In the Run'n'Gun category, the most similar game on the Sega Genesis and most likely to be compared to Nazca's Metal Slug is probably Contra: Hard Corps, released late 1994 by Konami. The system was very well programmed with this title, as we shall see in the following lines, and Konami used a powerful 16 megs cartridge, a pretty remarkable size for Sega's system. Metal Slug, as most of the games on the Neo Geo, uses a massive 193 megs cart. The Rolls Royce of gaming systems starts with an impressive advantage over its rival, but will it be enough to win this match?
The technological difference is particularly sensitive in this chapter, the lack of color of Sega's console is sensible here (64 colors displayed simultaneously against 4096 for the Neo Geo). If the backgrounds are complex and varied in Contra, all is relatively poor compared to its opponent, as well as the sprites that are not too detailed. In addition, like in Robo Army, a part of the top screen is occupied by a black band displaying the lives left and weapon informations. Considering the system, it's quite acceptable, even if we've already seen much better on it (Gunstar Heroes, Alisia Dragon or Shinobi) and the different shots and visual effects are still very good. Metal Slug offers finer graphics, incredibly more colorful, and above all packing an impressive level of detail. Backgrounds are more varied than in Contra Hard Corps, they have a beautiful depth and the characters are gorgeous and precisely drawn, mixing realistic colors and effects worthy of a burlesque cartoon.
METAL SLUG.......................... 96%
CONTRA HARD CORPS........ 68%
Contra is definetely a punchy game! The pace is fast, the action intense and the enemy flow sustained... there's no time to lose when into action with Konami's title, as everything is ultra dynamic, with an animation detailed and neat. Effects of rotation, morphing, fast scrollings appear all along the game. Only a few phases of dialogues come between stages, breaking up the pace. Metal Slug action on its side, provides a little less speed but no less intense action! Each stage of the game is full with cartoonish details, the game is incredibly alive with many interactions and surprises everywhere, but what is most striking is the smoothness and decomposition of the animation at all levels. Vehicles, characters, enemies, bosses, backgrounds... Nazca's programmers cared for every single detail, and that is particularly rewarding. A few slowdowns happen in the game when playing two, but nothing too dramatic to report. The Genesis is here perfectly operated and if the game is less impressive than its competitor, its animation is still flawless.
METAL SLUG.......................... 95%
CONTRA HARD CORPS........ 86%
The Neo Geo is known for its powerful sound capabilities, especially considering its generation, and it's not Metal Slug that will have me lying! The musics of the game are catchy, brilliantly orchestrated and quite varied. The themes are memorable at least, and litteraly epic for some! The effects are fitting perfectly, with a range of sound worthy of a Rambo movie. Sounds of gunfire, explosions, screams are downright remarkable. That's one more chapter which received a great attention to details from programmers. Contra on its side, play in a more speedy musical style, techno-pop, and here again, it fits nicely the action. Despite the lower capabilities of the Genesis, the game is doing quite well. Effects are a good notch below Metal Slug, and if this is still above average, it's far to be enough to compete with the title of SNK.
METAL SLUG.......................... 97%
CONTRA HARD CORPS........ 74%
On my left, Metal Slug, first of the saga. Six levels to clear and a reasonable difficulty, for a game that could be cleared in only thirty minutes. That's a little short! To my right, Contra Hard Corps, an extremely difficult game to come through! A multitude of stages and different branches, a total of six possible endings... to drive the point home, the game features four different characters and a taking scenario, with some dialogues punctuating the action. To see every Contra endings takes hours, but clearing the game once is already a big challenge, even for seasoned players. At this level, the game takes a clear advantage over its competitor, offering a depth that few Run'n'Gun titles equaled. Metal Slug takes a little revenge on Konami's game in terms of life: its fun, complexity, the multitude of hidden bonuses to discover and the prisoners to find and free everywhere (and to recover points, it takes not to lose a life till the stage's end) are all the things that have players coming back again and again to the game and its tremendous fun. A real life and a great challenge for Contra, which Metal Slug replicates with its fabulous scoring system and its incredibly addictive replay value.
METAL SLUG.......................... 82%
CONTRA HARD CORPS........ 93%
To the ergonomic and smooth controls of Metal Slug, Contra responds with a more comprehensive range of moves (including the famous slide) and a top speed. Four different characters are proposed for variety, against only two (playing the same) for SNK's game. Its rival also features various phases, sometimes with vertical scrollings or 3D races, plus the different paths that provide variety to the action. It's something that doesn't exist in Metal Slug (the third installment will provide these feats). Anyway, Nazca's baby takes advantage on the variety of weapons (five different ones, vehicles, grenades, against four different), and the scoring system more interesting, with hidden bonuses and prisoners challenge to find during the stages. Staging and further dialogue punctuating the action add some atmosphere in Contra, while its opponent is all about humor and outrageousness! Environments are radically different but pleasant on both sides. Finally, each of our protagonists offer a pleasant and complex gameplay. However, since we have to decide between, it appears that the fun factor goes through the roof with Metal Slug, which even when cleared ten, twenty, a hundred times, still have the player coming back for more, whereas the Contra challenge, once cleared, loses much of its interest.
METAL SLUG.......................... 97%
CONTRA HARD CORPS........ 92%
Contra has always been and will remain one of the most successful Run'n'Gun franchises, and forever a reference. This Hard Corps version was facing for this match a serious client: Metal Slug, the game that brought freshness and a new gameplay on the field of videogames, the precursor of a saga that definetely renewed the genre. Anyway, the Genesis wasn't ridiculous in this match: if the realization of Contra Hard Corps is a notch below its competitor, it still did pretty good, and this one even takes a sharp revenge on the life chapter, doing better than its rival. That was an important factor that could have made a difference, if Metal Slug wasn't such an incredibly fun and taking game, which have players returning to it as greedy on the box of cookies. The title of Nazca wins this duel for its realization (simply gorgeous for 1996 game), its reinforced concrete gameplay, its fun and an unique atmosphere.
CONTRA HARD CORPS