PlayStation Classics Corner is a series on PSLS dedicated to modern reviews of PlayStation Classics released on PSN.
About the game:
Metal Slug X was developed by SNK and released on the PS1 in January 2001. It released as a PS1 Classic on January 17th, 2011, costs $6 and works on PS3, Vita and PSP. It is also included in the Metal Slug Anthology for PSP, which costs $20 and includes 6 other Metal Slug games.
Metal Slug X is a completely 2D side-scrolling shooter. Since it was initially developed for arcades, it goes by arcade game design standards: its campaign is only about an hour long, the action never lets up and the game never takes itself seriously, with a focus on fun above anything else.
There’s not much of a story, just the game’s four protagonists slaughtering relentless hordes of enemy soldiers led by the evil General Mordem, who apparently teamed up with aliens. The four protagonists are Marco, Tarma, Eri and Fio, and players can choose which one to play as before a round; sadly, co-op play isn’t supported in Sony’s PS1 emulator yet, so players can only enjoy Metal Slug X in single-player.
Controls are simple, with firing, jumping, throwing grenades and movement being the only major actions. Players mostly just run to the right the entire game while shooting enemies and fighting bosses, with some platforming bits thrown in. Players can crouch to dodge attacks, but to shoot downward players need to jump up and quickly aim down; it can be a bit annoying fighting an enemy that takes dozens of shots to kill when they’re directly below you. More importantly, you have to mash on the shoot button over and over again to fire, you can’t just hold down the button and auto-fire. I didn’t find it to be much of a problem in my time with the game, but it’s definitely a notable quirk.
Players always have a handgun with unlimited ammo but weapon powerups drop often, including assault rifles, shotguns, a flamethrower, a laser, homing missiles and other limited-ammo weapons. Ammo conservation is a little important, but it’s way more important to mash away on the fire button and blast away enemy troops, mechs and helicopters and avoid death. Players get ten grenades per life and can pick up more, so it’s fine to not be stingy.
You can occasionally enter mechs called (spoiler warning) Metal Slugs that provide increased firepower and a health bar, along with powerful sub-attacks like missiles; you can also ride on a camel with a powerful cannon strapped to it and a few other strange mounts, adding more character to the game. Players can also be turned into mummies or become overweight from eating too much food (which adds to the life-giving high score), which slow the characters down but are curable with power-ups or time.
It only takes one hit to die, but respawn is almost immediate and the game never feels unfairly difficult. Players have unlimited continues on Easy difficulty, which I highly recommend on first playthrough of the campaign, but players can also opt to put a limitation on continues and raise the difficulty across four difficulty levels if they wanna test their skills.
There are eight total levels in the game, ranging from a desert, to a city in China, to New York and even a moving train (which Uncharted 2 clearly ripped off). Level select is available after completing the campaign once, as is the Combat School – where players can complete levels in Survival mode (complete a level with one life) or Pin Point (time how long it takes to complete a level, with a three-life limit). Playing well in the Combat School lets players accumulate points that advance you in rank, from Recruit to “General of the Army,” which doesn’t do anything beyond giving players bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment.
Players can also select Another Mission to go through challenges like only using grenades to kill enemies, moving to the end of a level unarmed or protecting a baby as it slowly moves its way to the goal. There’s even an art gallery with 106 pieces of artwork, some are character designs and others are silly doodles like a curled up snake in a Japanese toilet (the dreaded poo snake).
Controls are tight and responsive, and the very few moments of slowdown I experienced were so brief and mild they had no impact on my performance. 2D sprites and animations are all top-notch – characters get across more personality in this game’s brief campaign with zero dialog than many modern blockbusters can in a dozen hours, and the game is absolutely hilarious at times. However, the developers removed all blood and toned down the gore from the arcade version, so enemy soldiers bleed what looks like white smoke. It’s a small change, but a nuisance.
Metal Slug X has aged well, with solid gameplay, a great sense of humor and quite a bit of side content to flesh out the experience. It’s very, very short but replayable enough to make up for it. Overall, I would say this is one of the best games in the side-scrolling shooter genre, and a great entry-point to Metal Slug for series newcomers like myself.