to get through the level, rescue prisoners that will give you power-ups and new weapons, and fight the boss to end the level. Easier said than done, as the Metal Slug series is known for being very difficult.
The Arcade Roots of the game significantly helps you with that. If you die, the game doesn’t end. Just hit L and R and you can spawn right back where you were and continue, just like in an Arcade to simulate inserting an extra quarter into the Game’s Cabinet. In this sense, you will never permanently die, but lose your score for the kills and rescued prisoners. If this were the Arcade days, you’d spend a lot more than the eShop price. My first run took 131 respawns, which would have cost me $32.75 in quarters.
In gameplay, you run through and fight enemies. You have different weapons you can pick up, from the default pistol to a heavy machine gun, flame gun, rocket launcher, and a wide variety of vehicles from tanks, mech armor, Bomber Jets, and UFOs. Although there are 4 different characters, the load-outs will be similar between the 2 male and 2 female characters. What character you choose really is up to your design preference.
Outside of just being a mindless shooter, it’s a short game with each run only spanning about a single hour in length, but replayability comes in alternate paths. Every level has fork-in-the-road sections with different paths you can take that lead to the same final area and boss. In the first level, you can choose between an underwater submarine level or an above-ground shooting level and the same goes for every level the game throws at you. Tie that with the 4 different Game Modes and you’ve still got quite a bit to cover to really experience the entire game.
The other way to play is local Co-Op. The Switch version allows for Single Joy-Con play so you can Couch Co-Op the game with a friend without needing a separate set of Joycons. You just have to make sure 2 Players is set up in the Options Menu and set the Joy Cons up for Single JC Play before booting up Metal Slug 3. Once you start it, it’s like a typical side-scrolling co-op game with 2 characters running around and both needing to keep up with one another or the game won’t let you advance the level without your partner.
The main gripe is the price. The Neo Geo games on the Nintendo Switch eShop cost about $7.99 a piece in USD, and 6.29 pounds on the UK store. Although this is half the price of the PS4/PS Vita port/remake of Metal Slug 3, you can spend $19.99 for the PSP or PS4 version of the MS Anthology, which effectively gets you 7 games at around $3 a piece (Metal Slugs 1, 2, X, 3, 4, 5, and 6). So with handheld gamers, it’s a matter of “Do I want to spend $8 a piece for the games as they come out for the Switch or just drop $20 for the entire anthology to play on my Vita?”
Controls are confusing to talk about because the game’s controls are based on an Arcade Fight Stick. You have to watch the controls that pop up when you start the game to really understand what you need to do. But it’s not like SNK doesn’t show you how. It’s just a matter of paying attention to that loading screen when the game starts.
Since the Arcade version only had a Stick and 3 buttons, the control scheme gives you a bit of variety. The most confusing aspect is starting a game. If you’re doing 1P, you start the game with the L/R buttons and choose your character with the ZL/ZR buttons, but on Single Joycon Play, it only uses the 2 triggers on the JoyCons themselves, which makes it a bit less confusing.
Once you get started, it’s pretty straight-forward. You can use the Directional Buttons or the Left Analog to move your character around the stage. B lets you fire your weapon and Y lets you jump with ZR also letting you fire and ZL also letting you jump. Finally, the – and + buttons both can activate the Options Menu. It sounds confusing and can be confusing, but as long as you read that tutorial loading screen for the controls or test said controls on the Arcade Control screen as you start the game, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
Visually, the game is very dated as a Neo Geo title and things can look a little pixelated on the big screen. As I said earlier, though, you have filters you can enable to make the game much smoother and prettier to remove pretty much all jagged edges and pixels. This way, the game will look great, even if you want to full-screen it instead of having it in its default resolution.
Performance is really what you expect out of the game. There is a lot of dramatic slow-down implemented into the game and has been that way ever since its original arcade release. All of that is intact in the Switch version of the game. It never happens in the middle of fighting and it is supposed to be there, so when you see it, just note that it’s not an issue with the game. And, since it doesn’t happen outside of large enemies being defeated and thus, not causing you gameplay issues, it’s worth noting that it’s just supposed to be there.
Being a 2D game makes Metal Slug 3 a game that will get you loads and loads of time on the go. Here are all of the battery times I recorded for the game, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 46 minutes
Max Brightess + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 00 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 08 minutes
Considering that turning Airplane Mode on only gives you an additional 6-8 minutes, this is a game that will not only get you 5 hours out of your battery but also something that you don’t necessarily need to disengage Airplane Mode to lose much battery at all. I was very pleased with these results.
In conclusion, Metal Slug 3 is all it was back in its original Neo Geo and Arcade Days, with a few things thrown in. The asking price may turn people away with the Anthology on Vita and PS4 offering more bang for your buck, but you can't argue that this is a game as fun as it is mindless that is perfect for pick-up-and-play sessions when you want something full of casual fun.