Review by Johnny Cairo

"Grisly, funny, sexy, and scary all at once."

One fine day, some inner force urged me to venture over to the mall, where I laid eyes on the sexiest game in the world. Yes, and after acquiring it I ordered my dad to drive me home immediately. Too bad he was still browsing the Adult Party Games section at Spencers, so I hightailed it home myself because my determination to play this game was so high that I would have spontaneously combusted had I waited a minute longer. Yes, it was quite a challenge hoisting the arcade cabinet onto my back and dragging myself down the sidewalk with my lips, but once I evaded the mall policemen and enraged arcade techs and arrived at my house, I made enough space in my one-room apartment to set it up. I just had to throw out my TV set and high-end 6.1 stereo system, and I was good to go!

So, was it worth all the trouble to have Metal Slug 2 at my beck and call, should I have the urge to play it at night? As I said earlier, it's sexy as Hell (probably as sexy as Hell gets, one would imagine!) just from watching the rolling demo. On display is a gleeful romp through a shoddy neighborhood in China, with cars exploding into towering fireballs, shattering glass aplenty, men flying like tenpins who were once standing in front of the business end of a blazing M-60, accompanied by fearsome howls of pain, manly grunts of exertion, nerve-jolting gunfire. Metal Slug 2 is developed by the same chumps who cranked out the original (SNK and the enigmatic Nazca Corporation), and it's no less spectacular! Oh, but this is just a sliver of what's in store for you, should you wisely choose to donate a quarter to SNK.

After defeating the insane General Morden (a Saddam look-alike) in the first Metal Slug by blowing his Chinook helicopter out of the sky and watching him hit the cold, hard pavement headfirst from fifty feet, he's somehow recovered from the severe head trauma and is now rallying his faithful green-garbed followers to take over the world again. As you played either Marco (Michael Beihn clone with a red vest and headband) or Tarma (Kurt Russell clone with a yellow vest and eyepatch) to topple Morden's Axis of Evil™ in the previous struggle, it's no surprise that this assignment calls for more assistance. It comes in the form of two lovely female soldiers, a blonde and a brunette -- Eri and Fio, respectively -- who, unfortunately, play identically to Marco and Tarma but have screeching death rattles.

Like its predecessor, Metal Slug 2 uses a cartoony graphics engine, with pudgy, cute-looking caricatures parading across the screen. Indeed, when you first select your character from the meager pool and the first level loads up immediately, a newcomer would be taken aback by the ''Looney Tunes'' look that the game adopts -- but the graphics are no less stunning. As usual, a super-bombastic musical score saws away in the background, as the classic ''Metal Slug theme'' blares tirelessly to prod you on.

Level 1 seems to be a showcase for the engine. As the ''Arab Rock'' music crunches on, and our hero chugs from his canteen, wind blows the abundant dust every which-way. Sand dunes, palm trees, and sparse sandstone architecture provide the backdrop for the stereotyped ''Middle East'' level. Turban-clad warriors leap from atop buildings, swinging their scimitars crazily -- they're hardly a threat.

A fires the weapon your character currently holds (default armament is a .45 with unlimited ammunition), and as a bullet strikes a Jihad Goon's heart, he'll scream and fall on his rump, a deep crimson arc of blood geysering from his ruptured aorta. Get in close enough to a Goon and you'll whip out your trusty K-Bar and slit the unfortunate bastard open from belly to forehead! B makes you jump, which is helpful for dodging playful thrusts from their dull, rusty swords so you can fire downwards into their heads by holding Down and A; or cut down annoying pests standing above by holding Up and A. C lobs a grenade, which your character will have 10 of every time he spawns. Throwing one at an opportune moment will get rid of an annoying Scud missile battery or blow a Jihad Goon to shreds; your character will watch and chuckle as dismembered limbs, heads, and bones twirl through the air, spurting blood as they jauntily bounce across the ground. Slip up, and you can expect a gruesome death animation for your character as well; just a mere prick with a sword will result in a hideous squeal from male and female characters alike as your rent jugular sprays gore as if from an oil well before you crumple into a lifeless heap.

Have I mentioned how graphically violent all of this is? In a striking contrast from the giddy silliness of the early game, MS2 cheerfully displays hideous scenes of carnage for kiddies of all ages! New weapons and point bonuses can be acquired by liberating any nearby POWs -- sad old men who look like Robinson Crusoe -- who happen to have ultra-powerful firearms stashed away and are all too eager to give them to their savior! With a hearty ''Thank you,'' you'll probably pick up any of these rockin' guns:

HEAVY MACHINE GUN!!

Your first acquisition will be a serious upgrade from the puny .45; it fires about fifteen ass-demolishing rounds per second but sadly, ammo is in a finite supply. This baby can tear an enemy to bits in a pinch, in addition to being devastating towards armored machinery. Characters usually get a real ''intense'' look when they're blazing away, holding it against their hip, like Rambo when he went totally ape**** at the end of First Blood Part 2.

ROCKET LAUNCHER!!


Looks the same as the HMG but shoots rather weak homing missiles. Gibbing enemies with this puppy is a pleasure all its own, and it comes in handy when having to face down airborne foes.

FLAME SHOT!!

Unlike the previous version of the FLAME SHOT!! in MS1, which discharged gigantic fireballs with which to roast enemies into a crunchy crisp, this one is more like a traditional flamethrower. Small gouts of fire shoot out and cover the ground like napalm, but the range is dramatically shortened. Unfortunately this weapon is exceedingly difficult to find, in only one or two places in the entire game.

SHOTGUN!!

My personal favorite of the bunch, this can be devastating when used properly against weak armor and groups of enemies -- if they don't literally explode outright, they'll vault backwards and fly offscreen! Since the first MS installment, the shotgun has become more accurate and less cartoony; you can actually see individual glowing pellets as they mercilessly shred your opponent!

LASER!!!

The newest addition to the Metal Slug arsenal of doom comes in this neat, elusive package -- for such a great weapon its almost as hard to come by as the FLAME SHOT!!, but no less effective. A thin beam will effortlessly slice through legions of enemy soldiers and render them a bloody, helpless shambles. It runs out of ammo awfully fast, unfortunately, and can only be found in inconvenient places.

If a Mormon-bearded POW should happen to drop a food item instead (the cheap bastard!), it can be consumed for a modest point increase. Careful, though -- eat too much and you'll transform into wallywest80, bounding along with your gut sloppily sagging over your waistline, fat jiggling with every step. Your gun will now be something that looks like an old musket from pirate movies, and you'll vivisection enemy soldiers with a fork!

Things shape up after the whiz-bang-pow-crunch-sock introductory level, as you then begin to face the same endless waves of Morden's shock troopers that you grew to love in MS1, but this time around the levels are even more elaborate, and about twice as long and convoluted as before. Morden's army boasts better weapons this time (they learned from their mistakes!), including three tanks (two of them new), mobile missile launchers, speedboats, mortars, and hunting rifles.

For all their prowress, however, the enemy soldiers have personalities all their own. Sometimes you'll stumble on a couple soldiers roasting marshmallows over a campfire or some friends exchanging dirty jokes. All their emotions are communicated through pantomime and it's surprisingly lifelike. If you get toasted with a grenade they might point and laugh at your smoldering carcass, or the person who killed you could turn to his buddies and wave his arms as if boasting about his ''mad skills''. If you plop in another quarter and continue, their once merry faces will twist into expressions of shock and terror! Gut someone's comrade, and he'll stare slack-jawed at the happenstance. After playing so many soulless Contra imitations, it's a kick in the pants to see faceless goons given such life! For their varied idiosyncrasies, they're nonetheless combat-hardened combatants and will never fail to kill you on sight.

Fortunately, you can commandeer several Slug vehicles, which serve as amazingly versatile transportation as well as sporting a 360-degree rotating machine gun and a long-range cannon. Some are quite fun to use (the timeless Metal Slug tank of the title, as well as a mini-Harrier called the Slug Flyer!), while others are next-to-useless (the mech thingie in level 2, the Camel Slug), but they'll all succeed in saving your bacon in one way or another -- particularly during boss battles.

These are truly epic bouts of pure guts n' determination. You're not really a man until you can beat the gunship at the end of Level 4 without taking a single hit. Every boss is too huge to fit on the screen, and these mechanized monsters can take truckloads of punishment before even thinking about flinching. Truly these are machines of nightmares (particularly my own), capable of dealing death in more ways than you can count. Just in the first level alone, you must confront a huge hovering aircraft with two massive jet propulsion engines on either side shooting out gigantic streams of white-hot flame. Jihad Goons leap onto you while swinging their scimitars and Morden's soldiers accompany them, firing bazooka shells with precision. You must simultaneously keep yourself between the burners and dodge bazooka rounds while raking the exposed underbelly with bullets and lobbing grenades to ward off any Goons. This is more intense than a mouthful of lemon Jolly Ranchers, and that's the easiest boss, by far! In an appropriate touch, after a battle winds to a close, your character will pant heavily and wipe sweat from his/her brow. If you've died enough times, they'll laugh haughtily and brandish their gun. Later levels will throw mine-flinging railgun-equipped tanks at you, as well as an EXTREMELY annoying hovercraft that never ever dies unless you spend about $5 trying to beat it.

Which brings me to what may be Metal Slug 2's greatest strength or greatest weakness -- difficulty. After the first level, it's essentially open season being declared on your ass, and the intensity just keeps on ramping up until the show-stopping finale, with previously bitter enemies uniting to take down a common foe. Sometimes it just feels impossible, having to waltz through an entire level without getting hit, and gunmen literally shooting at you from all angles. It's overwhelmingly difficult when one starts out, and I haven't seen anyone spend less than $3 on the machine before winning. Persistence pays off, though, and with enough determination I've been able to essentially one-life most of the game, but this means revisiting Metal Slug 2 MANY times after beating it.

And you will be replaying Metal Slug 2, without a doubt. Sometimes I like to make it to Level 2 just so I can hear the lovely music that plays in the mummy-infested temple. At least now I can enjoy it in the peace and quiet of my own humble abode without beating the snot out of the acne demons who actually think they have to wait in line to play it. Dorks.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/16/03, Updated 07/16/03


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