While Contra has always been the game by which all run and gun titles have been judged, serious fans of the genre will still flash a wide grin at the mere mention of the Metal Slug series, especially Metal Slug X. There's no denying that Metal Slug 2 had all of the makings of an amazing run and gunner, but the rampant slowdown ended up reducing it to a frustrating pile of lost potential. Thankfully SNK owned up to it and released a complete overhaul in the form of Metal Slug X, and now Virtual Console players can see what Neo Geo fans have been making such a fuss about all these years.
There's not a lot to the actual gameplay in Metal Slug X; you basically blast your way through the game's six stages, powering up your weapon and rescuing as many POWs as you can along the way before squaring off with a gigantic boss at the end of each level. But what sounds like a simple enough premise soon turns into a serious challenge with the never-ending barrage of enemies and monstrous boss battles.
Your gun will always be your go-to weapon, and once you get it powered up, it can be quite effective against even the most challenging bosses. To help you out further, you'll have a limited number of explosives as your disposal. You'll need to hone your jumping skills to navigate the wealth of platforms along the way, but it's the shooting action that remains the key focus of the game. To put it bluntly, you're going to have a very sore trigger finger by the time the credits roll.
In an effort to give Metal Slug X something which makes it stand out from the crowd the developers tossed in a host of cool vehicles to take control of. Not only do those make navigating the enemy-infested levels much easier, they also pack a more powerful punch as well. When you couple this series signature twist with an already smooth and responsive set of controls, you end up with one hell of an action-packed run and gun experience.
The Slug series has always represented the best the 2D genre has to offer, and Metal Slug X is no exception. It still looks amazing even by today's standards. The sprite work in Metal Slug X is impressive from start to finish. Not only is there a wide variety of colours, but the attention to detail in the backdrops is astounding. And unlike Metal Slug 2, there is mercifully very little slowdown - even when the visual intensity heats up.
Nothing gives a run and gun title a bigger kick in the pants than an upbeat soundtrack and Metal Slug X certainly doesn't disappoint. There are a host of amazing musical tracks to help carry along the frantic action and even the sound effects are extremely well done. It's easily one of the best soundtracks the Neo Geo has to offer.
Let's face it, Metal Slug X is pretty much the game that Metal Slug 2 should have been all along. It basically takes what was a flawed but extremely well designed run and gun and fixes all of the problems while still managing to toss in a few new goodies as well. If you're a fan of this type of game then there's absolutely no reason to miss this amazing title; it remains one of the genre's all-time best efforts, even after more than a decade.