Clash of the Classics: Return of the Jedi VS. Metal Slug

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Just when you thought it was safe to put away your quarters, a new challenger arrives!

We’re asking you to decide the fate of two arcade icons in a head-to-head battle in what’s surely one of our toughest Clash of the Classics yet.

In previous COTC challenges, we’d typically see a well-known game up against a lesser-known title. The odds generally favor the game with the bigger name, but of course there’s always room for a surprise. This time around, though, we’ve got two big games from two very different eras: The 1984 Atari sci-fi shooter Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and our custom Metal Slug multi-game cabinet, spanning 4 titles from SNK’s over-the-top military action game, from the 1996 original to 2003’s Metal Slug 5.

While Return of the Jedi was obviously based on the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy, it was actually the second Star Wars game released in arcades by Atari, beating The Empire Strikes Back by a year. Return of the Jedi is also a unique entry in that trilogy with its detailed raster graphics and isometric gameplay. At first glance, it’s more recognizably a Star Wars game than the super-stylized vector shooters that attempted to capture the experience of piloting an X-Wing through iconic Star Wars moments. However, the gameplay isn’t quite as intuitive, and “Return…” demands precise timing to navigate quick-moving levels where you’re blasting away while avoiding obstacles like fallen trees or conduits atop the Death Star. The sights and sounds do a great job of enhancing the experience, and it’s a game that draws you in with colorful graphics and recognizable audio cues, then challenges you to keep up with the action!

It’s hard to imagine an arcade post-1996 without Metal Slug: Produced by SNK for the Neo-Geo arcade system, it was easy for arcade operators to drop the cartridge in a cabinet, but tough to justify taking it out. The appeal was immediate – combining refined run ‘n gun gameplay with detailed sprites, usable vehicles, endless waves of enemies and plenty of humor; Metal Slug is like a love letter to 80s American action b-movies with a decidedly Japanese flavor. Designed to reward skill with less cheap hits than many quarter-consuming shooters and plenty of power-ups, players kept the quarters dropping to see what the game could possibly throw at them next. And when the action’s maybe too intense, a technical limitation offers a bit of relief – if there are too many enemies on screen, things slow down just a bit while you carefully clear a path to the next hostage, prize-containing crate or high-powered tank. One of SNK’s most successful franchises ever, Metal Slug’s has eight arcade entries and several console spinoffs and ports in the chamber. It’s a blast, but it’s even better with a partner!

Two great games that made an impact over twenty years apart, and they’re still going strong at Ground Kontrol today. Which one will reign supreme, and which one will return to storage to await its next shot at glory? There’s only one way to find out: Play your favorite as much as possible, and invite your friends to join you. The latest Clash of the Classics is on!