Posted April 17, 2005

Metal Slug 5 (Neo Geo - SNK Series) Genre: Shooter
neo geo pin

SNK planned to issue this badge to it's 
Neo-Geo Fan Club members 

Please enjoy this site as it is for Educational Use Only 

A Long Running Series Since (1996)

Neo Geo has been around since 1990 and has had the best run and longevity for all gaming systems for coin-operated route operators! Lets take a look at this very popular system and Metal Slug, its brainchild. (Coin-Op.)
Neo Geo Official Press Releases: Link

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Metal Slug 5 is the end of a long series of very successful shoot 'em up military series by the Neo Geo, PlayMore group.

Let's take a look at this very successful World War II based game...

The original SNK logo is one that most fans love and adore. When you speak of companies such as Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, SquareSoft, Capcom, and Konami, chances are good that the average game player can tell you what games the company makes and what that company's significant contributions are to the world of video games in general. Seriously, who doesn't know the names of the companies responsible for Mario, Sonic, PlayStation, and the biggest monopoly this side of board games? History of SNK How about SNK. In the span of 25 years, the company has produced games such as Ikari Warriors, Fatal Fury, King of Fighters and Metal Slug as well as a modular arcade hardware setup called the NeoGeo Multi Versus System. These games and their sequels, along with the NeoGeo, have made SNK an innovator in the world of video games and have pushed those other companies--primarily Capcom and Nintendo--to improve and develop their products and fighting games at a much faster pace and at a much higher level of quality than they would without SNK in the picture. The NeoGeo home console comes to town. This is how most people came to know of SNK. Despite SNK's contributions to our beloved hobby, the company doesn't have the same brand or franchise recognition that these other companies do. The average game player might recognize King of Fighters or Metal Slug or have a vague recollection of the big-budget NeoGeo console, but he or she probably doesn't associate them with SNK. People aren't very aware that SNK actually went out of business in 2001 or that the company is back today under a new name, as SNK Playmore Corporation. This History of SNK is an attempt to change all of that. The following sections document the entire 25-year history of the company--from it's founding in 1978, to the golden era of the early 1990s, through the unfortunate bankruptcy in 2001, and up to the present day with its new Corporation, SNK Playmore. The Beginning (1978-1989) Ozma Wars was SNK's first game in 1979. What is your favorite game to play out of SNK games during the 1980’s? Vanguard (1981) Mad Crash (1984) Alpha Mission (1985) Athena (1986) Ikari Warriors (1986) P.O.W. (1988) Baseball Stars (1989) In the beginning, before the NeoGeo, and long before the company became known for its King of Fighters and Metal Slug games, SNK was just another startup trying to gain a foothold in the burgeoning fast paced video game craze of the early 1980s. SNK (short for Shin Nihon Kikaku, or "New Japanese Project") Electronics Corp., the brainchild of Eikichi Kawasaki, set up shop in Osaka, Japan, in July 1978. Initially, the company's purpose was to design and produce software and hardware components for a variety of business clients. Shortly thereafter, noticing the rapid growth that was occurring in the coin-operated video game sector, Kawasaki expanded the company's endeavors to include the development and marketing of stand-alone coin-operated games. Ozma Wars (1979): The first two titles out of SNK's coin-op division were Ozma Wars (1979), a vertically scrolling space shoot-'em-up, and Safari Rally (1980), a maze game with little noteworthy value save for the fact that "Shin Nihon Kikaku" was spelled out on the copyright notice. Things took a turn for the better with 1981's Vanguard, a side-scrolling space shoot-'em-up that many people consider the precursor to modern genre staples such as Konami's Gradius and Irem's R-Type. SNK licensed the game to Centuri for distribution in North America but ultimately started manufacturing and distributing the game itself when profits exceeded expectations. On October 20, 1981, SNK Corporation of America was born. The company established itself in a tiny office in Sunnyvale, California (near San Jose - Silicon Valley), Silicon Valley is an informal name given to an area sort of centered around north San Jose or Santa Clara, California. It's about 50 miles south (south-east) of San Francisco and Oakland, around the base of the San Francisco bay. The valley's true name is Santa Clara valley. The area is also known to locals as "the South Bay." with the intent of delivering its own unique brand of coin-operated games to arcades all across North America. The man chosen to run SNK's American operation was none other than John Rowe, eventual founder of Tradewest and current president and CEO of Sammy Studios. Perhaps SNK should thank Rambo for making Ikari Warriors such a huge hit. Riding high on the success of Vanguard, SNK shifted its focus solely toward the development and licensing of video games. Between 1979 and 1986, SNK produced a grand total of 23 stand-alone arcade games. Highlights during this period include Mad Crash (1984), an isometric shoot-'em-up similar in style to Sega's Zaxxon; Alpha Mission (1985), a wildly popular vertically scrolling shooter; and Athena (1986), a side-scrolling platform game that would ultimately gain a large following when it was ported to the NES in 1987. The company's most successful game during this time frame was Ikari Warriors. The game was released in 1986, and arcade-goers flocked to this relatively new style of shoot-'em-up, which took you out of the worn-out and hackneyed spaceship motif and put you in control of mercenaries battling it out against enemy soldiers in a jungle setting. Movies like Rambo: First Blood Part II were all the rage at the box office, and players were eager to spend their quarters to mow down soldiers, toss grenades, and seek cover in foxholes just like John Rambo was doing on the silver screen. Ikari Warriors was so popular that it was eventually licensed and ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, and NES video game consoles. SNK followed up Ikari Warriors with two sequels, Victory Road (also in 1986) and Ikari III: The Rescue in 1989. Although SNK is best known today for its arcade beat-'em-ups--most notably the King of Fighters series--many people first fell in love with the company back in the mid to late 1980s, when its games began to appear on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even though SNK had a decent arcade business going all throughout the early and mid 1980s, executives at the company were interested in the profits that could be made through the development and licensing of games for home video game consoles. Paul Jacobs was the president of SNK Corp. of America between 1986 and 1991. He helped bring the NeoGeo to America. The Crash (Video Game Fallout, 1983) The home market was still reeling from the fallout caused by the legendary video game crash of 1983, and major players, such as Atari and Mattel, were more occupied with lawsuits than with the marketing and production needs of their flailing consoles. Nevertheless, one console manufacturer in particular seemed to weather the crash fairly unscathed: Nintendo. SNK signed up to become a third-party licensee for Nintendo's Family Computer (Famicom) system in 1985 and opened a second branch in the United States--this time in Torrance, California (near Los Angeles)--shortly after the Nintendo Entertainment System was introduced. This new branch was called SNK Home Entertainment and would handle the distribution and marketing of the company's products for home consoles, such as the NES. By this time, John Rowe had left the coin-op branch to form his own company--Tradewest, which would later market SNK's Ikari Warriors series in North America. Subsequently, both halves of the company were now being presided over by Paul Jacobs, who is notable primarily for having helped launch the company's innovative NeoGeo hardware in North America during the early 1990s. SNK flourished as the 1980s drew to a close. The company continued to develop successful arcade games (many of which made it to North America, thanks to Takahito Yasuki's distribution company, Romstar), which it would later port to and publish for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Alpha Mission, Athena, and Ikari Warriors were released for the NES in 1987; Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road and P.O.W. followed in 1988; and Ikari Warriors III wasn't far behind, hitting store shelves in 1989. Crystalis for the NES captivated players who were looking for something a bit more mature than Nintendo's Legend of Zelda. The breakout sales of the company's NES ports, and perhaps as a response to waning arcade receipts, SNK began to dabble in the development of original software designed specifically for the NES console. Two games came out of this effort: 1989's Baseball Stars and 1990's Crystalis (known as God Slayer in Japan). Baseball Stars captivated players with its franchise-style hiring and trade features, which weren't yet common to sports games at that point in time, while Crystalis was the company's answer to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda. It was an adventure-based RPG with a large overworld, tough bosses, and gorgeous cinematic cutscenes. 1989 also marked the release of two new home video game consoles in North America: the 16-bit Sega Genesis and NEC's joint project with Hudson, the TurboGrafx-16. Nintendo followed suit with a new system of its own, the Super NES, in 1991. Rather than choose sides and become embroiled in the so-called system wars, SNK chose once again to refocus its efforts on the arcade market, leaving other third parties, such as Romstar and Takara, to license and port SNK's future properties to the various home consoles of the time. The engineers at SNK had an idea on their hands that would revolutionize the arcade industry and could potentially mean millions upon millions of dollars in revenue for the company. That idea, stated simply, was the NeoGeo. NeoGeo in Arcades, NeoGeo in Homes (1989-1994) In 1988 SNK began thinking about the idea of a modular video game cabinet for use in an arcade setting. Up to that point, stand-up arcade cabinets typically contained only a single game. When an arcade operator wanted to switch or replace that game, he'd have to completely rip the guts out of the existing cabinet or exchange the entire setup, display and all, for another. SNK's solution to the problem was an arcade machine that could pack multiple games into a single cabinet, using a cartridge-based storage mechanism similar to that employed by cheap consumer consoles. The two slot, four slot and eight slot games video game cabinets were widely available. SNK introduced the MVS into arcades in 1989. The NeoGeo MVS (short for Multi-Video System) made its debut in 1989 and allowed arcade operators to display one, two, four, or six separate games in a single cabinet. In order to swap in a new game, all the operator had to do was remove one cartridge and exchange it for another. Changing the title cards and cabinet artwork for a new game took minutes, thanks to the custom cabinet designed by Neal Zook, an experienced industrial designer who also served a brief stint as SNK Corp. of America's operations director during the 1980s. Magician Lord: Magician Lord was one of the first games for the NeoGeo. The MVS was an immediate success. Arcade operators loved it because the setup time required for each game was nearly nonexistent, the floor space required was minimal, and the cost outlay for new cartridges was barely $500--less than half of what a traditional arcade unit cost at the time. Arcade-goers fell in love with the MVS as well. The first four games--NAM-1975, Baseball Stars Professional, Top Player's Golf, and Magician Lord-- took familiar genres and reinvigorated them with the kind of colorful 16-bit graphics and huge character sprites that players had been wanting to see in arcade games for some time. NAM-1975 spoke to the shoot-'em-up crowd, Baseball Stars and Top Player's Golf attracted sports fans, and Magician Lord is widely regarded as one of the defining side-scrolling adventure games of the 1980s. Consumers had always dreamed of bringing the arcade experience home. That's why the Sega Genesis and Nintendo Super NES consoles were so successful--they allowed gamers to get a taste of those large sprites and colorful backdrops in their own living rooms. SNK wanted to take advantage of people's desire to play arcade games at home, but without making the same compromises on CPU and memory horsepower that typical home consoles were forced to make. In 1991, the company released a home version of the MVS, a single cartridge unit called the NeoGeo Advanced Entertainment System (AES for short). Initially, the AES was only available for rent or for use in hotel settings, but SNK quickly began selling the system over the counter when customer feedback suggested that there was an untapped market out there composed of grown-up gamers willing to bring the real arcade experience home no matter what the cost. Neo Geo Slogan: Bigger, Badder, Better -- the NeoGeo AES console landed in homes in 1991. Compared to the other home consoles of the time, the NeoGeo AES was a beast. Under the hood, the AES featured two CPUs: a 16-bit Motorola 68000 main processor running at 12MHz and a Zilog Z-80A backup processor running at 4MHz. Even though the system's main CPU was "just" 50 percent faster than the 68000 processor found in Sega's Genesis console, the NeoGeo AES also had the benefit of specialized audio and video chipsets. A custom video chipset allowed the system to display 4,096 colors and 380 individual sprites onscreen simultaneously--compared to 64 simultaneous colors and 80 individual sprites for the Genesis --while the onboard Yamaha 2610 sound chip gave the system 15 channels of CD-quality sound. Seven of those channels were reserved specifically for digital sound effects. best in 16-bit era. Sony PlayStation included in comparisons merely for curiosity's sake. Imaging bringing home a joystick controller that was a foot wide, 8 inches across, and easily weighed 4 pounds. That's what came with the NeoGeo AES in 1991. This type of arcade-at-home power carried a lofty price tag. Early adopters shelled out $599 for the console, two joystick controllers, and a pack-in game (either Baseball Stars or NAM-1975). Thankfully, within a few months of the system's introduction in North America, SNK lowered the cost of this package to $399 and added Magician Lord to the list of pack-in options. Additional games cost $200 and up, each. The NeoGeo certainly wasn't a cheap hobby. For anyone who could afford it, though, this was the Cadillac of video game systems. Each joystick controller was a full 2 1/2 inches tall, measured 11 inches long by 8 inches across, and contained the same four-button layout as the arcade MVS cabinet. When you held one of these monsters in your hand, you knew you were playing with quality. Megabits was the buzzword back in the early '90s. NeoGeo games proclaimed their ROM size right on the package. AES game cartridges were the size of VHS tapes and proudly proclaimed their ROM size right on the label. While the Super NES and Genesis were just reaching 16 megabits with some games, the NeoGeo already had a line of games topping 100 megabits--affectionately known as the 100 Mega Shock. ROM size was a major selling point for the NeoGeo AES. Not only did each game have its ROM size printed on the packaging, but the console itself had MAX 330 MEGA PRO-GEAR SPEC painted onto the plastic. The same message appeared every time you powered up the system. Ironically, 330 megabits was just a theoretical maximum, because King of Fighters '96 broke that barrier in 1996, clocking in at 362 megabits. Today, games like King of Fighters 2003 and SVC Chaos are tipping the scales at over 700 megabits. Believe it or not, the NeoGeo AES also happened to be the first home console to implement memory card save technology. The prevailing justification for the concept was that players would become familiar with a new game on the MVS and subsequently want to continue their progress when the AES version came out. The memory card slot on the AES console was identical to the slot located on the front of every MVS cabinet. For $40, you could purchase a PCMCIA-style card that could store game saves and high scores for approximately 20 games. Unfortunately, the NeoGeo memory card never really caught on. Each card could only store roughly 2 kilobytes of data, which is pathetic even compared to the now-meager 128 kilobytes contained on a PSOne memory card, and relatively few games actually took advantage of the feature. SNK got right to the point with its ads. Would you want to play a weenie Super Nintendo or a fully loaded sausage like the NeoGeo? Soon after the NeoGeo AES was introduced, SNK launched an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the system. If you visited a video arcade or purchased an enthusiast gaming magazine back in the early 1990s, you couldn't help but notice the company's "weenie" ads, which asked prospective purchasers if they were happy playing on a plain weenie system, such as the Sega Genesis or NEC TurboGrafx, or whether they'd rather play on a full-blown hot dog with all of the trimmings, namely SNK's NeoGeo. SNK soon followed up that campaign with its "Bigger, Badder, Better" ad blitz, which featured a menacing pitbull as its mascot. The dog, along with the words "Bigger, Badder, Better," appeared on the first page of a series of advertisements in a number of magazines. Once again, the goal of these advertisements was to convince wealthy game players that the Super NES and Genesis just weren't going to cut it anymore. Instead of comparing the competing consoles using a food analogy, as was done in the previous ad campaign, the pit bull ads simply laid out the hardware capabilities of each system in an easy-to-understand chart. The NeoGeo came out ahead in all categories. Everyone remembers the "Bigger, Badder, Better" ads from 1992-1993. The pit bull inserts also transformed one of SNK's game counselors into a cult celebrity. Inside the multi-page advertisements, the Game Lord (known to his friends as Chad Okada), would offer previews of upcoming games and provide tips about the games that were popular at the time. Okada soon became the company's unofficial "mascot," answering letters sent in by fans and appearing at industry trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show and the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The pit bull campaign proved so popular that SNK ultimately decided to include the mascot on the quality-assurance seal that was printed on the outside of AES cartridge boxes. The company wasn't consistent in its implementation of the pit bull seal, however, and many games were released in variations with or without this "dog tag" embellishment. To compound matters, SNK dropped the pit bull altogether when the company switched to an outside PR firm with the release of Samurai Shodown II (around 1994). Today, collectors place a premium on packages that include the "dog tag" seal. The Original Capcom vs. SNK As popular as the NeoGeo MVS was in arcades, and as innovative as the AES was to home hobbyists, the biggest thing to happen to SNK in 1991 was Capcom's arcade release of Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II ignited the fighting game craze and once again gave people a compelling reason to shut off their home consoles and start spending their quarters at the arcade. Street Fighter II made its debut in April 1991. Fatal Fury was SNK's reply to Street Fighter II. SNK followed suit with a one-on-one fighting game of its own seven months later: Fatal Fury (known as Garou Densetsu in Japan) for the arcade MVS. The characters in Fatal Fury were comparable to those in Street Fighter II, as were the large sprite-based graphics. Fatal Fury even had something Capcom's game didn't: twin background planes that allowed you to take the fight into the background for dodge maneuvers and cross-screen attacks. Fatal Fury gave the NeoGeo AES console the "killer app" it needed, because while players would have to wait more than a year to play a watered-down version of Capcom's Street Fighter II on the Super NES console, they would only have to wait until December 1991 to bring home the arcade-identical AES version of Fatal Fury. Assuming that the whopper price of $250 wasn't an issue, of course. Incidentally, many people have heard of SNK because of the popularity of the company's King of Fighters franchise, which didn't come along until 1994. What you may not realize, however, is that King of Fighters '94 technically isn't the first King of Fighters game. When Capcom introduced Street Fighter II in 1991, it was subtitled "The World Warrior." Not to be outdone, SNK gave Fatal Fury a subtitle too: "King of Fighters." SNK of Japan really loved the phrase and couldn't wait to title a game with it Capcom followed up in 1992 with Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, a sped-up version of Street Fighter II that also allowed you the luxury of controlling the game's four boss characters. SNK responded with Art of Fighting, which didn't knock people off their feet with its highly derivative gameplay and joke characters, but it did manage to impress all the same, thanks to its use of scaling characters and backgrounds--a technique that would later be put to use in the madly successful Samurai Shodown series. Art of Fighting: Art of Fighting used scaling graphics to make characters fill the screen as they fought in close quarters. Throughout the 1990s, Capcom and SNK continually responded tit for tat with newer and better fighting games. Capcom would ultimately release 10 sequels to Street Fighter II, along with various Marvel Comics-themed fighting games, while SNK would go on to release six Fatal Fury sequels, four Samurai Shodown games, and 10 installments in the King of Fighters franchise. And that's not even counting SNK's stable of offbeat fighting games, such as Last Blade, Kizuna Encounter, or Matrimelee. On a humorous side note, the main figure responsible for many of the later Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, and King of Fighters sequels in SNK's lineup was Takashi Nishiyama, who had initially worked on Street Fighter II for Capcom! It's no wonder that arcade-goers in the 1990s would get into heated arguments about which company's characters would win fights against the other company's characters. The same people were making these games! It only makes sense that the two companies would ultimately join forces to make the Capcom vs. SNK fighting games that we enjoy in the arcades and at home on multiple consoles today. John Barone (left), VP of the coin-op division, on the cover of the January 2000 issue of Replay Magazine. Thanks to companies like Capcom and SNK, arcades were making a strong comeback in the early '90s. SNK Corporation of America was netting huge profits from sales of MVS hardware and games, while SNK Home Entertainment continued to get by on tepid sales of its big-budget AES console. By 1991, SNK Corp. of America had outgrown its space in San Jose, and the decision was made to relocate the company to join its other half in Torrance. The following year, SNK merged both halves of the company into a single entity: SNK of America. By now, former president Paul Jacobs had left the company. In his place were Marty Kitazawa, who would reign as acting president of SNK of America through 1996, and John Barone, former VP of sales, who was promoted to vice president of the coin-op division. Kitazawa stayed out of the limelight, focusing primarily on liaison duties between the US office and Japan. Barone served as the public spokesperson for the company and its NeoGeo line, at least up until mid-1993, when he was let go for undisclosed reasons. Fret not for Barone, however, at least not yet. He would return to run SNK in the late 1990s and take on the responsibility of pushing the company's Hyper NeoGeo 64, Neo Print, and NeoGeo Pocket Color product line-ups--which all ultimately ended in failure. Barone would also earn the ire of fans for failing to promote SNK's products in the wake of the Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast consoles. Both of these stories are told later on in our timeline, and we still have plenty to cover first. September 9, 1994. On a single day in Japan, SNK sold through the entire first run of 25,000 NeoGeo CD consoles. Internally, the NeoGeo CD was nothing more than a NeoGeo AES with a CD drive and 56 megabits (7 megabytes) of internal memory. SNK also stopped producing its huge arcade-style joysticks in favor of a gamepad that was cheaper to manufacture and more in line with the existing game controllers of the time. The system itself still cost $300, but games for the NeoGeo CD were priced at a mere $40. From that point on, new games would come out for the CD unit just a couple of months after the corresponding MVS/AES versions. The only difference in the software was the loading times that came along as a result of the slower CD-based medium, a shortcoming that soon became the common complaint among many NeoGeo CD owners. The benefit of the cartridge medium is that data can be moved from ROM chip to system memory in just milliseconds, which means that the transition from one scene to the next appears instantaneous to the player. The loading time in between stages in a typical NeoGeo CD game, such as King of Fighters '94, was 20 to 30 seconds--a nearly unbearable amount of time to wait between matches in a fighting game. It didn't help that the "Now Loading" message that popped up during these transitions came in the form of a goofy-looking monkey banging on a pair of conga drums. Ask any NeoGeo CD owner, and they'll tell you they absolutely hate that monkey. Initially, Samurai Spirits RPG was released exclusively for the NeoGeo CD. PlayStation and Saturn versions followed, but the game was never produced for North America or Europe. To solve the problem of lengthy load times, SNK released a version of the NeoGeo CD in early 1995 that used faster cache RAM. The new system, called the NeoGeo CDZ, ran all of the same software as the NeoGeo CD, but did so with half the load time. In Japan, SNK marketed the NeoGeo CD aggressively. Along with the introduction of a double-speed unit, the NeoGeo CD saw a number of exclusive releases that the AES did not. One of these was Samurai Spirits RPG, a role-playing-game version of Samurai Shodown that unfortunately never saw the light of day outside of Japan. Perhaps the most popular of the NeoGeo CD's exclusives was Taito's hot puzzle game, Bust-A-Move, which SNK published for the arcade MVS and home CD system, but not for the AES. The Lost Years King of Fighters '98 is generally considered the best of the KOF games. For the most part, SNK spent the years between 1994 and 1998 trying to find itself as a company. On the arcade side, the King of Fighters and Metal Slug series were driving MVS distribution. At home, the company was still selling AES and NeoGeo CD games directly through mail order and was also reaching out to the mass-market console audience with versions of its favorite fighting games for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Up until 1998, SNK's main source of income came from the King of Fighters franchise. Each year, a new installment was produced, which would debut in the arcade and subsequently make its way onto the popular home consoles of the time. King of Fighters '95, '96, '97, and '98 were published for the Sony PlayStation in Japan by SNK, and King of Fighters '95 and '96 were published for the Sega Saturn. The two Saturn games are best remembered for the add-on RAM cartridges they supported, which significantly trimmed CD access time when used. Sony Computer Entertainment America published King of Fighters '95 and '96 in North America. King of Fighters '98 was brought stateside by SNK itself. In terms of the number of good games published in a single year, 1996 was the year of record for SNK. King of Fighters '96, Real Bout Fatal Fury, and Samurai Shodown IV were sucking down quarters in the arcades, which in turn sparked a modest resurgence in the sales of AES consoles and cartridges. 1996 is also the same year that Metal Slug came to the NeoGeo. Unlike the fighting games that were so typical of the MVS/AES, Metal Slug was a side-scrolling platform game with a military theme and a hilarious cartoon style that proved popular to a decidedly wide audience. After purchasing Nazca, the game's original developer, SNK would go on to publish four more Metal Slug sequels. (All but one Metal Slug game was published by SNK. Metal Slug 4 was developed and published by Mega Enterprises in 2002 during SNK's "dark period," which will be covered later on in this feature). Today, you can purchase and play near-perfect versions of these Metal Slug games for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Saturn consoles. Metal Slug: Metal Slug wasn't produced in huge quantities for the NeoGeo home console. The AES home console version can go for upward of $1,000. Shown here is the complete set. An AES version of Metal Slug was produced in small numbers and sold primarily in Japan during the summer of 1996. The game took a few months to achieve popularity in the United States, and by the time players took notice and were interested in ordering the cartridge directly from SNK, there weren't any left for sale. MVS versions of the game modified to work in AES consoles routinely sell in online auctions for around $200 to $300, but original AES versions--complete with cartridge, clamshell box, liner artwork, and manual--typically fetch upward of $1,000. Metal Slug wasn't the only game released in limited numbers in 1996. By that time, SNK was manufacturing AES cartridges at a rate that was just 10 percent of the rate the company was producing them at during the early '90s. Kizuna Encounter looks nice but plays average. It's worth big bucks. Along with Metal Slug, SNK released two other limited-issue AES games in 1996. The first of these was Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle, a tag-team fighting game that's best described as a cross between Samurai Shodown and Capcom's X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Kizuna is a weapons-based 2D fighting game where you can swap between two characters throughout the course of a match. SNK Keeps Changing direction: SNK needed to once again go in a new direction. During the mid-'80s, that new direction was publishing games for the NES. In the early 1990s, it was going after the enthusiasts with the NeoGeo MVS and AES. What would SNK's new strategy be in 1999? Going after the handheld market, which at the time was 100 percent dominated by Nintendo's Game Boy Color. The new mantra was color. In the spring of 1999, SNK replaced the monochrome NeoGeo Pocket with the NeoGeo Pocket Color. This new unit incorporated a reflective TFT screen into the design. Now, SNK had a portable system that could compete with the Game Boy Color, at least in terms of the hardware under the hood. Compared to Nintendo's GBC, the NGPC could display more graphical sprites onscreen at a time (64 vs. 40) and display more simultaneous colors (146 vs. 56). That meant games for the NGPC would look superior to those on the GBC. At the same time, the 16-bit Toshiba processor inside the NGPC used less power than the 8-bit Z80 processor inside the GBC, giving the system a spectacular 40 hours of run time on a single pair of AA batteries. The Game Boy Color, by contrast, would drain a pair of AAs in 15 hours on average. The Aruze Fiasco Despite modest sales of SNK's properties for the PlayStation, Saturn, and Dreamcast consoles, and decent success with the NeoGeo Pocket Color in North America, SNK Corporation was a company running in the red. By the time 1998 had transitioned into 1999, SNK had already shut down its hardware manufacturing facilities and closed down its chain of NeoGeo World amusement centers. Go to Japan and you'll find parlors full of people playing Pachinko. SNK needed a savior. Up to the plate stepped a company called Aruze, which had amassed huge wealth by developing and producing Pachinko machines for use in the various gambling parlors throughout Asia. Pachinko is a game that requires almost no effort to play. Prospective players put a few hundred yen into a machine, which in turn gives them a basket full of ball bearings. Then they walk over to a Pachinko machine and drop the bearings into the holes at various speeds. The balls bounce off posts and ramps inside the machine and, if the player is lucky, land in one of the prize holes at the bottom. There's also a variant of Pachinko called Pachi-Slot, which Aruze is especially known for. In Pachi-Slot, a slot machine kicks in when the bearings land in the prize holes. If the symbols match, the player can win a gaggle of Pachinko balls in return. Aruze wanted SNK's intellectual property so it could develop Pachi-Slot machines based upon popular SNK franchises, so, in January 2000, Aruze acquired SNK Corporation and its related companies. After the buyout, Aruze did little to support SNK's video game business. The company funneled almost no money into SNK's development studios and put only a haphazard effort into publishing SNK's properties on the successful home video game consoles of the time. King of Fighters '99 Evolution and Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves are highly regarded as two of the best fighting games available for the Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately, by the time they were released, the Dreamcast was fizzling in popularity, and the PlayStation 2 had just launched. Capcom took in most of the earnings from Capcom vs. SNK. SNK, for its part, did release Mark of the Wolves in 2000, which is regarded as one of the best fighting games available for the NeoGeo and Dreamcast. Without question, Capcom vs. SNK was the most notable game to bear the SNK logo during 2000, but it was developed and published by Capcom, not SNK. Before the Aruze deal closed, SNK and Capcom signed an agreement whereby the two companies would produce games featuring both companies' characters. Capcom went on to make Capcom vs. SNK and its sequel, which were playable in the arcade and on the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 consoles. And it was Capcom that reaped the majority of revenue from those games. For SNK's part, the company developed and released two SNK vs. Capcom games for the NeoGeo Pocket Color handheld--Match of the Millennium, a fighting game, and Card Fighter's Clash, a card battle game in the spirit of Konami's Yu-Gi-Oh!. Both games sold approximately 50,000 copies, but that didn't add much to SNK's bottom line, nor were their releases the result of any action on Aruze's part. Aruze did follow through on its desire to use SNK's intellectual property to make Pachinko machines based on the King of Fighters and Metal Slug franchises, however, which irked SNK's founder, Kawasaki, to no end. King of Fighters 2001 was developed by Eolith and published by BrezzaSoft, which is now part of SNK Playmore. Subsequently, Kawasaki and a handful of SNK executives left the company. Rather than preside over his company's stagnation and downfall, Kawasaki, along with five other former SNK executives, funded the formation of a new entertainment company, called BrezzaSoft. Aruze then decided to shutter all of SNK's operations outside of Japan. SNK USA, then called SNK Entertainment, closed. The North American rights to MVS coin-op distribution were sold to Apple Industries, and the rights to the Neo Print photo system were sold to Apple Photo Systems. Obviously, with no revenue coming in from North America or Europe, SNK's earnings went into an even speedier tailspin. A group of Aruze's shareholders, primarily those that owned stock in SNK Corporation, filed suit against Aruze in 2000, accusing the company of being directly responsible for SNK's operating losses, which totaled nearly 27 billion yen (roughly $260 million). Between the lawsuit and SNK's growing debts, Aruze decided to put SNK into bankruptcy. Ironically, during the process, Aruze sold the intellectual property rights for King of Fighters and other SNK franchises to BrezzaSoft--the company partially owned by SNK's former founder, Eikichi Kawasaki. SNK ceased to be on October 22, 2001. After SNK closed, Mega Enterprise went on to develop and publish Metal Slug 4, which is regarded as the weakest entry in the series. BrezzaSoft would ultimately publish King of Fighters 2001 and 2002, which were developed by South Korean developer Eolith, another company partially funded by Kawasaki. The only other SNK-related franchise to see the light of day after the company's departure was Metal Slug. South Korean publisher and developer Mega Enterprise published Metal Slug 4 in 2002. Sadly, most fans regard Metal Slug 4 as the weakest installment in the series. Nevertheless, SNK is a company known for its ability to adapt. Past hardships resulted in NES development, the NeoGeo MVS/AES systems, and the NeoGeo Pocket. Not even bankruptcy and closure could kill this tenacious company. SNK would come back to life, eventually. Piecing SNK Back Together This is the story of how SNK came back from the ashes. In August 2001, not long before SNK officially dissolved into bankruptcy, former founder and CEO Kawasaki started up a new company, called Playmore, and quickly purchased the intellectual property rights to King of Fighters, Metal Slug, and the majority of other former SNK properties from the companies that Aruze had sold them to. Soon after that, Playmore acquired BrezzaSoft. What Kawasaki had done, one step at a time, was to piece the old SNK back together again. All that was missing was the name. Closing out 2001 and throughout 2002, Playmore would produce software for the NeoGeo AES/MVS systems, as well as port many of SNK's popular games to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast consoles. Aruze continued to use SNK's trademarks even after Playmore acquired the rights. Pachi-Slot machines like Crazy Racer and Ire-Gui contain SNK fighting game characters. Playmore sued and claimed more than 6 billion yen in damages. Kawasaki would eventually have his revenge on Aruze, in a manner of speaking. After SNK went bankrupt and Playmore acquired the rights to SNK's intellectual properties, Aruze went on to develop Pachinko games using SNK's trademark characters. Needless to say, the appearances of Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, and the Metal Slug tank in games like Bakuchi, Aruze Kingdom 7, and Ire-Gui were completely unauthorized by Playmore. On October 28, 2002, Playmore filed a trademark and copyright action for damages in Osaka District Court alleging that Aruze was infringing upon Playmore's trademarks and copyrights concerning the use of SNK properties in Aruze's Pachinko machines. All told, Playmore claims more than 6.2 billion yen in damages, which amounts to roughly $58.5 million. In January 2004, a preliminary decision was handed down by the Osaka District Court determining that Aruze unlawfully used SNK Playmore-owned trademarks following its sale of those trademarks. A final decision and the awarding of damages are still pending. Thanks to Playmore, SNK also reopened operations in North America. In December 2002, SNK NeoGeo USA Corporation was formed, with the purpose of marketing the company's arcade games in the US and Canada. Shortly after that, SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation was set up to handle marketing and distribution of the company's games for home consoles such as the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance. In a fitting twist of fate, Ben Herman, VP of sales for SNK Entertainment Inc. until the June 2000 pullout, was asked to come back and become the president of SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation. Herman had been working as a regional sales manager for Nintendo but found the opportunity to take the helm at his former employer too tempting to pass up. SNK is back. The King of Fighters 2000/2001 double pack is the first game to come to the US from SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation. The newly formed US-based SNK companies made their first public appearance at the 2003 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. There, SNK NeoGeo USA Corporation announced its intention to restart MVS distribution in the United States. That meant that arcade operators could purchase King of Fighters 2002 as well as the upcoming SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom, Metal Slug 5, and Samurai Shodown 5. As for SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation (man, that's a lengthy name)--company president Ben Herman was proud to announce the impending release of the King of Fighters 2000/2001 double pack for the PlayStation 2, as well as the intention to release home versions of Metal Slug 3 and SVC Chaos later on. The King of Fighters 2000/2001 pack is out now, but Metal Slug 3 has met with resistance from Sony Computer Entertainment America's concept approval department. SCEA has a long history of denying licenses on 2D-based games. Goemon, Dodonpachi, and Soul Hackers are but a few of the many games denied a US release by the company's approval department, despite the fact that these and the majority of other rejected titles were released in Japan without incident. With SNK back on the scene in North America, Playmore's legal counsel also set its sights on counterfeiters. Going back to 1998, a number of companies had been running lucrative businesses selling liner artwork and rare AES games to hungry NeoGeo fans. The problem is, many of these liners were "custom" reproductions, and some of the rare AES games these companies were selling were not actually manufactured or sanctioned by SNK. They were unauthorized conversions of MVS games mechanically modified to work in AES consoles. During the fall and winter of 2003, SNK Playmore obtained an injunction against a group of four different companies, which resulted in the seizure of hundreds of AES cartridges. The new SNK Playmore logo. In January 2004, SNK reached an agreement with two of these companies, acknowledging their right to sell legitimate AES cartridges and authorized reproductions of liner artwork--while putting an end to their ability to sell modified MVS cartridges for home use. Any legitimate merchandise that was previously seized was returned. Information pertaining to these and other lawsuits can be found on Playmore's press Web page. Legalities and business moves aside, the most significant announcement out of Playmore in 2003 came on July 7, 2003. On that day, Playmore announced that it was renaming itself to SNK Playmore. All around the world, the SNK name was back, and fans were ecstatic. The Present and the Future So what's to come for SNK Playmore? As of now (February 2004), SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos has been released into arcades and for the NeoGeo AES throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. A PlayStation 2 version of the game recently went on sale in Japan, and the Xbox version is scheduled to go on sale in North America in September 2004. Fans are ecstatic now that they're able to buy the NeoGeo home console version of SVC Chaos in North America. The latest installments in the King of Fighters and Metal Slug franchises--King of Fighters 2003 and Metal Slug 5--have just been released into arcades as JAMMA-compatible printed circuit boards and as MVS kits. Worldwide AES releases of both games are on schedule for March 2004, and versions for the PS2 and Xbox are in the works. With the exception of the games mentioned above, however, there are signs that SNK Playmore is in the process of reevaluating its position in the arcade sector and shifting its focus toward the development and sale of games for home gaming consoles. In Asia, you'll soon be able to play a Metal Slug slot machine. During a press conference in January, Koichi Toyama, president of SNK Playmore, made the statement that the company "is moving its core business focus from games to Pachinko slot machines." Continued Toyama, "We will concentrate our resources on the rapidly growing and highly profitable business of slots." SNK Playmore intends to release upward of five new Pachinko slot machines based upon various SNK properties within the next year. When asked about the company's role as a game developer/publisher, Toyama stated that it will continue to release titles based upon familiar SNK properties, such as King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown, for mobile phone and home console platforms. "We plan to develop our business in new areas in an attempt to become a general entertainment company." Sources in the know suggest that SNK Playmore is also currently trying to work out an intellectual property agreement with Sammy whereby Sammy would secure the rights to publish and distribute SNK's properties within the arcade sector. Atomiswave is Sammy's modular arcade hardware. The relationship between SNK Playmore and Sammy goes back to September 2003, when the two companies signed an agreement to produce a new King of Fighters game for Sammy's Atomiswave arcade platform. The Atomiswave is a modular arcade hardware that uses interchangeable cartridges, similar to the outdated MVS. Since the platform is relatively new, Sammy is actively seeking third parties to produce games for it. Currently, the most noteworthy games playable on the Atomiswave are a cadre of Sammy's fighting games: Guilty Gear X 1.5, a remake of Guilty Gear X; Guilty Gear Isuka, a four-player version of Guilty Gear X; and Rumble Fish, a new fighting game developed by Dimps, a studio that consists of former Capcom and SNK Even if SNK Playmore plans to withdraw from arcades, the company is still very much committed to developing and marketing software for the lucrative home console market--a market that achieved $16 billion in sales during 2002 alone. SNK Playmore has produced versions of King of Fighters 2002, Metal Slug 3, and SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos for the PlayStation 2 in Japan. Samurai Spirits Zero (Samurai Shodown 5 to those of us in North America) will make its way to the PS2 also. It was originally the intention of SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer Corporation--the North American branch of SNK Playmore--to release Metal Slug 3 and SVC Chaos for the PlayStation 2 in the United States, but due to problems getting the games past SCEA's draconian concept-approval department, both games have been put on hold. A Game Boy Advance version of Metal Slug is also in the works and tentatively scheduled for release in Japan in July 2004, with a North American version to follow in August. Mobile phone gaming is another area that SNK Playmore is trying to capitalize on. Early in 2003, the company signed a deal with PlayPhone, the mobile division of Sammy, to produce games for JAVA-enabled cellular phones. King of Fighters is the first title to come about as a result of this deal, and a mobile version of Samurai Shodown is on the way. Just as SNK did in the middle 1980s, it looks like SNK Playmore intends to make its mark on the new millennium as a software developer for a variety of home video game platforms-- and cellular phones--but will the plan work?

Sound The first thing I will say about this area of the game is that the sound effects are once again exactly what we have come to expect from this series. There are a few new sound effects but all the screams from the enemy soldiers etc are still the same as they were before. This isn't too much of a problem though as they were good anyway. It's a teensy bit annoying to have 90% of the same sound effects, but I suppose the saying "if it ain't broke..." applies here. I have noticed some glitches in the audio though, like some distortion at times, I don't know why SNKP don't do more testing and eliminate these types of glitches from their games before release... Now that's out of the way, it's time to talk about the music... and how would I describe it? Two words: Friggin awesome! Noise Factory's Studio Aqua are back again, and once more they have proven that they employ some of the best composers in the business and have now cemented themselves as one of my favorite companies when it comes to making great game music. I thought they did a good job with Metal Slug 4 (it was in fact my favorite part of that game), but they did an even better job here! The music is mostly rock stuff with some great guitar riffs, and it's a lot heavier than anything we have heard in an MS game before; it totally moves away from the style of the past games. It might not be quite to everyone's taste, but as far as I am concerned it is perfectly matched to the on-screen action, and really compliments the more hi-tech look of the game. Truly great! Here are a few samples of the music that I made for your listening pleasure in MP3 format. Listen and enjoy: Stage 2 Music Sample - MP3 Format, 55 Seconds, 537k Stage 5 Music Sample - MP3 Format, 51 Seconds, 527k The stage 2 music sample shows some slightly slower paced music that has a bit of a western theme going on, while the stage 5 music is a lot more upbeat. Both are superb and just a small taste of the music in the game, as many stages have different music in each area. I don't think there is a single part that I don't like in fact, and they even managed a couple of remixes of classic Metal Slug stuff (like the mission complete music), which is very cool. Overall I have to say that this is one of my favorite soundtracks in any Neo Geo game, which means it has to be very special indeed. I went out and purchased the Matrimelee soundtrack (also by Noise) because I liked it so much, and the same will apply when/if they release the OST for this game!

Stages Here is a list of the five stages and bosses in the game, along with screenshots and some basic tactics to use in getting past them. If you have not played the game before you would probably be best to skip this section so you don't spoil the surprise. I won't go in depth about EVERY route through the game though, as there are far too many to mention here. For more detailed coverage, check out one of the FAQ's (see below). Stage 1 The game opens up with a rather easy section where you are on a raft and making your way towards some kind of temple. Make sure you shoot at the POW's that you see to free them and grab the stuff they drop (the first one should give you a heavy machine gun). Enemy troops will jump down at you during the first part of this section - make sure they don't get too close, otherwise they will stab you. You will eventually reach a place where you can jump down onto another raft, and after jumping down an enemy helicopter will swoop down... destroy it to get yourself an enemy chaser. You'll now have to deal with some enemy hovercrafts, but 2 shots from the enemy chaser is enough to deal with these; just try not to let them fire their missiles at you. Destroy the barrier that blocks your way after you are done with the hovercrafts... it's now time to shoot some tribesmen. Provided you conserved some of your enemy chaser ammo you should be able to deal with them nice and easy. Now it's time to head into the temple itself. For the initial part of the temple there are some more tribesmen to kill as well as a few purple slug type creatures. The main thing to watch out for here is the spiked ceiling: every now and then it comes crashing down so you need to duck down out the way of it. There are also a number of obstacles that you will need to slide under. In the next area, rescue the POW, grab the dual machine gun that he drops and clear out the screen, but take care not to get toasted by the flames that periodically shoot out in certain places. You'll now be given your first choice of path to take. Take the lower route if you want to use the new Slug Gunner, or the higher route if you would prefer the opportunity to eat a lot of food and go into BIG mode, as well as to use the standard Slug Tank! The upper route actually leads you almost directly to the boss, while the lower route is much harder and presents you with another alternate route. When you get to part where the path leads upwards to a tied up POW (and the music stops), instead of going to the right, head back to the left where you will find some tribesmen and army guys fighting a mysterious tank. Take them out and deal with the tank itself; this is quite a tough fight, especially if you have already lost the Slug Gunner. If you still have it then you should be ok, just be sure to unload as much ammo as possible before it gets the chance to hurt you. Once it is finished there will be another very short section you have to fight through before reaching the final boss. Stage 1 Boss: Giant Red Tank This is quite a cool boss, but very easily defeated provided you are careful. If you took the upper route earlier on you may even still have the Slug Tank when you get here (it's not possible to bring the Slug Gunner however). This boss has three modes of attack; it fires flame shots, multiple gun turret shots at different trajectories, and occasionally it will lean backwards and come crashing back down, crushing you if you don't get out of the way. Just stay at the left side of the screen and keep firing/throwing grenades. Move out of the way of the flame shots and jump through the gun turret rounds (or maybe even slide if need be). Every now and then a POW will come past and give you a new weapon (usually a rocket launcher or grenades), and these will help you finish this large enemy tank off in no time at all.

Stage 2 After watching the short cut scene after stage 1, it's time to hit the second stage. Start off by staying on the top level as you will be able to rescue a hostage and get some other bonuses. When you reach the wooden bridges, don't hang around on them for too long as some enemy craft come past and blow them up (unfortunately you can't destroy these craft). When you reach a wooden bridge at the bottom of the screen, look to the right and you'll see a couple of boxes... there are enemy soldiers underneath these who will shoot at you - the best thing to do here is to throw a grenade to get the one on the bottom and then run underneath the higher one and shoot him, along with the other soldiers that get in your way. By this point you will have gone into fat mode if you picked up enough food along the way. Right after this you will see the Slug Tank in front of you and a box up above. Run a little way in front of the box and then shoot it, as it will release a little rat who runs across the floor very fast; if you are not in front of the box when you shoot it you won't be able to collect it to get a points bonus. As you travel along for the rest of this section in the tank, make sure not to fall down the holes, or to hang around on the wooden bridges for too long because otherwise they will get blown away and you'll fall to a grisly demise. Use the Tanks cannon to get rid of the trucks that block your way if need be... don't worry about conserving the tanks ammo as you won't be in the tank for much longer. You'll soon reach the entrance to some sort of factory complex. Unfortunately you can't take your vehicle inside. At the start of the factory you can grab a heavy machine gun. Right after this you'll come up against two enemy tanks: one on the bottom of the screen, one on the top. Take out the one on the bottom quickly (don't get run over by it) by throwing a few grenades and firing your machine gun, then aim up and take out the top one (be careful of the shots it fires off). The next scene has you traveling downwards on an elevator where you will come under attack by swarms of red turtle-like machinery that fire laser beams. You will have picked up a shotgun so these are pretty easy to deal with, just look out for when their green eyes start glowing blue as that means they are about to shoot. The rest of the stage is pretty standard stuff, just follow the set path it takes you on as there are no alternate routes here. Look out for the enemy hovercraft type vehicles that an enemy lieutenant occasionally waves onto the screen though (they fire big missiles at you), and be careful when you reach the set of stairs where the special ops guys try to jump you and stab you with their knife. The final part of stage 2 sees you fighting a few enemy troops and more of the aforementioned hovercrafts. Just stay on the right hand side of the screen and keep firing up at them, and hopefully you won't get hit by any of their missiles. It's now time to jump into the Plane Slug and take out the boss!

Stage 2 Boss: Enemy Jet This boss is a tiny bit harder than the first boss, but still not too difficult. It has a number of different attacks; first off it will fly behind you and either fire a bunch of Vulcan shots into the air that come back at you from the right of the screen, or its two massive double-cannons will fire lots of big shots around the screen which are tougher to dodge. After doing one of these attacks it will swoop round and attack from in front of you. When in front it will start by shooting a number of projectiles at you that you can shoot down... if you don't manage to shoot some of them they will get sucked back towards you, so take care. During this attack, one of the projectiles will always be blue, and this one will reveal a heavy machine gun if you shoot it. After this its engines will power up and unleash a stream of flames that you need to stay in between... keep your wits about you as the Jet will randomly move up or down the screen and you will need to make sure you don't get caught out. The best tactic is to not worry about being too tactical and just keep your finger on the trigger constantly and not stop firing until you have blown this damn thing out of the sky (even if that is obvious advice). Use up all of the missiles that the plane carries, and don't worry too much if you get hit once or twice as the Slug Plane gives you a little bit of protection. If you do get it destroyed, you will just eject out and should hopefully have a heavy machine gun to finish the boss off with, as well as some homing missiles. When you are done, the boss will fly off the screen in a trail of green smoke.

Stage 3 This is one of my personal favorite stages in the game. The special forces guys are predominant for most of this stage, and there are also quite a lot of enemy mechas too. At the start of the stage you catch a brief glimpse of a masked guy, who is most likely the same tribesman who you saw picking up the mask in the cut scene after stage 1. Near the start of the stage there is a part where there are some boxes in the middle of the screen and you are getting attacked from both sides by special ops guys who throw a lot of grenades to try and catch you out. The best thing to do is to stay at the far right of the screen and keep jumping up and firing every time you get the chance to hit one of the enemies on the left hand side. As the enemies come swarming in from the right you will most likely stab them, so you don't need to worry about them hurting you, and you don't need to worry about the grenades from the guys on the other side as they shouldn't reach you.

After this you will reach a truck... now, you have a choice to make. If you want to take an alternate route, don't blow up the truck - jump on top of it and use it as a platform to reach the ventilation shaft at the top of the screen. Jump into that and it will lead you to a section where you are on the outside of the building and on a window cleaning lift (it takes longer but you can probably score more points this way). Otherwise, blow the truck up and carry on to the right. It's now time to take control of the Slug Gunner, which you will find at the beginning of the next area. The best thing to do around here is to stay ducking down in this vehicle so it stays in tank mode. This will enable you to quickly run over any enemies on foot and you can easily take out anything else with the powerful gun turret or cannon. In the next area you will need to make your way upwards by taking a couple of elevators and also jumping between platforms. The soldiers and special ops guys are easily taken care of whether you are on foot or if you still have the Slug Gunner (hopefully you do), but there are also a LOT of enemy mechas around here. One thing to remember with the mechas is that they can be taken out very quickly with a grenade or Slug Gunner cannon round, and that they also have a weak spot: if you stand just behind them they can't hit you, so use this to your advantage. If you are in the vehicle, jump across the platforms by tapping B once and then pressing it again and holding it down to engage the vehicles jet pack which will make you float across the gap (when you jump normally this vehicle comes down quick due to its weight). After taking a couple of elevators you'll come to a bit where there's a couple of steps and a mecha sitting on top of them firing at you. Stay ducking down to avoid its fire an d shoot a couple of cannon rounds. They might not hit the mecha directly but the splash damage from them will; 2 cannon rounds should do the trick. You will now be more or less at the end, but there's a few more mechas to destroy and some suit wearing POW's that you can rescue for a points bonus. You should hopefully pick up a double machine gun around here, and if you still have the Slug Mecha you will be able to conserve its ammo for the boss, which will make things much simpler.

Stage 3 Boss: Wall Crawler This is one of my favorite bosses, although it's not terribly hard to beat. It crawls up on the outside of the building and will move up and down. When it is high up and on the same level as you it attacks by firing 3 large missiles at different heights that you will need to either duck or jump over. When it moves lower down the screen it either fires some homing missiles that you can shoot down or avoid or a guy will come out of the top and beckon some soldiers to come on the screen and attack you. Occasionally it will fire a massive ray that warps the screen and causes the platform that you are on to crumble. Keep shooting at it when it's high enough for you to be able to hit it, and throw whatever grenades you have left when it is lower than you. Its attacks are not difficult to avoid really, so you shouldn't have too many problems in beating it.

Stage 4 Stage 4 is probably my least favorite, although it is still good. It starts off in what looks to be a military installation. At the start of the stage you will face an onslaught of motorcycle riding soldiers who jump off their bike and send it somersaulting through the air towards you. In this area there are a couple of spotlights in the middle of the screen; shoot at them to reveal a heavy machine gun and a point's bonus. After you walk up some steps and destroy a tank, look out for the hostage who is dangling from the top of the screen - shoot him down and he'll accompany you for a bit... yep, that's right, it's the fireball guy! ;-) A tricky part comes next. You will be surrounded by soldiers with shields on the left and right and a couple of guys at the top who throw grenades. A lone helicopter comes down and while you attempt to shoot it down make sure you don't get too close to the shield guys or they will stab you. When you blow up the first helicopter it will give you a rocket launcher, but make sure you don't blow up the helicopter too close to the edge of the screen or the rocket launcher will get stuck on one of the higher platforms. Take care of the next two helicopters, grab the Iron Lizard the second one drops, kill any remaining soldiers and then be on your way. Now it's time for a bit of marine action in the submarine! This is quite a difficult area where you have to fight off enemy divers, nuclear subs, mines and also some squids and electric jellyfish. The jellyfish are probably the hardest part because when you shoot the bigger ones they split up into four smaller ones. The best thing to do is to stay as far way as possible and keep firing, but be careful when you are in the narrow passageway that you come to as they will attack from both sides... speed in destroying them is the key here. After this part there are some swarms of jellyfish that can't be killed - shoot them once to stop them moving and then swim past them. All that is left now in this section are some divers, squids (you can just avoid them until they swim off screen) and a few more nuclear subs. Once you are back out of the water you'll find yourself inside a tunnel filled with enemy mechas, soldiers and more. Nothing particularly difficult here, but when you reach the large room with some POW's at the top of the screen you'll get ambushed by soldiers and special ops guys. After you get out of here you will suddenly find yourself in the desert... is that a rumbling noise I hear??? Seems like there is something beneath us!!!

Stage 4 Boss: Desert Sub This sub rises up out of the sand beneath you, and is probably the cheapest boss in the game. If you stay standing on top of it relies solely on one attack, where it fires flame shots up into the air that slowly float back down the screen. These can be difficult to dodge as there are so many of them, but it is made worse by the fact that the tank moves about below you which sometimes makes you move right into them. There is only a small amount of room to move around in too and you can get trapped in between two barriers that are sticking up on the sub, so be careful not to get stuck next to them as this will most likely result in death. If you want you can jump off the sub to the left or right. Jumping off the left will result in the sub shooting projectiles from its cannon which are very hard to avoid, and jumping off the left will make the sub shoot out projectiles that slowly move towards you, but fizzle out after so long. This one is a bit hit and miss... sometimes I get by it without dying at all, sometimes I get killed three or four times before I get past it. Like I said just take care not to get caught out when the sub moves to the left or right, as that it what usually ends

Final Stage At the beginning of this stage you will go for a little ride in the Slug Car! You can move the car left and right and make it jump, and its gun turret can fire in any direction, so use it to take out the big missiles that come onto the screen, or press C to fire some of your missiles if you need to. There are a number of times when you will need to jump gaps in the road, and these can be hazardous if there are missiles still floating around as you could end up jumping into them. If the worst comes to the worst then you are best to take a little damage as it is better than falling down a hole and losing a life straight off. Later on during the car ride you will be attacked by some enemy planes and a helicopter. After you get out of the car you will find yourself outside the subway. Before you proceed down the steps, shoot the traffic lights as this reveals a bonus, and then shoot the market stall for some more. When you run down into the subway chuck a grenade at the two guys behind the sandbags and then quickly run past the guys on the rail track at the bottom and jump up and shoot them as you pass, before they get a chance to hit you with their missile launchers. Now take out anyone else remaining and drop down onto the track. You will come face to face with a few of the masked guys here - these guys will fall over after being shot down once, and then get back up again; it takes a couple of shots to actually kill them. Now, you have the choice of either jumping into the Spider Slug for a brief ride, or running along on foot, where you will find some big versions of various weapons... namely the shotgun, rocket launcher and the laser. They are cool weapons but you really are best to stay in the Spider Slug as there are a LOT of dangerous bad guys and vehicles in this area. After getting back outside there will be a group of mechas to deal with. Dispatch them and move forward - when you reach a ledge with a lieutenant standing on it, DON'T jump up straight away as some motorbike riders will drive off there... shoot them as they come onto the screen and then jump up. You can find a shotgun inside the building, and when you come back out of it you will need to use it on a group of the lieutenant guys... they normally take a lot of shots to kill, but the shotgun gets rid of them with ease (as per usual). Head forwards until you get back inside again. This is the penultimate area of the game. At the start of this area there are two smartly dressed POW's who offer you a choice of the dual machine gun or the super grenade launcher. I say take the grenade launcher as it will help you defeat the many masked men and mechas that are around here with only one shot (just use the shots sparingly as you don't get many and it is a very powerful weapon). You need to make your way upwards here, and once you reach the top you'll head out through an exit and be outside again. Jump between the pillars and you'll get to the stage 5 sub-boss. It has two pieces of machinery on either side with two things that swing down and fire laser beams. Make sure you don't get hit by them and just keep firing up at the control part of the machinery where you can see two masked guys sitting. You'll also need to fend off a number of purple slugs that fall onto the screen. After you have almost destroyed the swinging parts, they will stop firing and will just swing faster and try to hit you... avoid that attack and keep firing. When both are gone an elevator will come down. Jump on it to go to the final boss.

Final Stage Boss: Flying Demon Due to the almost total lack of storyline, this boss is never quite explained and is often the subject of a lot of hate from Metal Slug fans. I don't think the final boss is all that bad, but it probably would've been better as a sub-boss instead of the actual last boss of the game... or it should have at least been explained properly and given some more attacks to make it more interesting. It's a massive winged demon, and I assume that it was summoned by the tribesmen who put the mask on at the end of stage 1, but we never really get told the truth unfortunately. Anyway, this is a tough boss to beat without dying, but it isn't impossible like many people seem to think, it just takes good timing. It basically has two attacks; the first one is where a lot of blue energy balls come crashing down from the top of the screen, and the second is where the demon flies up and then swoops back down smashing its scythe into the floor. Take every opportunity you get to fire at the skull that is on the demons chest and throw grenades whenever you have them. During the attack with the energy balls, you need to stay in one spot and just slide left or right to get out of the way of each wave of attacks. Try to stay somewhere close to the far left or right of the screen, and when it unleashes a mass of energy balls, all you need to do is this: slide away from the edge of the screen just before you get hit by the first wave, wait for a split second and then slide again to miss the next lot. Keep doing this until they are all gone. Sometimes if you reach the edge of the screen while sliding you might need to jump over the last few attacks. The reason I said stay close to one side of the screen during the first few attacks is that when you are sliding away from the last big wave, if you get caught at the edge too quickly you WILL die. After this attack is over the demon will have disappeared, and after a few seconds you will see it in the background getting ready to attack again. Stand at the far right of the screen and as soon as you see wind blowing around the spot you are standing on, run to the other side of the screen. You will see the attack hit that spot and some blue steam will rise up off the floor - if this hits you you'll die so stay well away from it. After this the demon will rise up again and it's back to square one. Just repeat the process until it is dead... you'll probably lose a lot of lives the first few times you get here. Practice makes perfect, and even I have managed to beat it without dying a couple of times... and I suck ;-) It's now time to watch some rather uninspiring end credits; there is no kind of ending at all, which is a shame. "MISSION ALL OVER", perhaps for the last time on the Neo Geo?

Overall Like its predecessor, Metal Slug 5 is a particularly hard game to review. It tries hard to impress and succeeds in many areas, but on the other hand it comes up short in others, especially with regard to the almost completely absent alternate routes and the subsequent lack of replay value. When I first began to play it I was very impressed and it was a total blast to complete it for the first few times. I began to think that it could turn into one of my favorite games in the series, but after I had put a few hours into it I began to notice the things that are wrong with it. The biggest shame with all of this is that SNKP didn't really need to do that much more to turn it into a truly great game. It also seems like they ditched a lot of ideas that they had, because there's a lot of code and graphics still stored in the carts data that people have found by examining the ROM dumps of the game. There is an unused boss which resembles a giant turtle among others, so why SNKP decided not to use it is anyone's guess. I can also remember seeing advanced screenshots of the game months before it's release that showed stuff that didn't make it into the final game. What happened during Metal Slug 5's development cycle is a complete mystery, but as I said earlier on in the review I suppose it was probably down to time constraints or something similar.

Neither of the above made it into the final game but are still in the games code... oddly enough. Regardless of what happened, the game should not have been released in this kind of incomplete state in my opinion. If they had spent some extra time implementing another stage or two and at least one hidden route in each one as well as a better final boss, it would have helped immensely. The things that are present are all good, but it is over far too quickly and even the most ardent Slug fans may find themselves getting tired of the game more quickly than they did with earlier entries into the series. Although it's a much higher quality game than MS4, the ironic thing is that if they were to mix the good elements of MS4 (there were a few) with the great new elements of MS5, they would be onto a winner. I never thought I'd hear myself say that... So, where next for the series? At the time of writing development of SNK titles is to switch to the Atomiswave hardware made by Sammy, the company responsible for the Guilty Gear games amongst others. Although I still find the current graphics impressive enough in their own way, moving to Atomiswave will hopefully pave the way for a major graphical upgrade, but I hope that they don't mess up the game play. Moving to new hardware might enable them to improve game play in fact, so it could be a great thing. Whatever hardware the next game is on, there are a lot of things that I would like to see added to the next game in the series, which would make it even more enjoyable and give you more of a reason to go back and play it again and again. First off, ever since MS2 came out and added a character select, I've always loved the idea of making all the characters play slightly differently. By this I mean giving them different skills and attributes; for instance, each character could have the opportunity to use weapons that the others can't, and some might be faster or more powerful etc. This wouldn't be anything that we haven't seen in other similar games, but it would definitely add a whole new dimension to the game play. They could even go one step further and introduce a system whereby you could tag in a different character at certain stages of the game, or perhaps change character in-between stages. This might be taking things too far, and perhaps it wouldn't suit Metal Slug, but they definitely need to think about doing something along these lines to make the series seem fresh again. I'd also like to see them make a little bit more of the slide move - it is a welcome addition here, but I never find myself using it all that often to get through a game (only occasionally). If the stages were designed a little bit better and setup to accommodate the slide a lot more (and force you to learn to use it to survive), then it would be a lot more useful. Another option would be to let you carry two items at one time, and switch between them... this could add another new tactical element. As I talked about at the start of the review, a decent storyline would also be a welcome addition. With characters as fun to watch as the ones in Metal Slug, they practically BEG to have their stories fleshed out a little. Even just a few cut scenes in between stages, like the ones in Metal Slug: 2nd Mission for the NGPC would be a welcome addition. Perhaps a branching storyline that took you in different directions depending on how well you did on each stage would also be a good idea. The possibilities are endless and I'd love to see something like this implemented on the next game, no matter what hardware platform it appears on. Overall, Metal Slug 5 is a frustrating game. It does many things right and is an absolute joy to play through the first few times, but after a while you'll begin to notice its shortcomings. It's best described as the "supermodel" of the series; pretty on the outside and a lot of fun to play with, but ultimately it's hollow and vacuous on the inside. It's a shame really as it could have easily been one of the best in the series had a little more effort been put into it! Buy it if you are a big Metal Slug fan and must have all the games, but otherwise you might want to skip it as you won't get your monies worth out of it... especially if you are paying for the home cart. Metal Slug 2 (X Hat Slug) One other thing to consider - there is still the possibility of an "arranged" version of Metal Slug 5 with some extra stuff added to it. SNK did it with Metal Slug 2/X and SNKP have done it recently with Samurai Showdown 5/Special, so maybe we'll see something similar here? It may be very unlikely now (with the whole Sammy/Atomiswave thing), but it is a possibility. If it doesn't happen on the Neo Geo then I wouldn't be surprised to at least see some extra stuff added to the eventual home ports to the PS2/Xbox. Regardless of what we may or may not see in the future, if you are planning on buying this game I would say that it's not a bad buy, but it's without a doubt one that you should try before you buy, and think twice about it if you aren't a hardcore Slug fan. For many it might be the sort of game that is best to play at the arcades for a while, if you can find an MS5 cabinet that is.


Read a Review Here. See the Japanese Promotional Flyer Here.

Other Metal Slug 5 Pictures

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Picture 13 Picture 14 Picture 15 Picture 16 Picture 17 Description of each level and music Link -------------------- Other Metal Slug Miscellaneous Stuff: Metal Slug 1 Marquee Neo Geo Four Slot Marquee Neo Geo One Slot (Middle) Neo Geo sideart - To put on the side of your Coin-Op Neo Geo Cabinet Metal Slug 5 (flyer) (2003) Metal Slug 5 (Poster) (2003) Metal Slug 5 (Flyer) (2003) Metal Slug 5 (Marcos Rossi) (2003) metal slug 5 (brochure) (2003) Click on This Picture Click on This Picture Click on This Picture Metal Slug 5 Marco Rossi, Tarmicle Roving III, Eri Kasamoto, Fio Germi Metal Slug (Mariner) Now there is another to the series but only for the Game Boy, the Metal Slug Advance: Metal Slug: Cyber Mission (2004, Game Boy Advance) SNK plans to release the GBA version of Metal Slug in August 2004. The features list for the game mentions five main missions with four sub-missions. Like in the NeoGeo Metal Slug games, play will center around running through levels and shooting at enemies. You will be able to pilot the tank, helicopter, and submarine at various points throughout the game. The unique twist for Cyber Mission is the inclusion of a card system. Depending on how you perform in the game, you'll earn cards that can give you new weapons, extend your life, weaken enemies, or unlock new levels. There will be 100 cards to collect in all. SNK CORP. Michael Meyers Michael Meyers Public Relations 533 Peters Street, Suite 203 Pleasanton, CA 94566 925-931-9700 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: "METAL SLUG ADVANCE RELEASED AFTER THE HIT METAL SLUG 5" SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION SHIPS METAL SLUG ADVANCE LINK SNK’s Most Popular Action Franchise Miniaturized, Features New E-cards WALL, NJ (November 30, 2004) SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION, the US publishing arm of the SNK PLAYMORE CORP., announced today that the company has shipped its first title for the Nintendo Game Boy® Advance, METAL SLUG ADVANCE. METAL SLUG ADVANCE will feature five, all-new, action-packed missions plus diverse areas and rugged terrain including subterranean dungeons such as mysterious ruins, limestone caverns, and lava zones. As an added bonus, METAL SLUG ADVANCE will feature 100 different METAL SLUG E-cards to enhance player’s abilities and assist them in the completion of their missions “METAL SLUG fans are going to be very happy with this all-new Game Boy® Advance version,” commented Ben Herman, SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION president. “METAL SLUG ADVANCE has all the frenetic action and intense strategy of its arcade big brother, with exciting innovations like the new E-card system.” Introducing METAL SLUG E-Cards METAL SLUG ADVANCE features 100 types of “METAL SLUG E-cards” that can be found on missions and in dungeons during the game. The E-cards change the status of your character and the game, increasing the strength of your weapons, or opening hidden doors. Some of the cards can be switched on or off, further adding to the game’s strategy. Collect 99 cards during the game and you’ll be awarded the “All Complete” card. METAL SLUG ADVANCE FEATURES: - Five action packed missions. - Explore diverse areas and rugged terrain including subterranean dungeons such as mysterious ruins, limestone caverns and lava zones to extend replay value. - Complete additional assignments to move on to other stages. - Keep track of rescued hostages in the Hostage File. About SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION Over the past 18 years, SNK has published classic arcade titles such as THE KING OF FIGHTERS, BASEBALL STARS, METAL SLUG, SAMURAI SHODOWN, and FATAL FURY on a wide variety of home gaming and handhelds systems. In June 2003, SNK opened SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION in Wall, New Jersey to again publish arcade classics on the current home and portable gaming systems. Other games published by SNK NEOGEO USA CONSUMER CORPORATION include KOF: MAXIMUM IMPACT for the Sony PlayStation®2 Computer Entertainment System, and METAL SLUG 3 for the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft. Metal Slug Advance - (2004) Metal Slug Advance Metal Slug Advance Metal Slug Advance metal slug Advance Metal Slug Advance - Metal Slug Advance - © 2004 Playmore Two new heroes board the Metal Slug all-assault vehicle in the long-awaited Game Boy Advance release of SNK's classic side-scrolling shooter. Taking control of either Walter or Tyra, you'll work your way through multiple missions set on an island in the south seas (we presume they mean south of Japan). As you play, you'll pick up recovery items and cards, which can be used to power up your characters, adding a new element of strategy to the series. Metal Slug 6: SNK's classic NeoGeo shooting franchise lives on in this action platformer, now running on the Sammy Atomiswave arcade board. Atomiswave System: GENERAL INFORMATION THE SYSTEM Atomiswave is the latest edition of the new arcade cartridge System Platform from Sammy. The system supports various types of input such as, joystick, light gun, track ball and driving, with the game exchanged by the simple swapping of the Cartridge which allows you to exchange software quickly and at low cost. Through our worldwide software development and flexibility to support any game style, we have produced the ultimate game system that can accommodate new game releases in one cabinet or convert any other cabinet with our game kit. A breakthrough in low-cost performance. We give you a line up of game genres that keep you wanting more. The game system accommodates new games just by interchanging options such as affordable cassettes and interfaces. Keeping you a step ahead with a high performance gaming environment. Atomiswave opens the doors to new creations from the game market hierarchy. Dolphin Blue (header) Dolphin Blue Picture (Sammy) (2003) The look and feel of the Dolphin Blue Game is much like the Metal Slug Series. Dolphin Blue (screen shot) (2003 Beta Version) Atomiswave system with Dolphin Blue - Atomiswave is a cartridge based system by Sammy with significantly better capabilities than the NeoGeo MVS. SNK Playmore is currently developing new titles for this new system, such as KoF 2004 & Metal Slug 6. Item Details: Test drive Sammy's Atomiswave hardware (Red Cover) now to get an early taste of what's possible from SNK Playmore. New titles are already under development from SNKP for Atomiswave, such as King of Fighters 2004 and Metal Slug 6! Brand new factory sealed kit. Includes everything, including large marquee. This system is Jamma compatible. Dolphin Blue is comparable to SNK's Metal Slug series. For more information on the Atomiswave hardware and it's current library of titles, see here (off site link). Also, see diagram of Atomiswave system (off site link to Sammy Japan). Atomiswave (flyer) (Sammy 2003) Link Atomiswave System Statistics: HARDWARE DESCRIPTION - DREAMCAST BASED CPU : Hitachi SH-4 64-bit RISC CPU (200 MHz 360 MIPS / 1.4 GFLOPS) Graphic Engine : PowerVR 2 (PVR2DC) Sound Engine : ARM7 Yamaha AICA 45 MHZ (with internal 32-bit RISC CPU, 64 channel ADPCM) Main Ram : 32 megs Main Memory : 16 MByte Graphic Memory : 16 MByte Sound Memory : 8 MByte Media : ROM Board Simultaneous Number of Colors : Approx. 16,770,000 (24bits) Polygons : 2.5 Million polys/sec Rendering Speed : 500 M pixel/sec Additional Features : Bump Mapping, Fog, Alpha-Bending (transparency), Mip Mapping (polygon-texture auto switch), Tri-Linear Filtering, Anti-Aliasing, Environment Mapping, and Specular Effect. Network : It is possible to connect the systems on the network using both 56K modem or broadband connection using the AW-Net. Known games : 22 Notes : This is a standard dreamcast type spec, so has less power than the Sega Naomi. Inputs : Supports various types of input such as joystick, light guns, and track balls via a common interface. Flyer : System Flyer Emulators : None KNOWN SAMMY ATOMISWAVE GAME LIST Demolish Fist Dirty Pigskin Football Dolphin Blue Extreme Hunting Faster Than Speed Force Five Guilty Gear X Ver. 1.5 Guilty Gear Isuka Knights Of Valor 3 Knights Of Valor : The Seven Spirits Maximum Speed Metal Slug 6 Neogeo Battle Coliseum Premium Eleven Ranger Mission Rumble Fish Salaried Worker Golden Taro Sammy Vs Capcom Samurai Spirits AW Sports Shooting USA Sushi Bar The King Of Fighters Neowave Atomiswave by Sammy Corp. SNK Playmore supporting Sammy Atomiswave system with Dolphin Blue (Metal Slug 6) Free Web Counter
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Metal Slug 6 - New release on Atomsiwave Faster Neo-Geo System Metal Slug 6 Publisher: SNK Playmore Platform: Atomsiwave Arcade Genre: Action Origin: Japan Release: TBA Here are some new screens of SNK Playmore's new Atomsiwave arcade 2D action shooter Metal Slug 6, the game will have 6 playable characters.