Metal Slug – Developer Interview Collection

Metal Slug – Developer Interview Collection

These three Metal Slug interviews cover the design of the first two entries in the series. The heavy focus on character-based questions may seem odd for a Metal Slug interview, but it should be remembered that, thanks to the vs. fighting boom, “characters” were all the rage in arcade games at the time. I've also included a large selection of concept art from both games, with new translations of the designers’ humorous handwritten notes.

Meeher - Designer / Planner

Here were some of our concepts for the Metal Slug series:

  • a refreshing game overflowing with flash and extravagance that would relieve daily stress
  • use comical characters, but make their actions and effects realistic/cool
  • simple controls: a game anyone can play

There were more, but those were our major themes for the development.

“Let’s make an action game!” — getting that far was relatively easy. But we thought having normal player characters would be boring, and we wracked our brains for awhile to come up with something different.

That was when we hit upon the idea for the tanks. Then, once we made them jump, crouch, and move around, they started to seem like living creatures, and we thought this would grab players’ attention.

Meeher, designer and planner.

“Let’s make an action game!” — getting that far was relatively easy. But we thought having normal player characters would be boring, and we wracked our brains for awhile to come up with something different.

That was when we hit upon the idea for the tanks. Then, once we made them jump, crouch, and move around, they seemed like living creatures, and we thought this would grab players’ attention.

We really fussed over the details of the mechs, but the thing we probably paid the most attention to was making sure all the characters felt alive, and that it would feel like they really inhabited that world. Metal Slug is known for featuring an abundance of character animation that has no direct relation to the game, but that’s why we do that. We hope players feel like all the different enemies, big and small, have a life of their own.

That feeling of metal scraping on metal, of threatening bullets whizzing by at a high speed, and a sense of weight and force to all the destruction… that was the hardest thing for us to express in Metal Slug. I still don’t think we’ve perfected it, and it’s something I want to work more on in the future.

Right now we’re working on a new Metal Slug, actually. It will feature many gameplay elements that are new to the series. We’re working hard to make it something our fans will love, so thank you for your continued support.

Metal Slug UFO concept art with English translation.
Metal Slug – 1996 Developer Interview

featured in the 10/96 edition of Neo Geo Freak magazine

—Please tell us about what makes Metal Slug special: its basic concept, selling point, etc.

Nazca: Our basic concept was an action game with a good sense of speed, with somewhat comical characters. I say comical, but for the mechs and effects, we aimed for something realistic and stylish.

—This is the first orthodox action game we’ve seen on the Neo Geo in awhile. What were some of the things you gave special care and attention to during the development?

Nazca: We wanted everything on screen to be immediately and easily understandable, with just a glance. We were conscious of making something that should appeal to a wide audience, both those who are relatively used to games, and those who are not.

—The POWs in Metal Slug sure look like they’ve been left there for awhile…

Nazca: To achieve his coup d’état, General Morden used the unethical tactic known as the “human shield.” That is, prisoners who were captured were then deliberately placed in the line of fire, and the government army couldn’t make any reckless attacks.

—It seems like the rebels have managed to obtain some of the new experimental tanks, the Metal Slugs. But they seem to be just left here and there around the maps; was this some part of the rebel’s strategy?

Nazca: Those Metal Slugs are prototypes, so to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands and being misused, they’re equipped with a security device that must be disabled. Otherwise, they’re inoperational. So it’s all good and well for the Rebel Army to seize them, but they can’t use them or attack with them.

Metal Slug 2 concept art with English translation.

—Metal Slug isn’t over once you clear it: there’s also a great scoring system, with lots of hidden features. This must also have been one of your design goals?

Nazca: The kinds of players who are interested in a game like Metal Slug want to be able to get really deep on the game. They want to be able to study up on new techniques and discover new things. So one of our basic development themes was to add things like the scoring system and hidden features, to give the game a little bit more length and depth.

Of course, we also made sure it would be fun for the general player who isn’t interested in scoring. As for the hidden features, there were actually a lot more we couldn’t add for various reasons. It’s too bad.

—The rich variety of names for the prisoners is something Metal Slug is famous for, but were those names modeled after anything? Also, how many names did you think of?

Nazca: The prisoners’ function in the game is basically to be an item box; since we went to the trouble of giving them human form, we were wondering if there was something we could do to make them more intruiging to players (other than the fact that they give items). That was when we came up with the idea to give them names.

By the way, I’m the one who gave them all their names.1

—Please give a final message for our readers.

Nazca: There are many hardships when creating a game, and plenty of times when you want to hide away from the world and just let the tears flow. In those times, we read your fan letters and the reviews in magazines, and everyone gets cheered up. We will continue here at Nazca to try and create fun, enjoyable games that leave an impression on you, so please continue to share your support with us.

Metal Slug 2 – Developer Interview

featured in the 6/98 edition of Neo Geo Freak magazine

—Please tell us about the basic concept and selling point of Metal Slug 2.

Nazca: The basic concept was to build on the controls from the previous game and make a scaled-up sequel. We wanted players to be able to look at the screen and tell right away that this was the sequel, so we decided off the bat to create a lot of novel, unexpected enemies.

As for the sales point, it’s all the new animation of the new vehicles, player characters, and enemies. As the stages progress there’s a lot of surprises waiting for players, too.

—At first glance, the visuals look to be largely the same as the previous game, but what things did you focus on this time in the development?

Nazca: Since the first Metal Slug, we’ve taken care to make sure the player characters and enemies are easy to see, so there aren’t any especially new elements we’ve needed to add for the sequel. There’s nothing in particular that we focus on for the stage design, either.

—I see there’s several new vehicles; can you tell us about any vehicle ideas you had that didn’t make the cut?

Nazca: We had many ideas for the vehicles, from serious ones to jokes. One that stuck around to the very end and almost made it in was the “Desk Slug.” We planned to use in a stage that took place inside an office building, but when the stage itself got nixed, so too did the “Desk Slug.” We also had an idea for a humongous vehicle that would take up the entire screen, the “Dino Slug.”

—The concept illustrations for the characters look very different from their character select portraits in-game. Is there a reason for that?

Nazca: Based on what the designers were saying, I think their intention was to surprise everyone.

—The animation of all the characters is startlingly detailed. Why do you focus so much effort there?

Nazca: In the 3D polygon era today, people won’t be satisfied with 2D unless it’s at this level.

—In Metal Slug 2, you can transform into a mummy, or become obese. Can you tell us about these additions?

Nazca: This too was done to surprise players, and (in a good sense) put players into a bit of a panic. We also hope people get a laugh out of it afterwards, even if they’re panicked at first.

Concept art for the mummy and obesity ("Debu Eri-Chan" and "Debu Fio-Chan") transformations.

—Please tell us the model and specs of the computer Marco uses.

Nazca: He mostly uses the computer when he’s holed up in his home by himself, so I think he only has a desktop. He appears to have put it together himself.

—What kind of motorcycle does Tarma ride?

Nazca: We didn’t specify the maker, but it looks like one those comfortable American style motorcycles. As you’d expect, he’s made a lot of improvements and modifications to it himself.

—What do Marco and Tarma think of the new recruits, Eri and Fio? Conversey, what do Eri and Fio think of them?

Nazca: As long as their skills are up to snuff, I don’t Marco and Tarma mind too much. However, they do have their suspicions about the real reason Fio and Eri are accompanying them.

For Eri and Fio, Marco and Tarma are much higher-ranking, so they’re having a hard time hiding their nervousness.

—In Eri’s character profile, it says she doesn’t like to ride in cars if she isn’t the driver. Was there some accident in her past?

Nazca: Eri and her friend were riding together on a motorcycle, and her friend, who was driving, crashed the bike. Since then, any time someone else is driving she experiences anxiety that she can’t suppress: “are they gonna crash?”

—In Fio’s character profile, it says her speciality is chiropracty, but how did she get into that?

Nazca: She was studying to be a sports doctor in college, and she studied chiropracty and acupuncture there.

—Eri and Fio are part of the same special ops squad, S.P.A.R.R.O.W.S. Are they acquainted with each other?

Nazca: S.P.A.R.R.O.W.S. is an organization composed of 20 members, so they do know each other. However, they’ve never really talked much before this mission.

—There is also a new supporting character, Hyakutaro Ichimonji. Who in the world is he? He looks like some kind of special agent or spy, but he uses that amazing fighting technique.

Nazca: Some of the special agents allowed themselves to be captured by the enemy so they could infiltrate them. Hyakutaro is one of those agents. Because of his tremendous martial arts skills and training, his body is hard as iron, and he knows a technique to channel the chi in his body and release it to attack enemies. Most of the spies don’t get directly involved in the fighting, but Hyakutaro utilizes this technique to help Marco and the others.

Hyakutaro Ichimonji concept art.

—What kind of organization is S.P.A.R.R.O.W.S.? Why did this group get assigned to work in tandem with the Marco and Tarma on this mission?

Nazca: Their main duty is reconnaissance and intelligence operations conducted alongside the actual fighting. They’re one of the various groups under the jurisdiction of the Warfare Department. The group is composed entirely of women. Marco and Tarma are members of the special Peregrine Falcon Strike Force under the jurisdiction of the Army, but the Intelligence Agency possesses a defiant attitude towards the Army, and it took the machinations of the top brass to put the two groups together for this important mission.

—How was General Morden able to prepare and stage another coup d’état so quickly? What’s his goal this time?

Nazca: General Morden lost half his forces due to his failure in the last game, and he hasn’t fully recovered. In Metal Slug 2, Morden is actually still in the planning stage of his next coup d’état. Through reconnaissance, the government army learns of his plans, and strikes a preemptive blow. Morden is utilizing alien technology to prepare for his new rebellion, and some of that can be seen, in a half-finished state, in stages 5 and 6. It’s dreadful to think how strong he would be if it were all complete. The aliens who are helping General Morden have never had any intention of letting that happen, though…

—Each mission seems to have a more international flavor to it this time around. Why is that?

Nazca: We wanted to increase the scale of the world of Metal Slug from the last game.

—Who are the aliens that appear in the final stage? What are their intentions?

Nazca: Their intentions and identity are not made clear. What seems certain is that they had a crash landing on Earth, and in exchange for the secrecy needed to carry on their repairs, they offer their alien technology to bait General Morden into helping them. It has been reported, however, that they do not think kindly of General Morden, who is trying plunge the beautiful Earth into the vortex of war.

—Please give a final message to all our readers.

Nazca: I hope you’ve been enjoying Metal Slug 2. Your encouragement means everything to us, so please continue to show us your generous support.

Metal Slug 2 concept art with English translation. “Asshi” means death by crushing, by the way.

If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!

  1. The interview doesn’t say which developer is answering the questions (hence Nazca), but Meeher, the main planner, is a good guess.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *