Metal Slug 3 is at first deceptively slow but by no means easy. Certain levels have multiple paths you can take, affecting your mid-stage gameplay, though both paths lead to the same boss. Blasting through hoards of puking zombies makes the second mission particularly charming . If they land a hit you’re transformed into a slow-moving zombie yourself, reminiscent of the mummy affliction from MS2/X. Unlike the mummy, there is a definite upside to the zombie state. You maintain the use of your handgun and in lieu of bombs possess a graphic blood-vomit attack that spans the majority of the screen. Your movement is significantly affected however, so it isn’t prudent to intentionally afflict yourself with the zombie status…at least more than once.
The third mission begins in a janky underwater area and the entire stage exemplifies the initial slow pace of MS3 in comparison to other titles in the series. The third mission’s boss is very easy and very generic, which does nothing to prepare you for the little stage of horrors that is the fourth mission. Our zombie friends are back, newly equipped with their own blood-vomit attack, along with Audrey-esque cannibalistic plants. This stage is hard, bloody, and will leave you begging for more.
Many people say Metal Slug 3 is the best game in the series, and I’d bet this is because of the final mission. Your initial character is kidnapped and you are automatically given the next in line from the Player Select Screen. You begin the stage in a vertical shmup setting, flying through asteroids and gunning down aliens. The 5th mission is the longest, most satisfying orgy of missiles and explosions this side of DoDonPachi. This stage feels like real Metal Slug with its fast-moving and detailed landscapes. Overall, MS3 epitomizes quarter-munching arcade fun, if you’re patient enough to hang on past the build-up of the first few levels.