Review – Metal Slug Double X

Metal Slug Double X
Metal Slug is a series that always gets plenty of my attention. I’ve devoted a ridiculous amount of love to the franchise during my stay on Starship Earth, even going so far as to attempt playing it on a Neo Geo Pocket Color – which requires the player to sit directly beneath the sun in order to see the screen clearly.

Even after all this time, I’ll still put money into a Neo Geo cab when one turns up at a gaming event, and still lament the fact that I couldn’t afford any of the fancy Japanese hardware that allowed the game to be played at home when I was younger. In many ways, Metal Slug is why the dinosaurs had to die – so we could use the oil from their corpses to fuel the boats that would one day bring this franchise to North America. The animation of characters and actions grabs me every time I see it, that melodramatic Looney Tunes mix of over-action that separates Metal Slug’s cartoonish hyper-violent-bullet-coaster-ride from any other title.

With this in mind, it’s easy-peasy for me to fall into this PSP enhanced port of the DS release (Metal Slug 7), finding my groove and slugging a path through more enemies in a single level than exist in the entirety of other run and gun titles. And yet, like an indecisive Emperor, there’s enough weight on either end of the judgment scale to keep my thumb from turning up or down over this release, creating an unfortunate zone of indifference.

Metal Slug Double X
Setting my enthusiasm and nostalgic love notes aside, we can compare Metal Slug Double X to plenty of other shooters, which gets problematic given how many have either died away to history or been forced to experiment with new directions for better or worse to keep their respective brands in the fight for relevance over a niche market. And when you open that can of worms, there’s no denying that Metal Slug Double X represents the inability of SNK to really make a decision about the series, though leaning heavily toward crushing its future for the milking at work here.

That doesn’t make Metal Slug Double X a poor entry to the series. The game is every bit as worthy of the brand label as previous releases, and perhaps invites the potential for a larger audience given a more straightforward direction that loses the vomiting zombies and minimizes alien involvement. While I lament such absences, I can appreciate the increased appeal minimizing such oddities presents for players not familiar with the formula – filling the screen with bullets while soldiers, tanks and robots do the same until the screen becomes a collage of smoke and fire accented by the running antics of freed POWs. And this formula is as good as ever – I’ve run through the game about 14 times as of writing this review.

The bitching comes from a mix of marketing and a recognition of what’s on the market, with a dash of having “been there and done that” already – which doesn’t take away from the game’s performance, but certainly leaves veterans most likely to pick up the title feeling that the start screen should exclaim “here we go again!”

Metal Slug Double X
I remained optimistic that Double X could offer more on the PSP, specifically because of challenge modes and adhoc co-op play – and I feel about half right at this point. Challenge mode is enough of a predictable let down that I feel rather stupid for holding out hope. Whereas I was imagining some new scenery for exploratory mission goals, the game offers up various conditions of victory layered over the existing seven stages of the game – boo!

The co-op play for Double X renewed some play value – as I suspected there is nothing quite so sweet as laying in bed with my girl while carving a path through the game on dual PSPs, and assuming your mate isn’t opposed to toys in the bedroom I highly recommend that – BUT – this of course requires two PSPs as well as two copies of the game.

So the price of Metal Slug Double X becomes a sore point, insofar as the game itself is not overpriced at twenty dollars, but I can’t help feeling that a ten dollar price point on a digital distribution copy – which isn’t yet available – would make it easier to give the thumbs up here.

There is a full game here, with glorious animations, boss and enemy designs, and levels that will crush your soul and spur you on to get better while rescuing POWs and trying to manage the weapons needed to stay alive. And yet, I can’t ignore that there are a great many games offering some equally visceral experiences, and taking that into account on Double X’s pricing would undoubtedly help spread more love for the slug.

Metal Slug Double X
Lest we forget, there’s an entire Metal Slug Anthology on three different systems, including the PSP, which you can likely find used for the same amount of money as Double X on the right day. And as much as I hate to drag money into a review, that fact really ties my hands on recommending Double X, which offers one shot at the series versus every other entry to date.

As entertaining as the series is, this is the finish line – actually we’re beyond it. The series desperately needs to step up its game, because even if a release like this could find a few new players, the title falls out with a bored niche that was once its guaranteed audience.

And it’s too bad, because I can see the appeal that would lead Atlus into publishing the title. Metal Slug is an institution that plenty of shooter fans still might not have any knowledge of despite re-releases and an anthology, as well as plenty of praise from the old school.

Double X offers up just enough slug to get that point across, but like the approach to its design, its thinking is very old school, particularly at a time when other classic franchises are coming back at half the price. And in the end, as much as I enjoy running through every slug, and as good as this one looks on the PSP, that’s just too hard to ignore.

But it doesn’t have to end this way, Metal Slug hasn’t gotten a digital release on PSN yet. All Atlus has to do is consider my modest pricing proposal, and plenty of people would be tempted to get their slug on.

I’m not sure if I can use a review for price bartering with a publisher, but seriously Atlus, think it over.

Metal Slug Double X
DeveloperSNK Playmore
System – PlayStation Portable
Release Date – February 23, 2010

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • EdEN

    I’d guess the best way to spend $20 is going for the Metal Slug Anthology on Wii which gets you several games for the price of this DS to PSP port.

    • Jamie Love

      I kinda wish I had it for the Wii now, mine’s PS2.

      • Ujn Hunter

        Ha! I own it for the Wii, PS2 & PSP! :P
        It’s like $17.xx or something on Amazon for PSP I think. I’ve actually been playing through the whole series for SNK’s 20th and I just recently purchased XX w/ Leona ($0.99) DLC. I own almost all the games in the series in multiple formats… even NGPC as you mention… but I’m missing 2nd Mission unfortunately. Anyhow I haven’t played XX yet, I’ve been playing them in order every few nights or so. :)

        Also, here’s an idea for publishers… why not include a code inside each UMD release for a digital copy? You know how Blu-ray’s are coming out with those (totally awesome) Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy packages? Oh yeah! Do it!