Due to the bevy of fighting games released for Neo Geo, it's always a refreshing sight to see a game of a different genre from the format re-released on Virtual Console. We've just about hit the jackpot this time — Metal Slug 3 can easily be considered one of the single best games the system ever got.
The first and second games in the series were already very solid games, but the third one is, surprisingly, even better. Curiously — though perhaps thankfully — D4 Enterprise has chosen to skip a release of Metal Slug X, which is a slightly retooled version of the second game that fixes the copious amounts of lag and rearranges enemy formations.
Metal Slug 3 doesn't really do anything radically different in terms of gameplay. You once again pick one of four characters, then fight and jump your way through seemingly endless hordes of enemy soldiers. Defeating a gigantic boss caps the end of each stage, and you'll most likely use a lot of continues along the way.
What it does do is add a ton more on top of the usual stuff. For the first time, levels are no longer straight paths to the end; all but one of them split up into alternate paths, usually with different enemies to deal with, before converging back into the same area shortly before the boss. There're less levels altogether than the previous games, but the last one is very long. Taking into consideration all the alternate paths in the others, there're actually a lot more places to go through — though of course it takes multiple playthroughs to see it all.
There's also a greater variety of enemies to fight against. While the first game only had regular soldiers and the second added mummies and aliens, Metal Slug 3 throws in mutant insects, zombies, yetis, fish and plenty more. It might've been getting a bit boring to mostly fight soldiers after two games, so the variety here is quite nice. Of course the bosses are great as well, with opponents including a giant half-mechanoid crab and a massive robot on treads with a claw and rocket launcher. As is pretty much tradition, all of them are huge and take up about half the screen.
While there're no new regular weapon pick ups to fight the enemies with, there are still other new ways to fight them, such as several new vehicles and even a new transformation. The transformation's got to be the highlight of the bunch — you can get turned into a zombie, after which you're able to shoot a gigantic beam of blood out of your mouth that obliterates almost anything in one shot.
Of course, a Metal Slug game isn't complete without fantastic spritework and a killer soundtrack, and this one delivers the goods. Levels and the new enemies are all beautifully detailed with loads of animation frames, and the soundtrack is just amazing, featuring nothing but CD quality tracks, and — compared to the previous two — many more awesome guitar riffs.
Metal Slug 3 doesn't really change that much from the previous games, but there're lots and lots of interesting smaller scale additions that come together to make an almost a perfect game; it's quite easily the best game in the Metal Slug series. It goes without saying that if you're even the slightest bit of a fan of action games, this is a must buy. You won't regret it!