Metal Slug X is a remaster of the second game of the series that introduces a few new guns and enemies. Metal Slug is well known for it’s action packed 2D run and gun gameplay which X further improves upon over the original. It is a far sillier game than the original and introduces outlandish enemies such as mummies and aliens to the fray. With that variation in enemies X does become more difficult since there are more than simple soldiers to fight. There are four difficulty modes and the higher up you go the faster and more plentiful enemies become. You can choose the number of continues you start with ranging from 5, 10, 20 or Freeplay which gives you infinite continues. Even on the easiest difficulty I would recommend going with freeplay since this game is brutal.
You can play either solo or with a friend either locally or online. Arcade mode and Mission mode are exactly the same minus having the ability to choose which mission to start at in “Mission mode”. Outside of that there isn’t really any other content other than the leaderboards. And considering the game takes about 45 minutes to beat it may be a hard sell for some. There is no real reason to replay other than having fun so that may be something to consider when purchasing. Starting off the game you are given a choice of one of four characters which play the same though have different grunting noises while dying. Which will be quite frequent depending on your skills since it only takes one hit and you are done for.
One of the unique things about Metal Slug is that you do not die from merely touching an enemy instead they need to actually attack you which is a feature that I personally love. Though you will obviously die if you touch a tank as it rolls over you. You can find much more powerful weapons by rescuing prisoners or in random crates though you lose them upon death and they do have limited ammo unlike your basic pistol. Quite a few weapons are included in X such as the Flameshot, Machine Gun, Laser and the famous “rawkit lawnchair”. There is also a throw grenade button which will be pretty much vital to be any good at the game and is very effect against the tougher enemies. You can also find a power-up that will upgrade it into a molotov cocktail though they are rare. Picking up a lot of food item makes you fat and upgrades your weapons though at the cost of being a much larger target.
This is not a bullet hell type of game and the number of bullets coming at you is usually never overwhelming. The difference lies in that you can be attacked from all directions including rooftops so simply camping on the left side of the screen and mowing down enemies will not work here. You also have the option of riding certain vehicles throughout the game like tanks and jets to more wacky ones such as a camel with mini-guns attached to it. They are surprisingly delicate and will go down if you take a couple of hits. Somehow even the tank can jump to avoid bullets so with enough skill you should be able to mow through quite a bit of the level before abandoning ship. You will be able to eject from the vehicle when it takes enough damage or you simply want to be on foot now and go back to dying in one hit.
Throughout the levels you can free prisoners that will gift you weapons and items. They give you a huge score once you save them which sounds easy but actually rescuing them means going through the level without dying after freeing him. Once you die all your previous freed prisoners are gone. Using a continue resets your whole score back to zero so it takes a lot of talent to make it anywhere near the top of the leaderboards. Unfortunately this port of the game is not so great. There are occasionally terrible bits of slow down where it feels like watching a slideshow and that will likely break your flow, getting you killed. It is a shame too. Once you see the swirling staircase in the last level instead of thinking “Oh cool” you will likely be wishing they didn’t even include it so you can get a solid frame rate.
Visuals have been untouched and are showing their age though you can play it in a 16:9 ratio instead of the 4:3 shown in the Steam page. Funnily enough it does look much better than most indie retro inspired games available. It thankfully improved upon the over-usage of the color gray from the first game and added a lot more color to the backgrounds. You start off in Egypt, make your way through a cursed mining site and end up riding a train to China all within a few levels which is a lot more memorable than going from gray place to gray place like the original. The quality of the animations are outstanding from a blast of fire to the simple idle animations of merely standing around. Enemies don’t just stand around waiting for you, they talk with each other, cook and even sunbathe on fold-able chairs which adds a lot of quirkiness to the game. Music is also very fitting and frantic. Sounds effects such as gunfire and soldiers screaming when on fire are quite good as well.
Boss fights are the craziest parts of the game and the most difficult. They are all enormous robots and absolutely dwarf your character in size. They can very easily kill you multiple times and are your biggest obstacle to saving the Prisoners. You never know what to expect either, as an example the first boss is a giant robot with multiple forms and the second one is a robot chasing you up a giant pillar which requires a good amount of platforming. Platforming does not show up much and when it does it is very simple jumping. It is far more action than platforming. Some bosses can be annoyingly bullet spongey though which makes sense considering they are giant robots but it still gets tiresome after so much shooting.
This is one of those cases of quality over quantity. Due to the short length of the game every part of it is full of detail and has great care put in to it. Whether that is a good trade off, is a question only you the reader can decide. Metal Slug X has aged gracefully and is still as much fun to play now as it was back then. Though the slowdown caused by the port does bring it down some. If you are wondering which Metal Slug game should you start with, know that it doesn’t really mater. There is no story whatsoever though it may be odd going back to the relatively “sane” Metal Slug 1 after fighting all sorts of crazy enemies in all of the games after MS1. Overall if you are looking for a good 2D run and gun game or simply looking to kill an hour this would be a pretty good option.