Thoughts on Metal Slug 7

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  Very recently I bought and received Metal Slug 7. I was a bit surprised when I opened the shipping box because the copy I got seemed to be a limited edition/pre order type of deal. It has a paper sleeve with a nice shiny "metallic" finish. With the package, there was a Metal Slug 7 dog tag, and inside the case there is what looked like a GameCube disc. Turn out the "GameCube" disc is just a small CD with a few wallpapers and some short promotional videos from Ignition Entertainment for other titles. 

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So far I've played the game on my DSi and DS Lite. I also hooked up the DS Lite to my PC speakers for a beefier "arcade experience" with sound. Overall, I think MS7 is a good game, but there are things in that I can't agree with. So first, let me start with some things I liked: 
  • Six characters to choose from, all with their own special abilities
  • Variety of vehicles
  • Looks like Metal Slug
  • Sounds like Metal Slug
  • 80 Training Missions
  • Three levels of difficulty, some affecting character stats
The first thing I noticed while playing was that it had a very fast and fluid frame rate. My friend currently has my Metal Slug Anthology, and I've mostly been playing Metal Slug 2 from the Virtual Console, which if you own, you know that is suffers from extreme slowdown.  

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I've noticed from playing the game that it supports a tiny bit of touch screen interaction. The problem I see with it is that it was only to check the stats of the six characters by scrolling through text on the bottom screen. My problem with this is that it makes it somewhat clear to me that the developers did not know what to do with the touchscreen. When playing the game, the bottom screen is usually filled up with a static brick background, and a very shoddy map that shows an overall look at the level, which can be scrolled around with your stylus. 
Sometimes I like the idea of a game either having no touchscreen options, or some touchscreen options. I mean, if touchscreen support really worked well with the game, then use it. I feel like the developers built the game first, and then had the problem of coming up with a solution for the bottom screen. 
Metal Slug 7 players can pick up multiple weapons throughout the game, and carry two of them at a time ( three weapons if you include your pistol ) like in Metal Slug 6. You switch weapons by pressing the L button, which is a shame because this is where the touchscreen support could have come. I believe that if they just put two over sized weapon with ammunition count on the bottom screen, it could have made the game play a bit better. This way you could just switch guns on the fly AND have your ammo counts. Also, maybe add smaller graphics on the touch screen for discarding a weapon, instead of pressing a combination of buttons on the DS. 
Illustrated example of what i'm talking about.  

Another awkward feeling I have with the game is that it starts you fighting large enemy weapons too early in the game. You also come in contact with weapon pick ups like Rocket Launchers and other oddities way too quickly. And if I think about it, I believe there is a possibility of playing most of the game's weapons in the first mission. I just feel like the game begins too quickly. It throws at you all kinds of enemy types, and all these extra weapons that you can't possibly use. 
There is also a "training" mode. Basically you have 80 missions with different objectives like collecting items or defeating enemies. There is nothing weird with that, but there is a problem that there is an "instructor". The instructor is a generic anime girl in military uniform, and she doesn't really do much except move her mouth when she is "talking" to you. You also get to talk to the instructor. Even though the conversation between you and the instructor is a bit amusing, I feel like was yet another thing that the developers gave no thought. I mean, who is this person and why is she here? In all the missions you basically just go through the game levels... 
I dunno, I'm just weird. 
Two more things that I would like to talk about. Metal Slug Advance for the GBA and Cooperative gameplay in the Metal Slug series. 

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If any of you have played Metal Slug Advance, you know that the game has a tweak in the life system. Instead of having one hit kill lives like you usually would, Metal Slug Advance has a health bar system. You take damage from weapons and pick up food items to heal. Now, this isn't something that I would have liked in Metal Slug 7. I would have found it much more interesting if they included the card collecting system that MSA has. Basically by rescuing POWs or shooting secret areas, collectible cards would pop out. Some of these cards were simply informational, but some had game changing effects which could boost your character's stats, or even unlock special Slugs.
There is also a Rush Blaster Meter in this game. Basically for those of you who remember, if you cause enough destruction, the meter will turn white and whenever you defeat enemies, they spew out coins that can greatly increase your score. It would have been really neat if collecting coins actually added into a game piggy bank, and you could spend them on stuff. Character info, secret stuff, soundtracks, or goofy modes... whatever, it would just have been neat. Added with the whole card collecting concept, and I believe it would have added some good extra replay value to the game.  
I feel like Metal Slug is very much a co-op experience, while it is also a solo game. Its the same way with something like Smash TV. Once can have loads of fun shooting up weirdos, but adding a second player into the game just makes it ten times more fun. Unfortunately, Metal Slug 7 contains no form of co-op multiplayer... which is just so sad. The way I saw it, Metal Slug was about running and gunning with a pal. Blasting foes left and right, covering each other, sharing or hogging all the heavy machine guns... y'know, that kinda stuff. 
Overall, I think it is a solid effort by SNK Playmore. But if they ever decide to do a Metal Slug 8, they need to really go back to basics. Perhaps make it a side game like the MegaMan X series. Call it Metal Slug Z, or something... whatever, just as long as they take their time to focus on a very solid game. The next game doesn't even have to be on a handheld! It can certainly come via digital download. If the game tries some 2.5D, it can even be a small disc release. 
Also, Metal Slug 7 will be available on PSP as Metal Slug XX, which does include co-op and some DLC shenanigans. 

Front cover of Metal Slug XX (US) for PSP
Front cover of Metal Slug XX (US) for PSP