Many of our readers may not remember the Neo Geo arcade and home system as fondly as I do. Nowadays you can’t get a system or games without spending several hundred for each on eBay. Of course back when it first came out you were spending hundreds on the system and games as well, times never change I guess.

One of the most loved series to come out of SNK outside of their fighting games (Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury) is the Metal Slug series. There was a Metal Slug game, Metal Slug X, that came out for the Playstation One. Since then things have been rather quiet for Metal Slug being ported over to other systems. Then SNK dissolved and SNK NEOGEO Consumer rose from the ashes and the best Metal Slug game (my opinion of course), Metal Slug 3, has appeared on the Xbox and will be coming soon to the PS2. Coming next year will be Metal Slug 4 and 5 on both Xbox and PS2.

For those not familiar with the Metal Slug franchise, you can think of it as similar to Contra. You take a commando and gun your way through different stages, collect more powerful guns and generally have a great time while playing. Although if you thought Contra was hard, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Obviously with Metal Slug 3 being a 2D side-scrolling game, there isn’t much pop in the graphics department when compared to the 3D games of today. SNK NEOGEO Consumer did however eliminate the slowdown that is on the Neo Geo version of this game, so that’s a big plus here with all the huge bosses and firepower that you face off against.

I still have a soft spot for the 2D side-scrolling games out there and I think it’s wrong to base your buying decision totally on the graphics in a game. The graphics presented here really are top-notch for a 2D side-scroll game and things blow up real well and lots of blood is spilled, although it doesn’t collect on the ground or anything.

If you go into this game looking for a graphical powerhouse you’ve already wasted $40.

The sounds in the game are rather good and varied depending upon what environment you are in. All the guns sound different as do the Metal Slugs that you ride on. There is a bit of voices in the game, but nothing substantial. There really isn’t a story other than what you’re presented with in the manual.

The music on the other hand is a pain to listen to. There are only 5 stages in the game (sounds easy, but it isn’t) and the music repeats itself in each area. Each area has its own theme song though, but I thought to myself that the music was really annoying me when going through the same levels time and time again trying to beat the game. It may be best to put a CD in and play your own music while playing this game.

Control is nice and simple, just the way it should be for an arcade side-scrolling game. You move with the left analog stick, fire/slash with the X button (you can fire in all directions), jump with the A button and fire off bombs with the B button.

Nice and easy, just like Contra. When you jump into a Metal Slug (powerful contraptions that the player can jump into), the controls are the same. The only thing is that your firepower is more powerful when in a Slug.

I’d score this higher, but this game has a huge flaw in it when compared to the Arcade/Neo Geo version that I will get into later. For now I’d like to talk about the manual. It’s a well laid out manual that gives you a huge backstory on the Metal Slug universe. They talk about good old General Morden and his ultimate goal to rule the world. In this game Morden sends troops, zombies, fishmen, snowmen(?) and even aliens to stop you from defeating him. Of course, the Metal Slug team of Marco, Tarma, Eri and Fio have something to say about that.

Metal Slug 3 is simply a 2D side-scrolling shooter, much like Contra. Unlike Contra there is a heck of a lot more firepower in this series than Contra ever dreamed of. You have heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, bombs, thunderclouds, etc. along with the 10 Metal Slugs you can ride. The Slugs include animals that have weapons attached to them as well as a jet, a tank, a submarine and other weapons of huge destruction.

Another beautiful thing about Metal Slug 3 is that there are often multiple ways to go to complete a mission. Just in the first mission you have two points where you can take two different ways. It keeps the game rather fresh, although this is one difficult game, which gets me to the flaw.

The continue system has been “fixed” from the Arcade and Neo Geo release of this game 4 years ago. Instead of continuing where you died, you actually have to continue at the start of the stage. You can put your lives up to 5 in the game, but the game is already hard without continues sending you back to the beginning of the stage. You also only have 5 continues to work with in the whole game, so you can see how difficult the 5 stages can become. The bosses at the end of each stage are also very hard, so be sure you have enough lives saved up for that.

Outside of the continue problem, this game is absolutely fun to play and can be played with 2 people which can make the game slightly easier as two guns are shooting the same stuff and not just one. I know there are a lot of Metal Slug fans out there, and this game is definitely for you if you have an Xbox.

This game does have some extras on it once you beat it on Normal mode (Good Luck!). You unlock two extra missions that were not present in the Arcade or Neo Geo release. The first one is set on the mothership and you actually take control of one of General Morden’s men and go through the stage stopping the good guys. The second one has your player killing everyone in sight and getting fat off the food they drop.

Along with this there is also the chance for you to put your high score on Xbox Live, much like the Midway Treasures release. It is too bad there couldn’t be multiplayer online where two people a far distance away could play the game, but I would guess that might create some lag problems or something…who knows. It would have made the game that much more enjoyable.

As a minus this game is pretty expensive for the amount of gameplay you get out of it. It is $39.99, but you should find hours of enjoyment (or controller throwing frustration) in it. You also have to look at the fact that if you wanted to get your hands on this game for the Neo Geo you’d be out $100+ (sometimes over $200), so this is a deal.