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Do you remember the 90's? Do you remember when arcade games ruled the waves, and were the height of aspiration for the measly home console? If so, maybe you played Metal Slug in its original environment. Huddled in a dark corner, volume maxed out to compete with the claw prize machines; you could play for minutes and draw a good crowd of onlookers all ready to pass judgement of your skills.
The Metal Slug series was a true child of this era, and won many admirers of its classic side scrolling game play, quirky 2d art direction, not to mention its arsenal of weapons and vehicles. The success of the first game results in a follow up, which in turn resulted in a series which grew to become seven games, Metal Slug 1 to 6 plus Metal Slug X.
Metal Slug Anthology serves up all seven games on the Wii with an array of different control schemes aimed to suite all tastes. No longer tied to the arcade's coin operated model, you can choose from limited coin play or the newbie pleasing free play that endows you with unlimited ten pence pieces. And for both the new and returning player this proves to be a promising prospect.
Firing up the first game was like a trip down memory lane. I was back in a dark corner of my local arcade, aiming at the perfect game and that high score with a handful of friends watching the action.
First impressions of the game are pretty good. There's a real sense of time travel as you are whisked back to those smokey noisy warehouses we used to frequent. Just seeing the massive sprites and hearing that forced voice work and samples again was an experience for which I was happy to shell out my hard earned cash.
Seeing the action unfold on my reasonable sized TV added to the authenticity, something lacking from those who dabbled with mame, which never really looked the same on modern high definition computer screens. Those old machines made up for the lack of any wide aspect by their sheer size and brightness. And the emulation achieves this pretty well, although not offering a true wide screen experience; it at least fills our modern displays.
However, given a little more time and things start to unravel. Firstly, the menus look as though they were the ones thrown in during debug that never actually got replaced by the real art. To say they are a bit basic is an understatement. Secondly, as you start to try out the various control schemes which range from the bizarre to the hilarious you get the feeling that this didn't really get that long play testing period so essential to quality conversions games.
My biggest frustration with the controls was mistakenly starting the game with my player two Wii-mote, after a few minutes I realised my mistake and switched to my player one controller. All fine until the second Wii-mote did its usual power down after a few minutes, at which point the game stopped play to tell me it had lost communication with the controller, which blatantly wasn't being used. There was no way to rectify this without restarting the game.
Some have said that they were unable to find a usable control scheme, now I agree that the majority of the set-ups have something or other that feels a bit 'jankey'. But I found the sideways Wii-mote option pretty good. Admittedly you have to gesture with it to fire a grenade, but I could live with that for the compact feel of the great little controller. It remains a mystery why they didn't include support for the virtual console controller, as it was designed with exactly these types of retro games in mind.
Thankfully the quality and sheer energy of the games mean that you soon forgot any grips with the controls as you get involved in the action. Add another player into the mix and you really have a great little gaming experience. There is a certain rhythm to the action (no pun intended) that means you slowly get into your groove during prolonged play. And as you play on, it is good to know there is a real wealth of material to tackle here; as you can see the series develop into the phenomenon that warrants its re-release on today's top platforms.
In terms of value for money, the pack delivers if you are after these particular arcade titles. Previous releases of the series, usually just a single instalment, on the Xbox and GBA have cost nearly as much as all seven on the Wii. However, if you compare the £39.99 cover price with the virtual console, you'd get a good seven SNES games for the same amount, and what's more you'd be able to use the controller that has been specifically designed to work with these types of games. Furthermore, the recent announcement that SNK are going to be releasing Neo Geo titles on the virtual console also poses another way to obtain these titles.
Overall, this is a mixed bag. The quality of the original games is still able to shine through the shoddy conversion. But the realisation that SNK Playmore has not really invested in their own game (which is effectively their own history) takes the shine off what could have been a really exciting anthology.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: