After years of scattered, piecemeal releases on various home consoles, SNK marks the 10th anniversary of the original Metal Slug by rolling up all seven Metal Slug arcade games into a single package with Metal Slug Anthology. It's a must-have for Metal Slug completists, if for no other reason than it marks the first time that the relatively new Metal Slug 6 has appeared anywhere other than Sammy's Atomiswave arcade hardware. However, those same completists will likely be bothered by the unfortunate peppering of short, but noticeable, in-game load times found in all of the games. Still, the lovingly drawn 2D graphics look exceptional, and the series' comically violent style and relentless action make for a singularly awesome experience.
At its core, Metal Slug is a traditional side-scrolling shooter. You run to the right, shooting and tossing grenades at swarms of enemies while dodging their bullets, picking up weapon upgrades, and rescuing POWs, with the action regularly punctuated by screen-filling boss fights. As generic as that might sound, Metal Slug has always separated itself from the pack by relying on a goofy sense of humor, great-looking 2D graphics, and the kind of manic, sometimes-punishing gameplay that leaves your hands aching. You'll also regularly happen upon the titular metal slugs--high-powered armored vehicles that come in a variety of forms. At their most basic, slugs look like superdeformed tanks, but they can appear as helicopters, jets, submarines, mobile suits, camels, donkeys, and more.
The games in this collection are mostly arcade perfect, right down to the bouts of slowdown you would have experienced in the coin-op versions. The only thing that disrupts the mood are the extra loading screens that make the pauses between sequences linger for a little longer than they did originally. It's a minor point, and one that is only really noticeable in the later games in the series. It'll likely only irritate series veterans, but it does have a net effect on the pacing. An inherent issue with taking the coin-op element out of arcade games is reconciling the fact that you don't need to drop quarters into the game to keep playing when you run out of lives. Limited continues can be too punishing for some, while unlimited continues can eliminate much of the challenge for others. Metal Slug Anthology sidesteps the issue by letting you choose between limited or unlimited continues. You can save your progress at any point in any of the games, a luxury that any arcade player would have killed for after having run out of quarters midway through a game. Metal Slug Anthology also features an optional autofire setting that lets you simply hold the fire button rather than constantly tap on it, which is a welcome addition for the aging (or simply lazy) Metal Slug fan.
Though the settings and the enemies you fight have gotten more bizarre as the Metal Slug series has progressed, the basic gameplay formula has remained mostly consistent. Still, there have been distinct highs and lows over the years. Metal Slug 3 is arguably the most ambitious, with a final battle that begins with a dÃ©jÃ© vu fight against General Morden in his helicopter and ends with you fighting a gigantic alien mother brain in space, with several distinct sequences in between. Metal Slug 4, on the other hand, wasn't actually developed by SNK and almost feels like a Metal Slug bootleg. Metal Slug 5 was better and made the nearly inconsequential change of allowing your character to do a running slide, which was only useful for getting through low passages in a few specific areas. It was a change that disappeared in Metal Slug 6, though Metal Slug 6 has brought more changes to the series than the previous four sequels combined.