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November 18 2017

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  PSP - Metal Slug Anthology





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Game Stats
Other:
Players:
1 or 2 player

Type:
Platform Shoot 'em up

Other Info:
Wireless compatible for 2 player gaming!

Uses a max amount of 288kb for save games.
Further Info:

Also available for Nintendo Wii and Playstation 2, contains every Neo Geo Metal Slug game as well as Metal Slug 6!




Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:
- The King Of Fighters: Maximum Impact (PS2)
- Art Of Fighting (Neo Geo)
- King of Fighters 2002 (Neo Geo)
- Metal Slug 5 (Neo Geo)
- Ninja Masters (Neo Geo)
- Matrimelee (Neo Geo)
- Neo Geo Fighter Stick For PS2 (Hardware)


Introduction

Forget General Morden and the horde of invading aliens... the Metal Slug gang have been handed potentially their most difficult mission yet: Can they overcome severe thumb cramp and extreme infuriation at unsatisfactory loading delays? The fate of a PSP console lays in their hands... will they complete the mission or will the tiny handheld get thrown out of the nearest window in frustration?


PSP owners can prepare to do battle with General Morden's troops and many other bizarre and downright wacky creatures in this collection of run and gun games that span the last 10 years. That's right folks, Metal Slug Anthology for the PSP is finally here! It contains some of the greatest 2D action titles ever created, but at times it can be an annoying experience. The big question however: is this UMD any good, does it play well, and most of all, is it worth purchasing? Let's find out...


"I don't know if I really want to watch thousands of Morden's troops die over and over again..."

Before I start, I am going to jump right in and state to all of those who haven't read my previous Metal Slug reviews: I am a massive fan of the series and have been since Nazca unleashed Metal Slug 1 in the arcades back in 1996. It was one of the first few carts I grabbed when I got my own MVS setup a few years later, and I have played pretty much every game in the series to death, including the Neo Geo Pocket versions and the Gameboy Advance edition. I'm not going to lie though, I'm not an expert player. I am good at it, I have one-credited Metal Slug 1 and come close to one-crediting some of the other titles, but I'm not on the same level as people I have watched in those "super-play" videos, who seem to be invincible and never put a foot wrong. How someone manages to get through that final stage in Metal Slug 3 on level 8 difficulty without dying is absolutely beyond me, but suffice to say, those players have "mad skills".


Anyway, while not a total expert at the game, with all my dedication to, and love for Metal SLug, I probably do enjoy even the less spectacular entries to the series more than most (see Metal Slug 4). Also, while a some 2D fans out there might be a little bored with playing through the same old Slug titles over and over, I'm still crazy for them and if I'm in need of a quick arcade shoot 'em up fix, not many games come close in my opinion. So, any collection that has every one of the main games in the series on one disc is bound to appeal to me way more than the average Joe who probably only plays through a game like this once or twice before moving on to something else. Before even thinking about buying Metal Slug Anthology, you really need to ask yourself whether you really want to play through a bunch of games that you've seen a thousand times before. If you are new to the series then you won't have this problem, but most people reading this need to give it some serious consideration. There is of course the fact that this is a portable edition (and the thought of wasting a couple of hours of a boring train journey with Metal Slug 3 for example fills me with joy), but portable or not, if you are bored with the games already then you won't get much out of it other than it being a bit of a novelty for a short while.



Hours of gaming fun!

For any Neo Geo/Metal Slug fan, the blurb on the back of the box makes this sound like portable gaming heaven. "ARCADE PERFECT CONVERSIONS", "2 PLAYER WIRELESS CO-OP MODE", as well as "UNLOCKABLE ITEMS" are all claimed, as well as all 6 of the Neo Geo Slug games and the Atomiswave arcade game Metal Slug 6. In fact, Metal Slug 6 is probably one of the biggest reasons to buy Anthology, due to it not being available in the western world until recently (you could only get it on Japanese import). It is now available on the Nintendo Wii right now, as well as the PS2 collection disc which is listed as coming soon on the official site at the time of writing. When you factor in the time it will take you to complete each of the seven games on the disc, the time taken to go back and see all the different routes and secrets in some of the games, and then the time it takes to unlock all the stuff in the gallery mode (more on this later), not to mention attempting to beat your own high scores and "credits used", you have a lot of replay value on your hands.


So, it sounds like an ideal game for a portable, but I guess you can already tell that I am building up to some slightly disappointing news...?


PSP Issues

Get used to staring at this screen a lot!

"Surely in this day and age load times should be a thing of the past?"

I don't want to sound overly negative because this is definitely a great game to own, but I feel the need to rant a little bit about the problems that you will encounter while playing it. The first issue with MSA is something you are going to notice VERY quickly; load times are a problem, and to be perfectly honest, they really shouldn't be, not on this system! We should have been over and done with this kind of thing after the Playstation days, but it has occasionally crept into the odd SNKP title in recent memory, such as the Japanese version of Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, and I am going to be blunt: it is not acceptable, not at all. Technological constraints are understandable, but when you look at other games on the system that have been programmed properly, it makes it harder to accept the way this title is. Here's how a game of MSA usually goes:


Time from the PSP logo to the title screen: 1 minute 23 seconds (that includes skipping the intro movie)

Loading Metal Slug 3 and getting to the character select: 50 seconds

Changing character: 5-12 seconds (yes, just moving the cursor on the select screen makes the game load)


Once you have chosen a character you are generally straight into the game with little pause, but having to wait up to 30 seconds just so I can move the cursor across from Marco to Tarma is incredibly annoying... it's unbelievable that it takes so long, in fact it is unbelievable that it happens at all. It's not done there either! All of the games (aside from Metal Slug 1) suffer from mid-stage loading - when you go from one scene to another (like taking a different route in MS3), the game pauses for a while, usually for about 5-10 seconds) while it loads the next segment in. I got used to it after a while, and the optimist in me decided to call it an "opportunity to take a sip of my coffee", but it's irritating and tends to break up the flow of the action somewhat, especially for those of us used to the cart versions on the Neo Geo. I guess it is down to a lack of memory and that the PSP can't hold all the data in its RAM, but it does make me wonder why the hell it can't! If you leave the games in their demo modes after loading them, the familiar Neo Geo logo plays, so it's quite obvious that SNK are emulating these games instead of porting them over properly, so I guess that's your answer. I did expect them to do it this way to save time and money, but surely it could have been handled better than this? Throw in the very occasional stutter where everything pauses for a brief second, and you have a gaming experience that isn't quite the perfection that it was on the Neo Geo itself (aka "the real thing").


Does it spoil the game and make it unplayable? Not really, no. I got used to these faults after a while, and if you are going to be playing MSA quite a lot without regularly swapping out your UMD to play other games, then you can at least get past the initial load time problem by simply putting your console into sleep mode. There is really nothing you can do about the select screen and in-game load times though, unless you resort to more "naughty" means of playing your games. If you have a PSP console capable of playing games from the memory stick (don't ask me for info on this, you'll have to look elsewhere), you could use some software to rip the data from the UMD and play it that way. Transfer times from the memory stick are better and I have read forum posts from people who have done just that and they claimed that it improved things quite a bit. I am in no way suggesting that you don't buy the UMD, but it is an option to consider if you have purchased the game already and your PSP is capable of doing it. Mine isn't unfortunately, but either way I paid for the game because I want to support SNK and Ignition Entertainment (the European publishers) and because I want to see more releases of their games over here. I really would encourage people to do the same. It won't stop me complaining when a title isn't quite up to scratch though!


Gameplay

There isn't much I can say about the gameplay of all the titles contained on this disc that the vast majority of people reading this won't already know, so I am not going to bore you with the intricate details of each game. If you are new to the series, then I would suggest you head to the Neo Geo review section of the site and take a look at my in-depth reviews of Metal Slug 1-5, as they will give you all the information that you will need.


Now that's been said, I can talk about how well they play on the PSP version. Other than the problems mentioned above, I would have to say "pretty damn well". Thankfully SNK decided to not force people into using the analogue stick like they did on the Wii version of the game when you plug in a Gamecube controller, but the option is there if you prefer it. The controls are responsive and I was blasting the hell out of Morden's goons with ease within a few seconds of starting the game. The only complaint that I have is actually one with the hardware itself: any PSP owner will tell you how stiff the D-Pad is and how it makes it nigh-on impossible to play fighting games that require complex commands, and while that is not a concern with Metal Slug, you still need to use the diagonals fairly often, which is not easy. Crouching and walking at the same time is where you will have the biggest problem - I died really early on in Metal Slug 1, simply because I was trying to crouch under the electric fences near the start and Marco ended up standing up because I wasn't pressing on the D-Pad hard enough to make down/right register. You won't have this problem with using the analogue stick, but that is not precise enough when you are in the heat of battle, so trying to use that will inevitably end with your character lying dead on the floor because you didn't have intricate enough control to dodge a bullet and shoot a few bad guys at the same time.


Pressing down so hard on the pad will eventually give you major thumb ache. A Neo Geo stick this is not... but there is a solution. If you buy one of the stick on D-Pads that you can find in some stores and on Ebay, you will have much less of a problem. True, it looks a little unsightly and you might not be so keen on sticking things to your shiny (and expensive) console, but you really need it to get the most out of not only this game, but any 2D fighter that you buy. I found games like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha 3 unplayable without it, so if you can bare to go down this route it's a good cheap fix. Otherwise, one thing is for sure: in Metal Slug Anthology, your thumb will eventually drop off due to fatigue from you attempting to press the diagonals on the pad, and you will stand as much chance of living as a mummified soldier confronted with a shotgun!


Otherwise, the game has translated very well with no other issues. Good stuff.


Multiplayer

For those with friends who own a PSP, you can also play 2 player via wireless. There is no game sharing option so you will both need a copy of the game. To start multiplayer you simply choose the game you want to play, and then select either "Host Network Game" or "Join Network Game", it's as simple as that. I have no friends with the game however so I have not been able to try this mode yet... for all I know it might lag out pretty badly, but I'm yet to hear any positive/negative reports about it. If you have tried it out please send me a private message!


Graphics

Above: Metal Slug in 16:9 stretched mode

SNK claim that these games are "perfect conversions" on the back cover, and from a graphical viewpoint I'd say they are pretty much correct as I can't see any real difference compared to playing the games on my MVS. It is on a tiny screen though of course, so if there are any minor problems then it would be hard to spot them anyway. The animation seems spot on and the only thing that is a concern is what screen mode you should set the game to. The PSP has a 16:9 widescreen, and the original games were 4:3. With 3D games they can more easily change the aspect ratio to make it fit, but with 2D games it isn't possible without re-making the game from scratch or by simply stretching the image to fit. To remedy this, SNK have given us three different options so that you can pick the one that you like best. Default is "4:3", which has the game stretched out very slightly both horizontally and vertically. It has to be stretched out a little because the resolution on the PSP's TFT screen is different to that of the Neo Geo. The drawbacks of this mode is that it makes the game look VERY SLIGHTLY blurry, pretty much how it would be on a PC emulator with a video filter turned on, and you will have to make do with tiny black borders on either side of the screen. It isn't very noticeable at all though with the screen being small, in fact I forgot about it completely after I had been playing the game for a few minutes.


If you want to see truly blurry then you should check out 16:9 mode. That stretches the game out both horizontally and vertically and although it's not as bad as I feared it would be, I would never use it myself mainly because everything ends up in the wrong aspect and it's just... wrong (see the screen above). If you are a real purist and don't want any blurriness or stretching, then you can choose "original pixel", which is exactly what it says it is. It looks nice and crisp and clear in this mode, but you end up with huge borders both at the sides and the top and bottom of the screen. I can't see anyone wanting to play the game like this, but I suppose SNK left the option in there just in case.


I quite enjoyed the presentation and menus. The animated title screen with enemy troops and vehicles moving about is pretty cool, and although everything is quite simple it still looks reasonably nice and not as cheap as some compilation discs can be... it's just a shame about the load times between most screens. Overall then, the game looks good. In fact, you don't notice any pixellation on a small handheld screen, so in a way it makes the games look even better. There's not much cause for complaint in this area, and I don't think it could have been done much better.


Sound & Music

SNK haven't done much wrong with the audio either, it's exactly what we have all grown accustomed to in the Neo Geo versions of the games... in other words it is damn good. The one issue I do have with it is that the music in the first couple of games is the OST music rather than the arranged versions, which is what I expected to be in there. Metal Slug 3 onwards never had arranged soundtracks anyway, but it seems strange that they didn't put the Neo Geo CD's music in as an option (unless it is one that I haven't unlocked yet). It's no big deal and the original soundtracks were fantastic anyway, so it's just a minor complaint.


A bigger issue is that I have noticed the sound lag on occasion, but it is very rare and nowhere near the kind of problem that I have seen some people claim it to be (not on my UMD/PSP anyway!). The only time that I have had any kind of sound lag is when I paused the game and changed options, which prompts you to save your option file. This stops the games music, and when you go back into the game it takes a couple of seconds before you hear any music again, and sometimes if you are firing your gun you don't hear the effect for it straight away. It doesn't last long, and while I was worried that I'd be getting frequent mid-game lag on my sound effects this has definitely not been the case in the many hours I have spent on all the games in the collection... and I have now completed all of them at least once or twice.


The audio gets the thumbs up from me anyway, because it is faithful to the Neo Geo versions, and they were all fantastic to begin with.


Extra Features

Now, this is one area in which SNK have done a very good job and I was pleased to see them do a couple of things that I have not seen any other developer do on the PSP. When you complete any of the games you earn tokens that you can spend in the gallery mode. Gallery mode features unlockable wallpapers that you can save onto your memory stick for use either on the PSP itself or to transfer to your PC via USB. Some of them are really nice and I currently have one of the wallpapers from the game set as my backdrop. There's also an interview and art galleries to open up, and even a music section where you can download Metal Slug MP3's onto your memory card for listening either on the PSP or on your PC. This is a very nice touch and SNK should be commended for adding it. It gives yet another reason to play through the games multiple times as you will need a fair few tokens to unlock everything.


I'm not sure if any other games have had this feature, but it is definitely the first time I have come across it.


Overall

So, overall this is a good collection with a number of flaws that hurt the experience a bit, and it is probably enough to put some people off if they are very picky. If you are prepared to be a little bit patient though, there is much to enjoy in Metal Slug Anthology, and come on... it's portable Metal Slug! That alone is worth paying the price of admission (plus you get the added bonus of Metal Slug 6). If you aren't bothered about it being portable and are going to play at home then you would be better off getting one of the home ports. I would suggest avoiding the Wii version due to the control issues that version has, and perhaps wait for the PS2 version if you own one. At the time of writing it isn't out yet, but I would hazard a guess that they will fix it so you can use the D-Pad, and if the previous Metal Slug conversions on the PS2 are anything to go buy, it should be a good collection. Time will tell though.


For now, I can definitely recommend buying Metal Slug Anthology for the Playstation Portable. Yes I am biased because I love the series so much, and perhaps that makes me more willing to ignore the very obvious faults, but I have had a lot of fun with it and can see myself continuing to have fun with it for some time to come. With everything that I had read about it before picking it up I was almost ready to simply play it for long enough to review it and then trade it in or sell it on Ebay, but I'm glad to say that it will remain in my collection for some time to come.


Port Quality: 7/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Replay Value: 9/10

Overall: 8/10




Outside Links:
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