Zombies. Yeti. Snails. Aliens. Soldiers. Eels. Plants. Really angry crabs. These are just some of the formidable enemies you'll encounter in Metal Slug 3, which--against all sequel logic--actually tops its predecessors as the most action packed Slug in the series.
Morden, Morden, Morden! Doesn't this evil dictator ever take a hint? Super-soldiers Marco, Tarma, Eri, and Fio are back to bring down the big bad boss using machine guns, rocket launchers, and a collection of Slugs--high-powered vehicles ranging from tanks and mechanical walkers to elephants and camels. Five new Slugs (Elephant, Ostrich, Marine, Drill, and Double-Jump) join the party, as do new armaments like Armor Piercers and Chili Peppers. By the time you've completed all five missions, you'll have gone through land, sea, air, and where no Slug has gone before...
It's hard to believe that the Neo hardware is as old as it is, yet still capable of pumping out incredible graphics. SNK picked up exactly where Nazca left off with the first few games, keeping the unique animation style intact and learning lessons from Metal Slug X on how to avoid slowdown (there's a tiny bit, but not enough to ding the score). Zombies slither and spit poison in great, disturbing detail; crabs scuttle along menacingly; entire worlds shift color as you progress through them. It's all very detailed, quite smooth, and utterly gorgeous. There's a lot to take in, and it won't happen on your first few plays. As you might expect, repeat viewings really bring out the detail--and the sense of humor.
You'll find no major upgrades in control here--just the standard challenge of moving in one direction while rotating a gun turret in another, as is the case with all Slug vehicles. There's no better solution for the Neo control layout, but it's still awkward from time to time. However, the established shoot/jump/bomb controls are otherwise as responsive as ever, and series vets will be able to dive in immediately.
However, even aces won't master this game easily. It's wicked hard, putting all your Slug skills to the test in nearly every major battle. If you're the type of player who doesn't consider it a job well done without rescuing each prisoner, you'll be hard pressed to find satisfaction here--in fact, you're often lucky if you can survive a mission while rescuing any prisoners. Also, there's no boss life gauge, so you never know what attacks deal the most damage or when you're close to victory. The difficulty could be a major turn-off for some players.
Metal Slug 3 employs lush orchestrations that match each stage's atmosphere--creepy music kicks in for the zombie stages, driving and heroic songs for boss battles. Distinctive and satisfying sound effects lend muscle to the sonic assault, too. The series has never been a disappointment in the audio department, and MS3 lives up to the legacy.
Replay Value 10/10
The gameplay is deeper and more laden with secrets than ever. You'll find multiple paths through the levels, sometimes taking you on alternate courses underwater, through slimy tunnels, and into icy caverns. While there are only five missions, some of those missions are amazingly long and do bear repeat playings. The final mission (none of which will be spoiled here) can easily take 30 minutes and as many credits. There's more to do and see in this Slug than in any other before it, and plenty of gameplay variables (turning into a zombie, surviving without a Slug vehicle) make each play unique.
It could be said that every Metal Slug sequel courts disaster--the first game is a landmark, Metal Slug 2 and X really expanded the gameplay...but sooner or later, the bottom's going to drop out, right? Not with Metal Slug 3, anyway. It builds on the series' strong points--screens filled with enemies, rewards for exploration and clever thinking, and how-did-they-do-THAT graphical effects--and never lets up on gameplay intensity. From the first rescued prisoner to the surprise cameos and the dramatic, intensely weird ending, Metal Slug 3 proves its long-term gaming worth.