Not many games at the time could go toe-to-toe with Konami's Contra series quite like the Metal Slug titles. Not only did they feature the same run-n-gun arcade action of Contra, but they also took things to new levels of intensity and sported some of the largest and most creative boss encounters ever seen in a game of their type. After a successful first outing with the original Metal Slug title, SNK came storming back with a sequel that basically featured more of everything. More firepower, more vehicles, and longer levels to go along with them.
In their haste to get this sequel out to arcades, SNK included so much visual flair and intensity that the game was plagued with a hefty amount of slowdown throughout certain parts of levels, sometimes to the point of making the game nearly unplayable. So is there enough fun-n-gun action to make gamers overlook this nagging slowdown issue or does it bring the entire experience down with it.
The visuals in Metal Slug 2 are even better than the outstanding graphics found in the original title. There's tons of detail in the backdrops and every character, friend and foe alike, all have brilliant animations to further push the over-the-top style the game displays. There's also a lot more color variations, which really make the scenery in the game come alive onscreen. Toss in some screen-sized bosses that also animate with the same type of flair the other characters in the game sport, and what you have is one of the more brilliant Neo Geo offerings ever crafted for the system. But as previoiusly mentioned, there is a catch.
As amazing as the visuals in the game are, there's so much going on at once in some areas that the Neo Geo's processor just can't handle everything and it creates slowdown. Lots and lots of player-angering slowdown. While it's more sporadic than anything, it seems to get worse as the game progresses, to the point that the last level in the game feels like it's moving at only a couple of frame per second at times. It really ruins what would otherwise be an outstanding last level. That's not to say that Metal Slug 2 can't still be enjoyable, it can, but that's only if you can somehow stick with the game through these extreme bouts of slowdown.
The game play of Metal Slug is simple and fun. One button fires your character's primary weapon, one button makes your character jump, and one button launches your character's bombs. While you'll spend a lot of your time running and gunning, you will occasionally come across a vehicle of sorts that you can take control of that packs additional firepower and other special traits. You'll control everything from a simple desert camel to a full-bore jet plane throughout the levels in the game and the vehicles tend to get better and more powerful the further into the game you progress. You can also free prisoners along the way that will be so grateful that they'll drop you power-ups to aid you in your quest.
But as great as the main run through each level is, it's the bosses at the end of the levels that are Metal Slug 2's bread and butter. These monstrosities are not only enormous, but each one offers a very distinct challenge. You'll find yourself sticking with even the most difficult levels, and there are plenty of them in this game, just to reach these bosses. They're honestly that much fun to take on. Of course the buttery smooth play control the game employs only further adds to the overall enjoyment. You can even grab another player and take on the game cooperatively, although this does tend to compound the slowdown issues.
The music in Metal Slug 2 has got to be heard to be believed. You'll swear that there's no way this music is being pumped out of a Neo Geo system when you first hear it. As great as the musical tracks were in the original game, SNK blows them away with the soundtrack in Metal Slug 2. The sound effects are also top notch, although the game's announcer can become a little annoying at times. Of course all of the trademark explosions return in full force and there are plenty of them to go around. You'll definitely want to crank this one all the way up for full effect.
It's a shame that the nagging slowdown in the game basically drags down what would otherwise be a near-perfect run-n-gun title. It's really the only negative aspect to be found throughout the game, but sadly it's a pretty significant problem when it's all said and done. The game is still a very enjoyable action title, but it won't take you long to realize why SNK would basically create an updated version of this very same game with the release of Metal Slug X. Metal Slug X basically takes this amazing game and fixes many of the slowdown issues that plagued it. If you really want to enjoy this game to the fullest, you might want to wait for SNK to release Metal Slug X on the Virtual Console.