Nick DeMarco

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Metal Slug: 1st Mission’ fits tank-sized fun into Neo Geo Pocket

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Metal Slug: 1st Mission’ fits tank-sized fun into Neo Geo Pocket
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So there’s something to be said for a guy who is already thinking ahead to August’s reviews before July is even over. Yours truly definitely had a bit of a brain fart prior to this review, so my apologies to that. My boss here puts up with my lunacy at times and mankind as a whole.

In any event, we officially wrap up this month of handheld titles with a game that, on the surface, epitomizes great run and gun titles on the Neo Geo console and had developers tasked with the chore of putting it on the tiny Neo Geo Pocket Color, SNK’s answer to the likes of the Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, and Atari Lynx, to name a few. Yes, today boys and girls, we head back into battle in “Metal Slug: 1st Mission” on the short-lived Neo Geo Pocket!

“Metal Slug: 1st Mission” (Neo Geo Pocket)


While “Metal Slug: 1st Mission” has some great edge-of-your-seat action and thrills galore, it is definitely lacking in the audio department. I’m not sure whether this is simply due to the tiny speakers present on this handheld or the belief that less is more, but most of the soundtrack in this game sounds the same and is further hindered by more of a bloop/bleep-type style, along with what sounds like Morse code – it can become very irritating in a hurry.

It’s a real shame, too, because if the soundtrack reached the heights of the gameplay and tied into it well, it would further enhance and not take away from the overall replay value of the game.


While things such as the tanks, jets, and bosses are some of the most impressive things I’ve seen on a handheld, the player and the enemies you face along the way all look rather plain and unappealing to me, almost faceless in some instances. It is almost as if the game is toying with you to keep playing because, “Hey, we’ve got better stuff coming towards the end of each level.”

While this is a fine tactic, the fact that you spend the whole game as said character blasting these same enemies in limited variety can make some gamers feel like it isn’t worth the trouble. At the same time, I don’t see this as anything else but another unfortunate flaw in the game.


Where “Metal Slug: 1st Mission” excels is in the gameplay. There are few things more satisfying on a handheld than blasting away legions of enemies, rescuing bearded prisoners, and then going to work against huge bosses that range from big tanks to even fully armored blimps! I was so astonished by how this was all accomplished in such a smooth frame rate with little to no lag at all. That’s pretty impressive.

There are many missions in this game, more than you’d expect, with these huge bosses sprinkled in so many missions, which paces the game very well. As a player, you get excited as you realize you’re making your way to the boss fight, and that buildup is a win-win for gamers and developers alike.


“Metal Slug: 1st Mission” is a lot like the character you play – it may not be pretty, but it gets the job done with great action-packed fun packed into a pocket-sized console. A handheld and this game can be picked up for about $50 or so with some hunting, but it can often hover more so around $100 for the handheld alone, but I found this to be an overall pleasant experience that belongs in the hands of diehard handheld gamers for sure.

Next time on Turn to Channel 3, we go all the way back for a month of Atari games, beginning with arguably the worst in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on the Atari 2600!

Until then, don’t let this summer go by without a cool drink and some time to game on!

Tune in to NEPA Scene’s gaming column, Turn to Channel 3, every Thursday for new perspectives on retro gaming as well as fresh twists on the classics. All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.