For years now, SNK has been turning old ideas into new money by rereleasing its puckish Metal Slug action games on various home consoles, both in stand-alone and compilation titles. Metal Slug 3, arguably an apex for the series in terms of fresh ideas, narrative strength, and overall insanity, has now arrived on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 points ($10). That's a little steep for what is little more than a competent port of a seven-year-old arcade game, but it's still a manic, absurd experience that demands multiple plays.
While the original Metal Slug was a military-themed side-scrolling shooter with lots of cartoonish embellishments, the series became aggressively bizarre by the time Metal Slug 3 rolled around. Fatigue-wearing enemy soldiers barely register as cannon fodder as you face off against gigantic crabs, infectious zombie hordes, tentacled alien invaders and their slimy human clones, and more. You've got an array of high-impact weapons to fight them off with, as well as the various vehicles, or "slugs," that you'll happen upon, which range from tanks to weaponized ostriches. The game is rife with gigantic, wonderfully detailed boss fights, as well as plenty of sequences that stray from the standard side-scrolling action, including some great underwater and space sequences. This is just an incredibly inventive shooter, and the last few levels are some of the most purposefully outlandish in any game.
Having originally been an arcade game that depended on a regular infusion of quarters to operate, Metal Slug 3 can be incredibly--at times unfairly--difficult, though you can adjust the number of lives and continues you get, as well as the overall difficulty. It's also pretty short, and you can easily beat it in under an hour, though not without missing a huge number of alternate paths and weird little secrets. There are weapons, slugs, and entire groups of enemies that you probably won't see on a single play-through, making it a game that begs to be revisited.
Not much has been done to Metal Slug 3 in bringing it to Xbox Live Arcade. There has always been an obsessive amount of detail to the visuals in Metal Slug, and they still look good in HD, though old-timers will note that a filtering effect has taken away a lot of the pixelated edges, and that by default, enemy soldiers do not bleed red. There's local and online support for up to two players, and it works, though we noticed some pronounced frame rate issues in two-player games, and the online is highly susceptible to laggy conditions.
Ultimately, the things that might prevent you from enjoying Metal Slug 3, such as the number of times it's been released on other systems, its relative price point, and the lack of extras, are peripheral to the experience itself. If these things don't concern you, then you'll have a blast.