This franchise just keeps going and going. The arcade machines may now be falling apart from age, but the series just keeps growing in popularity. SNK has managed to create a 2D platformer paired with gun action and it keeps them in business. With this in mind, it's not hard to see why handheld was the next progression for the series and despite the fact that the console titles require fairly powerful hardware, the GBA version manages to hold its own against them and not just in the graphics. In fact the GBA version has changed so much that it's probably one of the better metal slugs thus far.
In the GBA version you only have a selection of two characters and once again there really is no storyline. Basically, you can select between a male or female character from the tough training Peregrine Falcons who are sent on a drill. Having an entire game based around training may not sound that great, but you soon forget the very weak storyline once the action begins.
Like its console sisters, the game is a 2D action scroller although in this day and age, it's probably more acceptable to see graphics of this caliber on a handheld than a PS2 or Xbox. The aim is to get from one area to another alive just like the other games and then take on a boss character at the end of each mission. The game contains five missions plus a dungeon which is quite on par with the console games and it does suffer in the length aspect although not as much. Because this game is not a port the developers have been able to mix it up a little. Rather than having an endless amount of lives and credits, you now only have one life with a health bar. One hit does not kill you but five hits will and it is this that makes you play the game properly rather than treat the lives of the characters as cannon fodder.
This completely changes Metal Slug for most players. The enemies are still the same and you still do the same stuff but we found ourselves having to change our game style to something which makes the game more enjoyable. The game also never 'cheats' and every time your players die, you will know why rather than accuse the AI of being unbelievably tough. Like the console games you also have the ability to use vehicles such as the tank and plane which gives a sense of familiarity to the game. The controls are well put together but it can be hard to control the gun of the tank without an analogue stick. Other than that the game very much replicates the other titles with food being used for health and a fairly useful arsenal.
The visual style of the game mimics the console games, quite impressive considering the difference of power. The characters animate well and there really have not been any changes to the game other than very quick loading screens between sections of each level. The sound effects remain pretty much the same as well.
Metal Slug Advance is a game that shows the GBA can do the series quite well. The quick style of the game is quite suitable for portable action. The only downside to the game is that it costs a little more than the console version of Metal Slug 3 which came with many more extras, but other than that, it's an excellent first effort for the Slug series on GBA.