Things start to look quite organic here. The blue splotches actually are bubbles of goo which trap you (but blow up quite fast when shot, thankfully).  




The (not) soft underbelly of the boss. Quite a proto-Titanic Lance, but nowhere as difficult as him. Believe it or not, this is a boss attack.



'Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch', as Marvin would say. It just looks mean.




Nice scaling effects introduce this stage to us. On this screen, you can see two of the cheapest attacks Taito has ever thought of. The little red buggers near the Black Fly slow you down TERRIBLY while the blue guys try and knock you out with their beams.



And then come the spiked fellows who shoot beams from six points. Can things get any cheaper? 



Why, hello! This must be the Stage 1 boss' younger brother. He warps in and out (but doesn't warp on you so easily), but otherwise is quite the same.




This must be where Nemesis is. The blobs on the edge of the screen morph into random enemies. You can guess what the spiked thingies do. 


You never give up, do you?

(The rods are actually enemies which stick the rods out for you to crash into them. Very cheap.) 



No, I'm not cheating. The only solid thing in this boss is the red and black sphere. The blue chain is generated by the yellow circle; it can be destroyed, fortunately.



So cats are evil! The background keeps on changing as the boss gets hit- fossils, cavemen, trains, soldiers, a garbage dump (with a poignant broken doll) and now him. Fortunately it ends here.



This is creepy. The boss just died. 



If you die, this happens. So much for the permanent freeze on Project Metal Black. You are allowed to say 'WTF'? 

It all looks disturbingly Gundamesque if you ask me.




In case you missed something:

Main review page
PAGE 1: Stages 1-3

One thing you will definitely notice quite soon in Metal Black is that there is a very strong Darius look and feel to it at times. There are a good deal of maritime (and quasi-maritime) life forms for enemies and bosses (in fact, the ones you face in the bonus stage are cannon fodder in the Dariuses), and...I don't know. Play the game to see what I mean. They even reused some ideas and gameplay mechanics here in later Darius games. Originally, though, the game was designed to be the last chapter in the Darius saga (but not necessarily the last Darius game). Here Proco and Tiat (the traditional heroes of the Darius saga) would return to Darius (they left it in Darius) to find it devastated by Belser. The producers from Taito found it too depressing, and asked the development team to change it. I wonder if the original game would have had the same gameplay... 

In the end, Metal Black is nearly an under-rated classic. However, the mind-boggling cheapness of level design nearly sinks it, leaving the 'atmospherics' to make it a palatable shmup. For, in spite of everything, one gets the impression that the game is a bit ahead of its time. But, of course, it's an acquired taste. You are warned. It's a hard shmup to love, and it's a love that should not be put aside; otherwise, you may end up running back to the more seductive beauties. 


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie