GDC '08: Metal Slug 7 Hands-On

SNK Playmore rolled up on us with a more feature-rich version of this DS shooter than we saw back at TGS.


At last year's Tokyo Game Show, SNK Playmore showed off a brief two-level demo of Metal Slug 7, the latest in the long and hallowed line of gonzo military-themed scrolling shooters. Now, we've gotten to play around with a much more expansive version of this currently Nintendo DS-exclusive blast-a-thon. US-based reps for SNK Playmore weren't able to tell us much about the game because they'd only just gotten their hands on it themselves, but we were able to surmise a few new details during our play session.

The thoroughly Japanese build of Metal Slug 7 we tried had a total of seven missions available, any of which we could select for play straight from the new-game screen. We figure this is the entire span of the single-player game, though you'll most likely have to unlock each mission as you play through the game the first time around. The build we played also had six playable characters available at the outset, though we couldn't discern any mechanical differences among them.

There wasn't much here that will surprise you if you've played any of the previous Metal Slugs on the numerous platforms they've appeared on. You're still running to the right, shooting everything that moves with increasingly more powerful weapons, and rescuing as many prisoners of war as you can (which are now tallied by name in a score screen on the main menu). There's a new arcing electricity gun, but otherwise, all the action we saw was straight up Metal Slug.

Metal Slug has been adapted fairly well to the DS's relatively small screen and limited power. The sprites--the same ones, for the most part, you've been seeing since the series' inception--seem to have been scaled down in size a bit, relative to the overall size of the screen, but the action was moving fast and furious without any significant slowdown. We had no trouble blasting away with the DS Lite's capable D pad and face buttons.

The game seems to present a new combo or bonus meter of some sort, which fills at the bottom of the screen as you waste enemies. You have to kill frequently to keep it from running back down, and once you fill it up entirely, it starts flashing and exhibits a "MAX" indicator as it runs down rapidly. Our best guess is this is a sort of score combo modifier that gives you extra points per kill while it's active, though we'll have to wait until we get to try an English version to figure it out for sure.

One feature we haven't seen in past Metal Slug games is the combat school, which presented a series of challenges that tasked you with playing through specific missions with various parameters, such as a time limit, a minimum accuracy rating, or a limitation to a specific weapon like the pistol. We couldn't tell if you'll gain any bonuses or rewards for completing these challenges because the mode was thick with Japanese text, but it was clear you'll at least receive a letter-grade ranking for your performance after completing each one.

Look for more on Metal Slug 7 when we get to try it in English.

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