After more playtime, however, I found that the imitation is accurate enough where it counts (mostly the controls). Even in its diminished state, Metal Slug is irresistibly fun.
Metal Slug 7, for people somehow new to the series, is a run-and-gun shooter. Controlling one of six military operatives, you run from left to right, mowing down thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers with field-acquired heavy artillery. You can get new items from rescued prisoners, and sometimes you get to run around in a big robot of some kind. It's really hard. And that's pretty much Metal Slug! It's delightfully uncomplicated.
The game retains, for the most part, the goofy, cartoony feel of previous entries. The downscaled graphics still look great, and the screen is always full of motion. However, the backgrounds seem a bit muted and brown compared to previous Slugs. Furthermore, there's even less variation than usual in the kinds of enemies you face. It's almost exclusively the same fatigue-wearing soldiers. The bosses provide plenty of new challenges, however, and new patterns to learn. Most importantly, the game feels like a real Metal Slug.
If you'd like to hone your skills in the main game -- and enjoy the absolute silliest part of the game, you can check out the Combat School mode, which is something of a fixture for the series. In this mode, you complete specific challenges based on the levels (collect all items, save all prisoners, kill a certain boss, etc.) for points. Between challenges, you can engage in inane, flirtatious chatter with your drill instructor, Cindy. While the chat is completely optional, the burgeoning relationship (conveyed entirely by Cindy's responses to your character's statements, which is quite enough for you to guess what your character says) is entertaining enough to motivate continued attempts at the missions. It's sort of like a dating sim, except you shoot a bunch of dudes to win her favor. This is where all the personality went!
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the multiplayer: Metal Slug 7's multiplayer mode is a fairly major sticking point for longtime Metal Slug fans, because there isn't one. The DS is, in general, better suited for single-player, and the smaller screen means that two players' worth of explosions would make for an incomprehensible mess.
Even with minor slowdown and vaguely forgettable level designs, a good Metal Slug game is a wonderful thing to have on the go. If you like being really frustrated while you're traveling. While it's as short as an arcade game is expected to be, it's hard enough that you're unlikely to completely beat it in a few days, and the Combat School mode adds a ton of short challenges -- each worth replaying for improved scores -- to make for a great portable experience.
Final score: 7.5/10: In response to the Metal Slug 7 review score criticism seen on some website, I'd like to say that, for the record, I don't think review scores work as a way to directly compare one game to another either. But Metal Slug 7 is a good game, and it's silly to consider 70-ish scores anything but positive. It's not a geography test. 70 isn't close to failing.