TOKYO--At the 2004 Tokyo Game Show, SNK showed off a playable version of its upcoming Game Boy Advance shooter, Metal Slug Advance. Like the other games in the series, Metal Slug Advance is a side-scrolling 2D shooter that puts you in the shoes of a solider up against nearly hopeless odds.
Metal Slug Advance's gameplay mostly sticks to the formula set forth by the arcade games that started the series. But, like previous handheld editions that were released on the NeoGeo Pocket Color, Metal Slug Advance lets you get hit more than once before dying. Your health meter goes down pretty quickly when you're hit, and you can maybe take three or four hits before dying. However, this switch doesn't necessarily make the game easy, as running out of health ended the entire mission and sent us back to base camp, which is a menu screen where you'll select different missions and other options.
Hopping in the fast-moving tank, for which the series is named, armors your character from damage, as your solider's health is replaced by your vehicle's health when you're riding. Fuel for the vehicles appears to have been omitted from this version of the game, but since the fuel concept was never terribly developed in the NeoGeo games, it doesn't make any noticeable difference.
As far as the visuals go, Metal Slug Advance does a good job of duplicating the look and feel of the originals, though series purists will note that this GBA lacks the blood found in the NeoGeo games. Also, enemy death animations seem to be cut down a bit, meaning that enemies slump over a lot quicker after being shot and tend to just go from standing to lying down dead almost immediately.
All in all, Metal Slug Advance is shaping up to be a pretty strong GBA action game. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.