Eu passo grande parte do meu dia tentando esconder metade dos meus sentimentos. No fundo eu tenho medo que descubram que por trás dessa proteção toda, existe alguém capaz de sentir. Tenho medo que em algum momento alguém descubra como me atacar e acabe me machucando. Tenho medo que, em algum descuido, eu me deixe levar e acabe abrindo meu coração novamente e deixando a mostra o que tenho de melhor e de mais sincero. Porque por trás dessa proteção toda existe um coração machucado que não resistirá a mais um ataque. E é exatamente por isso, que eu venho tentando esconder esses sentimentos que estão crescendo em mim. Já fui machucada o suficiente para saber que não posso mais confiar em ninguém, a não ser em mim mesma.
—  Pendências em companhia de Ocasionadora.

Metal Slug 3, released by SNK in 2000 (and developed by former members of Irem, Nazca) is a game I’ve both looked forward to and dreaded covering since I started running this blog. Simply put, Metal Slug 3 is one of the greatest video games ever created, which automatically places it also on the pedestal for arcade and Neo Geo titles. It’s amazing that I get to share this title with more than a thousand other video game fans, some of which I pity for never having experienced this game (and envy for being able to do so for the first time.) On the other hand, what can I possibly say that can sum up the greatness of this title? Not enough, certainly, but I’m going to give it a shot.

The Metal Slug series had always been known for its quality and detail, which I mentioned while discussing Metal Slug and Metal Slug 2. But Metal Slug 3 was Nazca’s magnum opus, a masterpiece of game design. It looks, sounds and plays amazingly. The graphics have all of the rich detail, animation and style that previous games in the series carried and more. Enemies, their vehicles and the surrounding areas explode and fragment delightfully. The stages are brimming with creativity; background and foreground elements blend together well and there’s humorous and creepy little elements all over the place to be seen if you can keep your eyes open. Every stage is broken up into multiple parts, with some of those fragments being as long as entire stages in other games (including previous Metal Slug titles) and they’re all different to each other. The four screenshots I’ve got on display here? They’re all just from the first of the game’s five missions. The final mission is longer than any of the rest, and feels like a small game in itself. There’s also a “branching path” system available at various points during every stage except for the last one. You’ll have to play the game at least three times to see it all, and that’s a good thing.

It’s not just the stage visuals and paths that impress. It seems to me when playing the game that this was potentially intended to be the last entry in the series, and the Nazca team intended to send it off with a bang. The four characters of Metal Slug 2 return, and they’ve got a vast assortment of vehicles (the semi-eponymous “slugs”) to dish it to the enemies with, including six new models scattered amongst old favorites. You’ll be able to battle underwater in a submersible of destruction, pursue enemies in a helicopter, and even pilot a spaceship for when you have to take the fight into orbit. There are enemy soldiers, zombies, aliens, and mutant creatures all standing in your way. Enemy encounters are skillfully placed, and you’ll have to use careful positioning in your environment to survive just as much as a fast trigger finger. The bosses and mini-bosses are amazing, some of the best in the series. They look phenomenal considering the age of the Neo Geo hardware and pose a huge challenge.

The one arguable weak point is the final boss, which I found a little lacking, compared not only to the other bosses here but especially to the downright epic (and I don’t use that term lightly) feel of the final battle in Metal Slug 2. But it’s not enough to detract from Metal Slug 3′s brilliance. After all, the distant spiritual ancestor of this series, Contra, had an easy and relatively uninspired final boss itself and that game is still legendary today. So it is with Metal Slug 3. If you have even the mildest interest in run-and-gun games, your gaming experiences simply aren’t complete without at least a dozen tokens worth of lives spent trying to save the world here. It’s one of the crowning achievements of the Neo Geo and arcade history.