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Metal Slug Anthology

US Import: From 20p coin-op to £40 cash-op - it's time to start the slugging

It ultimately denotes any form of collection, but we quite often find it difficult to detach the word 'anthology' from its overbearing literary usage. It's a word that takes us back to our GCSE days of slaving over a love poetry anthology - trying not to snigger at slightly 'oo-er missus' metaphors about juicy watermelons and bananas. It's an academic word, a stuffy word even - surely not suitable to describe a series of games dedicated to the pursuit of blowing out a hundred brains per minute? You'd be surprised.

Anthologies exist to allow people to put things into perspective, to compare and contrast similar works, and in this sense Metal Slug Anthology is a huge success. With all seven Slug incarnations present and correct - surely the envy of other console gamers who've only ever seen them released in pairs at best - it allows us to chart the evolution of the series. Increasingly flamboyant weapons, even sillier transformations as our heroes become mummified or turn into monkeys, and of course the development of the vehicular slugs themselves from killing machines clearly grounded in military reality to the later fantastical mish-mashes of the animal kingdom and construction site vehicles - it's fascinating to see the series forming in front of your eyes.

Full metal freedom
Thanks to a new optional infinite continue function we are finally given the opportunity to 're-read' this Anthology - freed from the intensive 20p-for-three-credits confines of arcade versions. The Metal Slugs are stunningly designed titles, packed with visual wit and incidental detail that was betrayed in arcade versions by the speed with which your limited lifespan encouraged you to pass it by.

Repeat goes bring realisation of this depth; the way each part of the slug individually shakes and clanks, how characters breath can be seen in cold levels, the bizarre character animations of innocent bystanders and the clever nods to Star Wars, Alien and Independence Day.

Our last return to the anthology metaphor sadly puts a dampener on things. A literary anthology is a relatively easy thing to construct: you gather content from one page and bung it on to another. However, you cannot simply take an arcade game and 'bung it' onto the Wii; it requires polishing and shaping, something severely lacking here. From the static menus to the way the title screens still read "Press Start" despite there being no actual start button on the controller - this really is actual code transferred straight to the Wii, making it little more than a glorified Virtual Console title.

No poetry
The motion sensor controls are shoddy, offering a ridiculous setup that has you using a vertically-held remote as a joystick while you fire with the nunchuk buttons. Without the fixed base of a proper joystick you never have a neutral position to return it to; your constant recalibrations instead sending characters into a moronic shoot-me-in-the-face rotating dance.

Luckily the horizontally held remote setup, employing the D-pad for movement and the 1 and 2 buttons for firing and jumping, is perfectly acceptable, though shaking the remote for grenades feels slightly inaccurate. Alternatively, plugging in the old GameCube controller offers the tightest controls - an 'old school controller' for an old school game, it kind of makes sense.

Slug aficionados are guaranteed a trip down a particularly bullet riddled memory lane, but newcomers may find this slightly too rough around the edges for the all-singing all-dancing Wii. One thing is for sure: we'd take this over the love poetry anthology any day.

The verdict

Paradoxical. A celebration of old school and simplicity appearing on a machine capable of so much more. Accept that it won't push the Wii, and it's highly enjoyable.

Nintendo Wii
Compilation, Shoot 'em Up