Info

Metal Slug

メタルスラッグ

First release: April 19 1996 (Neo Geo MVS)

"Blast away and go, go, go!"
"バリバリ撃って、ガンガンすすめ!"

A military shooter with lavish attention to detail and a weird sense of humour. Who knew a franchise would come out of this? A sterling action game that set the groundwork for sequels to go nuts with.
Notable for its development history that swerved all over the place, the biggest change of all being its transformation from vehicular-only to fighting on-foot! There's acres of unused graphics related to these early ideas.

Gameplay


[information coming whenever]

Story

At the beginning of the 21st Century, two military groups known as the Regular Army and the Rebellion are at war. The Regular Army is a government- run military force used for various tasks such as peacekeeping and fending off terrorism. The Rebellion is formed by a group of people whose wishes are to change the world-government into a military controlled one.

In 2026, the Rebellion Army launches an assault that pushes the Regular Army forces into the brink of destruction. No one expected this except for the Rebels who came up with these plans. The fault was mostly in the hands of the Regular Army commanding officers, who failed to realize the value of information that the Regular Army intelligence division had provided.

With superior numbers of troops and weapons, the Rebels overwhelmed the Regular Army in all aspects. Seeing their disadvantage to carry out direct attacks against the Rebellion, the Regular Army then decided to carry out numerous special operations and create certain vehicles to accompany their commandos. Not long after, a newly designed tank, code named “Metal Slug”, was forced into production.

The war went on for two years. During those two years, the Regular Army has been stockpiling the “Metal Slug” tanks in their caches with hopes to launch a massive assault against the Rebels and end the war. Things went well until 2028. The Rebellion forces found out and captured many of the caches, along with many of the tanks in them intact. Without those tanks the Regular Army could not even hope to win. And with those tanks under the Rebel control, it was just a matter of time until their demise.

With the government and the military in shambles, Lieutenant Rossi gathers up most of the scattered Regular Army troops he can muster to launch a desperate counterattack. Their mission objective: recapture the stolen vehicles and use them to destroy the opposition. If the vehicles can’t be captured, then destroy every last one of them.

from Metal Slug Anthology manual

Development

The development history of the first Metal Slug is probably the most documented of the series, not just from the sheer amount of concept art, but from a series of videos by Retro Game Test: Metal Slug History Part 1 and Part 2. Credit goes to Youloute (ganked from Gaming Hell), Glowsquid (from NeoGAF posts), and Divison 六 for translations.

Nazca Corporation was formed from members of Irem's then-defunct arcade staff and served as a subsidiary to SNK. Their job was to port Neo Geo games to PlayStation and SEGA Saturn, but demanded to make an arcade game of their own; SNK allowed them to make it in their off-time.

"We thought having normal player characters would be boring, and we wracked our brains for awhile to come up with something different. That was when we hit upon the idea for the tanks. Then, once we made them jump, crouch, and move around, they seemed like living creatures, and we thought this would grab players’ attention."

Meeher, 1999 development interview
(from Shmuplations)

The game was originally played only with the Metal Slug; there was no on-foot gameplay (though human pilots, engineer Phil Gene and Michiko Nakajima, were drawn up before Marco and Tarma were conceived - see Concept Art). With the tank as the central focus, the game was to be a lot more slower-paced, focusing on carefully controlling your sluggish vehicle across short levels that were thick with combat, requiring cautious play. All weapons would fire simultaneously upon a button press, and cannon shells were in infinite number. The crew briefly experimented with a button-based aiming system for the vulcan cannon, though it evidently didn't last long.


The P.O.W.s were originally Regular Army soldiers (coloured in blue, but would change colour to match the player) who, when rescued, would tag along and throw grenades, climb on top to fire a bazooka, or even board a mounted turret if one was handy; Early Footage shows this feature in more depth. Only two soldiers could support the player at a time, but any additional rescued soldiers would be stored as stock, and automatically tag in to replace a casualty. Their additional firepower and option-like behaviour appeared to be a heavy focus in the early level designs.

The visual design was partially inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki, though the tone of the game was considered more dark at this point, with little to no humour outside of the characterful soldiers. The stages and overall game length were shorter, with less complex stage designs to account for the Metal Slug's limited movement capabilities. Mission 1 took place almost entirely in dark swamp, and Mission 3 only covered the Rebel base and forest, for instance. Mission 2 was not developed at this point, but the rest of the game appeared visually identical to the finished product.

"In order to create and release a game, tons of ideas or designs are born and destroyed. Actually, in the first title, there was a stage that we had to redraw almost half of the background graphic because it ended up not matching our direction as development progressed."

from Metal Slug Anthology interview

After location testing in Osaka in 1995, the game received a significant overhaul. Marco and Tarma were introduced as the player characters, the soldier P.O.W.s were replaced with the iconic unshaven ragamuffins, and the game's length was extended by SNK's demand to make it more attractive to Neo Geo AES home cartridge buyers. The music was sped up as the "bide your time" gameplay was out the window by this point, though since the soundtrack already been composed, Missions 2 and 3 had to reuse the same track.


With human characters, more platform game elements were incorporated into the level design; Mission 2 was built from the ground-up for this version, along with the first half of Mission 3. Huge chunks of Mission 1 and 3 were also redrawn; all levels received modifications to enemy layouts to account for the new play style, though Missions 4 and 5 were mostly left structurally unaltered.

Unused materials

There are a few unused sound effects in the game's data that are possible leftovers from its early development; credit goes to Ivo for digging these up!
"Bingo!" "Yee-hah!" "Game over" "Here we go!" "Let's go!" "Power-up" "Yah!"

Various voice clips from the announcer. Would these be shouted by the support soldiers you picked up along the way? Other unused sound effects include the merchants' screaming from Metal Slug 2 and two clips of a campfire burning.
Using Nebula Jukebox will often find snippets of music among the sound effects, usually of a single-channel played sped-up, like this rendition of the Mission 2 track. I don't know enough about audio to know if they're genuine unused tracks or just the sound data being read in strange ways, but bits of that track show up a few times throughout the data.

Credits (Neo Geo)

SOUND

HIYA! (Takushi Hiyamuta / 冷牟田 卓志)
JIM


PLANNING

MEEHER ("みいはあ")
KIRE-NAG (Kazuma Kujo / 九条一馬)


PROGRAM

HAMACHAN
ANDY
A.KUROOKA (Atsushi Kurooka 黒岡 厚至 )
T.YOKOTA
H.YAMADA
PIERRE


DESIGN

AKIO
SUSUMU
MAX.D
TOMOHIRO
T.OKUI
KOZO


Credits (SEGA Saturn)

METAL SLUG for SS STAFF

Hidenari Honda
Shuji Yamakawa
Kiichi Kakuta
Hiromi'chu
Tkashi Kinoshita
Yasushi Ida
Kengo Sasaki
Tasushi Jingu
Nahomi Okazaki
Minoru Yoshida
TAKA/M.SAKAE
Takahiro Tamaru
Masayuki Fukushima
Toshihiro Masumura


SPECIAL THANKS TO

Harumi Fujita


Credits (PlayStation)

"METAL SLUG"
CONVERT STAFF


DIRECTED BY

浮世亭 (Ukiyotei)


PROGRAM STAFF

YASUSHI KAMIYA
TAKERU YAMADA
SATOSHI KURODA
NORIHIRO TOKESHI
TADAKATU MIKIUCHI


GRAPHICS STAFF

TERUO NAGATO
TADASHI AOYAMA
RIKA UENO
MIDORI NASU
SADAKI MATUMOTO
MICHIYO KOMURA


MINIGAME DESIGN

KENSHI NARUSE (成瀬憲史)


COMBATSCHOOL VOICE

富永 みーな (Miina Tominaga)


SPECIAL THANKS

株式会社 夢工房 (Yumekobo Co. Ltd.)


SOUND ASSIST

HARUMI FUJITA


VOICE ASSIST

FIRST CIRCLE
YASUAKI FUJITA


SNK第4企画部ALL-STAFF (SNK 4th Planning Division)


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