Review: Metal Slug XX

metalslugxx_boxart.jpg Don’t read anything into the fancy title; Metal Slug XX (or Double X) is not a brand new game in the Metal Slug franchise or some sort of extreme spin-off. It’s actually just an improved PSP port of Metal Slug 7 (much like Metal Slug X was a revision of Metal Slug 2), which came out in late 2008 for the DS. As such, you won’t find an ounce of innovation (or even evolution) in this installment. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much, because some series just never seem to get old, and Metal Slug is one such series.

Everything you know and love about Metal Slug, Metal Slug XX has it. The side-scrolling run-and-gun action is as chaotic and thumb-blistering as ever, as you take up arms as Marco, Eri, Ralf, Clark, Fio or Tarma and blast through seven bullet- and explosion-filled missions equipped with weapon power-ups and vehicles aplenty — including some new toys like the Slug Gigantus, a giant mech that takes up nearly half the screen!

The game controls beautifully on the PSP, and has been further upgraded over the DS version with the inclusion of Ad-hoc co-op, which is great if you and a friend both own copies. Ad-hoc Party, the PSN service that allows you to use a PS3 as a server for making Ad-hoc PSP games playable online, may also be an option, but I didn’t have the means to test it myself and haven’t been able to confirm whether or not it works with this game.

Metal Slug has never looked any better either, with Double X showcasing the brightest, crispest 2D sprites and animations in the series yet. It runs silky-smooth too. Metal Slug Anthology, as value-packed as it may be, is very sloppy in terms of port quality. Slowdown and frequent framerate skips plague the compilation, and just sorting through the menus is a pain due to the excessive load times.

Metal Slug XX, however, was clearly optimized for the PSP with far greater care. After multiple trips through the campaign and hours spent in Combat School, I haven’t noticed a single frame drop or pause, and even though multiple load times still break up each level, they are snappy enough that the gameplay maintains a steady flow. Three viewing options are also available: full widescreen, 4:3 with borders on both sides, and a Clear setting which shrinks the screen even more to provide a sharper resolution.

A common criticism of the Metal Slug series (and its genre brethren) is that the games are too short. Metal Slug XX too is short, with its seven missions taking no more than an hour to complete. However, to me the “it’s too short” complaint completely misses the point, because these are arcade games at heart and are designed to be replayed again and again for speed runs and improving high scores. Double X even goes one step further, bringing back another awesome edition of the Combat School mode filled with over 70 tough new training drills, such as timed boss battles, survival challenges, POW rescue runs and even little mini-games that have you shooting a mine cart back and forth to catch falling balls or using your gun to keep balls afloat for a certain period of time. These drills are such a blast to play and will keep you busy long after you’re done with the main missions.

With Metal Slug Anthology sitting on the PlayStation Store for $20 (and UMD copies easy to find even cheaper), Metal Slug XX’s only real problem is value competition from its own kind. But even though you aren’t getting seven games in one for the same price, Metal Slug XX’s relentless action and high replayability make up the difference.

Unfortunately, if you’re a PSPgo owner, you’re once again being treated like Sony’s red-headed stepchild, because, as of yet, Metal Slug XX is still not available via PSN. Interestingly, my review copy was provided as a PSN voucher, but from what I was told by Atlus this past Friday, there are currently no plans for a public downloadable release. That’s a real shame too, because this is exactly the type of smallish game release that I think would benefit from PSN digital delivery.

But hey, if you still have a UMD-equipped PSP, you should add this game to your arsenal.

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Pros:
+ Vintage Metal Slug gameplay
+ Properly optimized for PSP
+ Combat School keeps you coming back for more
+ Sharp 2D graphics

Cons:
– Doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise
– Currently no plans for PSN release – sorry PSPgo owners 🙁

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: 2/23/2010
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (Ad-hoc only)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!