For the uninitiated, that means plenty of frenetic shooting action, gorgeous hand-drawn visuals, screen-filling boss encounters, swarms of foes and, of course, Metal Slugs (powerful tank-like contraptions). If you're a fan of the series you will soon find that there is very little here you haven't seen before. In fact, despite being a Nintendo DS title, MS7 makes almost no effort to embrace the console's unique features - the touch screen houses a map but little else, and wireless multiplayer is entirely absent. Instead of startling innovation, then, Metal Slug 7 offers polish, and plenty of it.
MS7's core gameplay mechanics are identical to those of its forebearers: you run and you gun, with character control handled exclusively with the d-pad and face buttons. While some developers feel the need to shoehorn touch controls into every DS game under the sun, SNK has wisely chosen to stick to the basics here. It would have been nice, however, to see a more pertinent use of the DS' dual screens. While the included map is useful for tracking down hidden items, Contra IV has already proven that this a genre which can definitely benefit from being spread out across two screens.
How so? Well, with so much going on - constant explosions, epic boss encounters, swarms of enemies pouring in from all directions - a single 3 inch screen simply isn't always enough to appreciate the game's visual glory. Despite being scaled down to such a small size, MS7 still manages to looks fantastic, though. The animation is top notch, the detail is outstanding, and there is nary a sign of slowdown to be found in spite of the almost constant barrage of weapon fire and explosion effects. MS7's biggest omission, then, has got to be its lack of multiplayer functionality.
Despite the aforementioned problems that can arise by cramming so much action into a 3" box, the lack of co-operative play (either locally or globally via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection) is a real blow. The DS could have been the perfect machine to really make co-operative multiplayer shine, but it's nowhere to be seen. Perhaps technical limitations of the DS' hardware are to blame, but the omission ultimately hurts all the more due to MS7's lack of compensatory extras. Without multiplayer to pad out the experience, Metal Slug 7 becomes rather light in terms of actual content.
The game's central campaign is broken down into seven unique levels, each playable on one of three difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, and Hard). On one the easier settings, experienced players may well find themselves watching the game's credits before even a handful of hours have passed. Replaying levels is encouraged by the inclusion of multiple characters - each with his or her own unique traits and specialties - as well as a selection of hidden items to collect and prisoner's of war to rescue; but even these won't be enough to keep you coming back for long.
One saving grace is offered in the form of the Combat School mode - a series of increasingly tough challenges. Examples of challenges include completing a level within a certain time limit, rescuing all the POWs from a level, and wiping out each and every foe you can find. Successful completion of a task earns you a grade, which in turn carries a number of points that allow you to rise through a selection of military ranks. Much like returning to previous levels in order to improve your high score, completing challenges doesn't offer actual rewards so much as a simple sense of satisfaction.