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Metal Slug Complete Sound Box :: Review by George

Metal Slug Complete Sound Box Album Title: Metal Slug Complete Sound Box
Record Label: Scitron Digital Contents
Catalog No.: SCDC-00542/9
Release Date: September 6, 2006
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Back when I was in elementary school, I used to go to the arcade as soon as I finished my class hours. Fortunately, the arcade was pretty close to my home, so my parents allowed me the privilege of wasting my time there. I must admit, even though I used to play a lot, I sucked badly at most games (especially fighting games!). But there was a game that was way too hardcore even for the greatest players. That game was called Metal Slug. Despite my lack of skills in arcade games, ironically, I was the only guy in the arcade with the reputation of beating Metal Slug with only one coin. No wonder I could do that. The game has wasted so many hours of my life that I ended up memorizing all the little details and secrets, and could play it with eyes closed (probably not true).

I sometimes found myself leaning towards the screen, so I could listen better to the sound coming from the machine. The cabinet was put in a corner, so the sound was much more audible. During all that chaos of gunshots, explosions, and comical screams, I could actually hear music, and holy excrements, it was a blast to listen to! Whenever I used to start the first mission, the main theme played and infected me. It always used to make me ready for action, pumping me up with adrenaline. And when the credits rolled, I used to stay and enjoy it till the end, giving me a big sense of accomplishment.

This excellent game laid the foundations for the development of a major series featuring arcade, console, and portable instalments. The series' games didn't always maintain the quality of the original, particularly after the fall of the original SNK, though one featured stayed excellent throughout: the music. The series' successive composers, Takushi Hiyamuta, Toshikazu Tanaka, and Manabu Namiki, did an excellent job of ensuring each soundtrack was more commanding and breathtaking than those that preceded it. The Metal Slug Complete Sound Box features eight of the series' soundtracks packaged into a well-presented box, five of them for the first time ever. The resultant box set is easily the most definitive commemoration of the series' music to date, but isn't without its problems from a financial perspective....


The box set opens with the soundtrack to 1996's Metal Slug, featured on CD for the first time. It's a varied, fun, and colorful soundtrack full of personality and style, mixing heavy metal, jazz, and militaristic orchestral music. Takushi Hiyamuta's "Metal Slug Main Theme" used during the first stage forms the heart and soul of the soundtrack, and indeed the soundtrack as a whole. Dominated by a heroic melody and military instrumentation, it perfectly fits the over-the-top scenario, yet is also coloured by deeper jazzy interludes. Among other highlights, "Assault Theme" is a terrific yet merciless war anthem that mirrors the game's difficulty, while "Steel Beast" takes a more heavy metal approach, giving a sense of tension and danger during the boss battles. Furthermore, the arcade synth used was phenomenal for its time and almost benefits the overall listening experience. While an excellent soundtrack, the subsequent instalments of the series only build on these incredible foundations in terms of both length and quality...

The second disc of the soundtrack is dedicated to Metal Slug 2. This disc is essentially identical to the game's separate album release, but omits sa sound effects collection. The soundtrack excellently builds on the foundations of the original game with some memorable reprises, including a flashback to the series' main theme on "Final Attack". In addition, there are a number of smashing new tracks as well. The first stage theme "Judgment" blends middle Eastern instrumentation with dangerously contagious heavy guitar riffs to capture the feel of battling in the desert. Its crazy guitar riffs and solos are no doubt contagious to those playing the game, making them go on killing sprees. Another notable track is the terrifying "Metamorphosis" which manages to create some really tense atmosphere with various layers of electronic sounds. That said, the soundtrack is made redundant by the similar yet superior contents of the subsequent disc...

Despite the entire package being good, Metal Slug 2 suffered from some technical problems, most notably slowdowns. As a result, Metal Slug X was created, making the world a much better place to live in. Not only the levels were re-designed and improved, but the quality of the soundtrack was enhanced. The game features identical compositions to Metal Slug 2, though the sound quality is considerably enhanced to the benefit of the listening experience, particularly on "Judgment". The only exception is the new ending theme created for Metal Slug X, which is much more elaborate and emotional than its counterpart. That said, the soundtracks to Metal Slug 2 and Metal Slug X are presented in succession as Disc Two and Disc Three of the Metal Slug Complete Sound Box. As they are so similar, it's only worth listening to the X version and this reduces the box's value significantly. Thankfully, the rest of the box set is jam-packed with highlights.

The fourth disc of the Metal Slug Complete Sound Box is a complete reprint of the Metal Slug 3. Unlike its predecessor, this soundtrack is not at all redundant and the amount of variety, style, and personality featured here makes this one of the best and most memorable arcade scores ever. The audio quality is superior to the previous soundtracks in the series and the music is more context-effective than earlier instalments. Whether it is on a island, the desert, underwater, underground, above the ground, and even into space, there is always a fitting theme to accompany each scenario and most of these are enjoyable out of context too. "Blue Water Fangs", in particular, is truly a memorable, if over-the-top, heroic anthem, made even more unique from the fun and quirky tribal percussion. That said, the mastering on the box set is somewhat worse than the stand-alone edition, meaning audiophiles may wish to go for the alternative version.

On Metal Slug 4, the series' musical reigns shifted from Takushi Hiyamuta to Toshikazu Tanaka, SNK's most successful graduate composer. Tanaka's style involves mostly electric guitars and synthesizers which he uses prominently to create compositions full of catchy melodies and lots of personality. In Metal Slug 4, he mixes these elements with orchestral textures to maintain the history of the series and fit the distinctive scenario. The military anthem "Show Spirit" is a good example of this and harkens back to the original Metal Slug. The final mission theme "Furiously" eventually reflects the superior technological capacity of the game with its rip-roaring fusion of dissonant orchestration and overdriven guitars. Unfortunately, some tracks such as "Snowy Road" and "Secret Place" tend to be slightly generic, despite Tanaka trying his best. In addition, the soundtrack is slightly short and, while there is nothing particularly bad, only a handful of compositions are truly memorable.

The soundtrack to Metal Slug 5 compensates for these disappointments and more. Most of the tracks on the soundtrack interlace heavy metal instrumentation with other elements in a complex and energetic fashion. "Heavy African" and "Ruins Excavation", for instance, are two hard rock tracks that mix ethnic elements, and both represent the first jungle-based mission. A few classic themes also receive minimalistic arrangements. "Fierce Battle" meanwhile is a raging beast on a full-on rampage to destroy everything. The intense guitar work and aggressive motifs make this one of the best boss tracks in any video game, while the skilfully integrated Arabian influences only add to the uniqueness. There are also a few nods to classic Metal Slug themes. However, once again, the box set version of the soundtrack features inferior mastering to the stand-alone edition and many fans will wish to simply stick to Noise Factory's edition.

The series' musical direction shifted once more with Metal Slug 6, another exclusive soundtrack on the box set. On this soundtrack, Manabu Namiki blends essences of shooters like Radiant Silvergun and Mushihimesama Futari, with themes and styles from early instalments of the series. The revival of the series' main theme for the first stage is particularly glorious, with its memorable brass motif, exotic percussion palette, and top-notch synthesis, while "Asian Impact" and "Aim High, Chase Fast" are two wondrous original fusions. Mitsuhiro Kaneda also contributes several compositions, including the groovy electro-orchestral boss themes and the Sakimoto-esque orchestration "Bridge 256", to considerable impact in context. While the soundtrack won't be what series' fans are used to, it's still an excellent production in its own right.

The box set concludes with Toshikazu Tanaka's exclusive soundtrack to the poorly received title Metal Slug 3D. This soundtrack begins in an uninspiring fashion with some orchestral demo tracks that are generally too short and generic to be worthy of stand-alone listening. Thankfully, the stage and boss themes of the soundtrack thereafter are all major highlights. "Start from Mountain Village" is the most jaw-breaking and awesome example of how Tanaka is versatile and capable of creating adrenaline-inducing, bombastic and energetic compositions regardless of musical genre or style. "The South Pole" could have been very well used in Metal Slug 5, because of its focus on heavy guitars, while "Out of Control" is much more intense due to its burning guitar solos and dramatic orchestral motifs. Despite its inconsistency, it's a worthy end to the series' sound box.

As the start of the final disc of the Metal Slug Complete Sound Box, there is also an exclusive arrangement called "Weapons Free Arrange" by Basiscape's Mitsuhiro Kaneda. It reprises "Inner Station", one of the most memorable themes from the first Metal Slug. The track is a jazzy and extravagant trip to the highly melodic soundscapes of the first game that absolutely deserve more attention and tributes. The arrangement itself is good, if a little overlong and repetitive, but still very fun to listen. One of my favorite parts is during the end, where a jazzy piano is used to reprise Metal Slug's main theme. Simply put, the track is really cool, but still not as cool as Tarma's sunglasses. The other bonuses on the box set include an elaborate booklet featuring character artwork and Japanese liner notes from the composers. There are also a few unused tracks.


As with other soundtrack box sets, consumers should think very carefully about value-for-money before purchashing this beast. At 14000 JPY, this box is certainly not cheap and several aspects of its presentation are disappointing, specifically the redundancy of the Metal Slug 2 soundtrack and the inferior mastering of the Metal Slug 3 and Metal Slug 5 soundtracks. That said, the soundtracks to Metal Slug, Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 4, Metal Slug 6, and Metal Slug 3D are completely exclusive to this box set and are entirely satisfying experiences. Furthermore, the various bonuses and packaging are well done if hardly major selling points. For major fans of the series, this box set is a fantastic way to commemorate a major musical legacy and well worth your precious money and time. Whether Takushi Hiyamuta's military anthems, Toshikazu Tanaka's rocking jams, or Manabu Namiki's exotic fusions, there should be plenty of memorable, impacting, and satisfying themes featured throughout the eight discs.

Overall Score: 8/10