Metal Slug Attack Reloaded Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Once again, the world is on the cusp of being taken over by the evil General Donald Morden and his Rebel Army. Only the Peregrine Falcon Squad, led by the heroic Marco Rossi, stand in the way of the Rebels establishing their New World Order. This could be the plot of just about any entry in the Metal Slug series, which is at its best when you don’t take it too seriously. Metal Slug Attack Reloaded, a remake of a microtransaction-laden gacha tower-defence mobile game, does its best to uphold the goofy tone of the series while stripping out the worst bits of the 2016 version.

At least, it does its best to take the frustrating bits out. The Switch version doesn’t have any microtransactions, thankfully – but it does still very much feel like a gacha game that expects you to log in every day and grind your way to victory. The result is an uneven but still enjoyable game that is constrained by its origins.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Like most of the series that spawned it, the story of Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is paper-thin at the best of times. Marco Rossi and the Peregrine Falcon Squad lead the charge to stop the Rebel Army from taking over the world. It is unclear if this is meant to be done through expert strategy or brute strength since the gameplay that follows each short cutscene is an exercise in sending wave after wave of units at the enemy until you manage to destroy their base. It is the kind of simple, mindless fun that works well as a mobile game but feels lacklustre when ported to a console. Even the addition of a 'sequel' story, cleverly titled Another Story, doesn’t change the fact that there really isn’t enough plot to see you through the dozen or so hours it might take to complete.

Each combat sees you purchasing units with AP (Action Points) and sending them across the battlefield, where they will destroy the enemy base or die trying. More powerful units cost more AP, but you can upgrade your base to allow you to regenerate AP more quickly, allowing you to purchase stronger units faster. That rather basic flow of gameplay is punctuated when you activate a unit or your base’s special move, but you’ll spend far more of your time purchasing units to send on a slow death march to the right side of the arena.

What little strategy comes into the game is really in which unit you choose to take into each level. Picking a unit that can attack flying enemies isn’t usually necessary until the game throws a stage at you that features flying enemies almost exclusively. Each unit can be levelled up, evolved to a more powerful form, and given equipment to boost their stats. This is ostensibly done in the name of customising your deck to suit your play style but really it is a holdover from Metal Slug Attack Reloaded’s origins as a gacha game.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Each time you complete a mission, you’ll earn Medals and Tickets. Tickets are used to upgrade your units or base stats, giving you an edge in the next mission. Medals fuel the game’s gacha mechanics and allow you to pull for a handful of units, allowing you to unlock one of the game’s over 300 characters from across the Metal Slug series to fight in battles for you. Metal Slug Attack Reloaded is significantly less predatory than most mobile gacha games tend to be, but that also highlights how superficial and plain unfair the system can be.

This system is the reason behind one of the biggest issues with Metal Slug Attack Reloaded – the brutal and often unfair difficulty spikes that appear throughout the campaign. Occasionally, you’ll come across a level that is suddenly far more challenging than the previous one. No amount of strategy in how you deploy your units will help. Often, it is a case of swapping out units in your deck with different ones more suited to the enemy at hand. However, it can mean trying to pull for a better, more powerful unit, a lengthy and occasionally frustrating process that was originally meant to encourage players to pony up money to ensure a Rare or better unit. Without the microtransactions, though, it feels unnecessarily harsh to the point where it very nearly breaks the game.

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Fans of the Metal Slug series will enjoy seeing some of the more goofy armies and units represented in the game. There are the usual Rebels and Regular Army characters, but you’ll quickly run into aliens from Mars, mummy dogs, and samurai mechs along the way. It somewhat breaks the game’s already flimsy plot to put together an army consisting of all these factions, but you’ll barely notice as you summon a giant slug to engulf your enemies. The only downside is that the roster is a mere fraction of the original game’s hundreds of units.

If the story mode isn’t enough for you, there is the option of playing against local or online players using your chosen deck, though be warned – just like any other gacha game, there will be people out there who will grind for hours and will simply wipe the floor with you and your team. That is just the nature of the game, but, fortunately, the online battles can be avoided altogether if you prefer to play more casually.

When Metal Slug Attack’s servers shut down in 2023, fans probably thought their favourite tower defence gacha game was gone forever. Unfortunately, they were half-right. As it stands, we’re not convinced the hours of grinding needed to advance the plot are really worth it.

Conclusion

Metal Slug Attack Reloaded removes some of the worst bits of the original mobile game’s mechanics, but the scaled-back roster and brutal difficulty spikes highlight the excessive grinding needed to make these kinds of games profitable and will probably fail to satisfy any but the most hardcore fans of the original. For better or worse, this feels exactly like a mobile game that has been ported to the Switch, warts and all.