To gamers worldwide, the Metal Slug franchise is known as one of the best action arcade series ever created. First introduced in 1996, Metal Slug and its sequels have achieved immense popularity with arcade goers due to the series’ detailed animations, beautiful backdrops, and consistent sense of humor. With Metal Slug Anthology, SNK Playmore has created a complete arcade collection spanning all 7 arcade games with near perfect accuracy. To say I was excited when this was announced would be the understatement of the past 6 months. I’ve been a fan of the series since day one, and I can hardly resist plunking a few quarters into a Neo Geo machine if I see any of the Metal Slug titles running.

I personally think that all gamers have a soft spot in their heart for great 2d graphics. When done correctly, two dimensional games seem to have more personality and soul than most of their three dimensional cousins. Metal Slug is no exception. From the first game all the way through number 6 the artstyle and graphical flair are incredibly memorable. Metal Slug crams an insane amount of huge bosses, enemies, bullets and antics onto the screen at any given time.

One of the biggest keys to two dimensional games is generally well executed animations, and Metal Slug delivers them in spades. From the standard movements, the knife slashing, to the sometimes outright hilarious antics Metal Slug anthology brings the smoothness from the arcades into the living room. With everything going on in the game I noticed no slowdown, choppiness, or artifacting , and I was very pleased that every game performed at the same solid level.

Now I understand that the art style may be too cartoony for some folks, but for me the style only adds to the incredible charm of the series. The cartoony characters allow for the developers to present some silly and outrageous moments without having to worry about being grounded in reality. Some folks will notice that in the later games, specifically six, the artsyle take a turn with much different background graphics and effects. The game seems to have a more computer generated look but oddly still retains the hand drawn appeal. Personally I think it represents a great transistion into 21st century style graphics and I welcome the new look.

I don’t if this is a by product of orginally being arcade games; or just not as important to the developers, but the lack of a high quality soundtrack stinks in my book. While the sound in the games isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination you could just as easily play with the sound off and not miss a beat. The only real treat on the sound side are the nifty sound effects, like when you kill the space zombies, or rescue POWs or the different sounding weapons. Otherwise the soundtrack and effects are serviceable at best with a couple memorable tracks spattered throughout all 7 titles.

Snk Playmore looks to have gone to great lengths to come up with creative and interesting ways to play Metal Slug Anthology on the Wii. However, out of all the crazy control configurations they came up with only two truly will make battling General Morden and his rebellion army. The first and the easiest for most will be using the Wii-mote like a NES controller by holding it sideways. This style is only a step above acceptable because the d-pad on the Wii-mote is not the absolute best for some aiming situations and having to flick the controller for grenades is difficult.

The next best option is pulling out an old Gamecube controller and playing with that. It is simple and doesn’t create any confusion as to what buttons you need to push to produce the desired outcome. I know SNK had planned to include Classic controller support, but Nintendo shot that idea down. Hopefully Nintendo will recant this block on Classic controller use in regular games as Metal Slug Anthology would have benefitted greatly. Beyond the two methods described above none of the other control configurations are responsive enough for the demanding action of the Metal Slug series.

Like most, if not all arcade games, Metal Slug game play is fairly simple to grasp. Side scrolling shooters are a dime a dozen, but Metal Slug stands head and shoulders above the competition. This is not only because of the series charming style but because the action game play is refined and balanced like a great aged wine. Each character has strengths and weaknesses on top of the different advantages and drawbacks to each weapon, and this balance keeps the game continually interesting to play.

Of course I would be remiss to not mention the titles signature vehicles, called Metal Slugs, these vehicles are tank-type machines that give you a boost of power and also look really cool to boot. Each vehicle has a multi-directional gun and a cannon and you can use them to reach different paths throughout the stages, or you could just wreak havok and blow everything up. Up to four people can play together through any of the seven games on the disk. I can personally attest that getting 3 friends and some cold pops along with this game can lead to some fun time. Unfortunately not everything is perfect. One of the keys to arcade titles was that sense of urgency, that feeling of being on your last credit and wanting to beat the game. On default you have unlimited credits for any of the titles, and this can make the games fairly easy to complete. Purists will want to adjust that option to add some more intensity to the game.

Seven excellent arcade ports of one of the best arcade series ever made. With all the games unlocked to start there’s a lot to do right away. Unfortunately there aren’t too many extras to unlock. There is a simple gallery and that’s about it. I would have loved some audio developer interviews, more arcade cabinet pictures and history on the disk. It’s hard to complain when you get some many great games for such a decent price. If these were released on the Virtual Console they would have come close to Sixty dollars.