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‘Metal Slug 2 ACA NEOGEO’ Review – Double the Action, Double the Slowdown, Double the Releases

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I think Hamster and SNK might be speedrunning these now. Another week has passed, and we’ve got another ACA NEOGEO release that essentially replaces an existing app. That’s all well and good, since the older versions of these apps are over a decade old. They need to either be overhauled or replaced, and in light of pretty much the entire first-party library of the NEOGEO being released through the brand-consistent ACA NEOGEO line, it’s not surprising SNK has opted for the latter choice. I do wish the old apps would be removed from sale when this happens, but what can you do? The latest game to get the treatment is Metal Slug 2 ACA NEOGEO ($3.99), the first sequel in the popular run-and-gun franchise.

If you’ve read any of my recent reviews of games that follow in this pattern, you can skip ahead to the next paragraph. This is just my general recommendation that you avoid picking up Dotemu’s conversion of Metal Slug 2 that at the time of this writing remains on the store. Yes, it’s a dollar cheaper. But it’s only a dollar, and I think the differences here more than make up for that extra buck you spend. This new version is not only likely to have a far longer future, but also is designed for modern devices and their displays, which are things we cannot say for the older version. You get more options and extra features with the new version, and greater compatibility with external controllers. Spend that extra dollar, you deserve the treat.

Metal Slug was likely a pretty big surprise to SNK when it released back in 1996. Nazca Corporation, the developer behind the game, was a team formed by ex-Irem employees who had left the company to pursue their ambitions. This was a seasoned bunch, having worked together on games at Irem such as Air Duel, Undercover Cops, GunForce II, and perhaps most famously, In The Hunt. Nevertheless, its first efforts as Nazca Corporation proper went far beyond most expectations. A pair of NEOGEO titles, published by SNK themselves: NEO Turf Masters and Metal Slug. The former is one of the finest arcade-style golfing games ever made, and the latter? Well, it soon became a staple of every NEOGEO MVS around.

SNK made what was for this time in its history a rare wise business decision: it bought Nazca Corporation lock-stock. You don’t want to lose talent like that. Its first mission as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company was to follow up on the ultra-hot Metal Slug, a mission that it would more or less carry out for the rest of its unexpectedly short lifespan. But how can you top something as wild as Metal Slug without losing what brought people to the game in the first place?

Metal Slug 2 offers the same number of stages, with six in total. The game goes a bit more over the top with its themes than the first game, and there’s more variety in general. The playable roster has doubled with the additions of Fio and Eri. They play the same as the guys, but it’s nice to have the choice. There are a few new weapons, and one of the returning ones has been upgraded. The titular Metal Slug vehicles also see their selection expanded, with the SV-Camel, Slugnoid, and Slug Flyer showing up in set places during the game. The original SV-001 tank is here too, of course. There are some other fun extra bits in here too, like how your character can be turned into a mummy or how one of the prisoners will follow you around throwing fireballs after you save him.

All of this ambition comes at a cost, however. Metal Slug 2 is notorious for the severity of its slowdown when the action picks up. And pals, the action picks up often. It’s so bad that Nazca actually opted to revisit the game the following year, using the improvements of the engine of the then-in-development Metal Slug 3 to remove many of the technical issues plaguing the game. The team also added some new goodies in while they were at it, and that revised version became Metal Slug X. That is not this game, but I’m sure we’ll see it soon. This game is as it ever was, and that means you’re going to be running, jumping, and shooting through some molasses at times. History isn’t always pretty.

I think to a great degree Metal Slug X negates this game, but for the serious Metal Slug fan I think the differences can be interesting enough to make Metal Slug 2 worth keeping around. If you’re not into that kind of hair-splitting or aren’t planning to catch them all, you might just want to be patient and wait for Metal Slug X‘s ACA NEOGEO version. I imagine it will come in a matter of weeks, simply because Hamster and SNK don’t have too many other games to touch on at this point. From a gameplay perspective Metal Slug 2 loses to Metal Slug X in every way. On its own merits, it’s quite a lot of fun despite the issues. And hey, it’s not likely you’re going to have a second player on screen gumming things up even worse.

Yes, I have to bang my usual drums here. First up, playing this game with touch controls is not ideal. It can be done, and you’ve got unlimited credits to work with here so it doesn’t particularly matter if you keep on dying. But a challenging game like this really works best if you can use an external controller to play. If you have one, this is just as fun to blast your way through as it is on any other platform. You’ll probably have to go it alone, because multiplayer requires external controllers and a display you feel comfortable hunkering down around. Well, you could do a lot worse on iOS even with all this baggage in tow.

You get the usual ACA NEOGEO options here. Game settings, control mapping, virtual control adjustments, audio and video options, and so on. You can play the Japanese version with all the blood spurts or the Overseas version with all the sweat spurts, and you also get the usual Score Attack and timed Caravan modes. Those extra modes are pretty fun here, especially the Score Attack. This is a game you can get through on one credit if you practice enough, and it’s a good challenge to see how far you can go while accumulating the most points possible. You get your online leaderboards as well, allowing you to compare your feats with those of other players. The extras supplement the game well, even if the necessary sacrifices of the mobile format don’t.

Look, if you’re going to buy Metal Slug 2 on mobile, this ACA NEOGEO release is the one you want. And if you’re trying to collect all the Metal Slug games or even all of the Arcade Archives releases, don’t let me stop you. But even setting aside the usual issues with Metal Slug games on mobile, I have to recommend the average player simply wait for Metal Slug X to get a rerelease. It’s everything this game is and more, with the improvement of the egregious slowdown being no small favor. A good game, but one made largely redundant by another entry that will be here soon.


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