Compared to all the other Wii games available at launch, Metal Slug Anthology feels a bit out of place. This collection of 2D shooters doesn't attempt to give you new game play, it's not about using the motion control, and if anything it feels more like the type of thing you would get on the Virtual Console. But the fact that this collection of SNK arcade classics is so out of place ends up working to its advantage. There are plenty of games that star animated movie character or feature a collection of mildly entertaining mini-games, but there's only one game that offers seven amazing 2D shooters on one disc. And that game is Metal Slug Anthology.
Metal Slug Anthology is a collection of the seven different Metal Slug arcade games, including Metal Slug 1 - 6 and the not-really-a-sequel Metal Slug X. Each of these games offers great 2D graphics, intense action, and a whole lot of crazy levels to play through. Best of all, you can bring a second player into the action at any time, which makes this an exciting two-player title for when your friends are sick of mini-games and Wii Sports.
In case you haven't had the pleasure of playing this series before, Metal Slug is a 2D shooter not unlike Contra or Gunstar Heroes. You play a soldier-like character that runs from the left part of the screen to the right shooting up enemy soldiers, mummies, aliens, zombies, tanks and pretty much everything else that gets in his (or her) way. The series is known for its humorous animations and crazy looking characters; the entire game is overflowing with character and is easily the funniest 2D shooter ever created. Along with multiple weapons and enemies, your soldier will also have the ability to jump into vehicles (tanks, jets, camels, etc.) and take out the bad guys in a number of exciting ways.
This is not the first time we've seen the Metal Slug games on a home system. Ever since its inception back in 1996 we have seen this series on the Game Boy Advance, Neo Geo Pocket Color, mobile phones, Sega Saturn, Xbox and PlayStation (there is also a version of this Anthology currently available on the Sony PSP). Like most of the other Metal Slug ports, this Wii Anthology looks and feels exactly like the original arcade games, which is pretty much all you can ask for with a collection like this. The good news is that this $40 game manages to include just about every 2D installment of the game in one easy to navigate package. Best of all, this is the first time U.S. Metal Slug fans will be able to own the sixth installment.
Despite the fact that there are seven different games in this compilation, you'll quickly notice that all of them are pretty similar to each other. Unlike some franchises that evolved into 3D titles, Metal Slug stayed tried and true with the original 2D formula. Not that this is a bad thing, but if you're looking for a lot of variety between the games then you should probably look elsewhere. The different sequels added new levels, a few different weapons, different alien creatures and a bunch of crazy bosses, but everything else is virtually identical to the original 1996 Metal Slug title. Needless to say, this is one collection where you may want to take a break between games. Playing through all seven games in one sitting may be enough to drive you crazy and make you hate all future 2D shooters.
One of the best arguments for buying a Nintendo Wii was the unique motion sensing controller. This remote-style control has allowed game developers to create new interactive experiences, something you can feel when you sit down with Wii Sports, Excite Truck or The Legend of Zelda. But Metal Slug is not the type of game that needs a new control scheme; it's gotten by just fine with the same basic moves and weapons. So how does the Wii control handle this 2D collection? The answer depends entirely on the type of set up you choose.
Metal Slug Anthology offers a half dozen ways of playing it. Some of the different control schemes are beyond absurd, but there are at least two that work just fine for what they are trying to do. Thankfully the default control set-up is one of the better ways of controlling the action, all you have to do is turn the Wii remote on its side and use the D-pad and two face buttons to jump and shoot. This mode isn't without a little motion support, though. If you want to throw a grenade you have to flick the control, something that didn't always work when I wanted it to. The best way to control the game is with the standard GameCube control, which allows you to map all of the moves to the face buttons.
But after you've experimented with those two set ups you're going to find that the rest range from bizarre to unwieldy. The arcade configuration, for example, makes you hold the remote straight up and down and turn it in the direction you want to move (and shoot), as if it is trying to be an arcade joystick. Not only is this incredibly hard to do, but it feels all wrong because the control isn't connected to a table or anything. Then there's the tilt remote configuration, which involves you tilting the sideways control left and right to make the character go. This is an interesting idea, but it just ends up being too difficult to move around with any precision. There is also a mode where you use the nunchuck and remote, which seems like a good idea but ended up feeling all wrong for this type of game. And while we're at it, we might as well talk about the craziest configuration of them all … the one-handed mode. This configuration allows you to use ONLY the nunchuck, so you move, jump, shoot and throw bombs with nothing more than the analog stick and two buttons found on the nunchuck. This is definitely an interesting idea, but like the rest of the wacky control schemes, it doesn't work as well as you would like it to.
With all of these different control configurations it would seem like SNK Playmore thought of everything. But they didn't. In fact, there's one omission that is extremely hard to believe. For some strange reason this Metal Slug Anthology opted to forget about the Wii's Virtual Console control, the one set up that actually makes a lot of sense. Sure the GameCube control works just fine, but it just feels wrong to make people buy a control for an outdated system to play this Wii game the way it was intended.
Along with seven pixel-perfect arcade ports, Metal Slug Anthology also has a couple of extra features. Well, it has one extra feature … an art gallery. SNK is known for their amazing artwork, and Metal Slug is no exception. As you play through the games you will be able to unlock more pictures, some of which are very detailed. Unfortunately this may not be that much of an incentive, especially when you consider that other game collections hide extra games, interviews, trailers and promotional material in their games. I personally would have preferred a couple of developer interviews, perhaps something that explains why none of the Metal Slug games allow you to shoot in a diagonal direction. Seriously, it's been ten years and you still can't shoot diagonally? Come on SNK, what are you waiting for?
All in all the Metal Slug Anthology ends up doing everything it is supposed to do. It compiles seven of the best 2D shooters onto one disc, all for a slightly cheaper price tag. Unfortunately you won't find a lot of variety in this collection, but that is more a complaint about the original games and not this compilation. This is a no frills package that gives you seven games that are still a lot of fun to play, even if the game play is a bit outdated. It would have been nice to see a little more emphasis added to the extra features, but this is one disc that Wii owning Metal Slug fans should check out.