Time until Gun Force II release!
Gun Force was an obscure Contra-like game you might have seen at the arcades back in the day. It was "feed me all your quarters" hard and pretty much unplayable, but contributed one exciting new element: you could jump into war vehicules and used them against the enemy. Most of you probably didn't even know that it had a sequel. Gun Force 2 was one of the last arcade games (if not the last one) from Irem Corp., published in 1994. When looking at the screenshots, the game's similarity to Metal Slug becomes evident immediately. Yes, Metal Slug is an evolution of this game, as the staff members are actually the same. When Irem Corp. ceased activity, a group of its staff members got together and founded Nazca Corp. They revived their last idea, pumping it up and calling it Metal Slug on the Neo Geo system.
Gun Force 2 is easier and even more enjoyable than Metal Slug. You won't need a dozen quarters to finish it. It's much friendlier and more replayable, but there's less to see and find through out the whole game, as it's just not as technically complex as its modern brother.
Your character is equipped with two guns at the same time that can aim in any direction, at a slightly different angle each. Different weapons are available but only one of your guns can be upgraded, with the other one always keeping the basic shot. There aren't any bombs or grenades, though. Our hero can jump, crouch and hang from ceilings and wires, and also use one of eleven (yes, eleven) war vehicules. This is why Gun Force 2 is so cool. Engaging the enemy with bipedal walkers, jeeps, tanks, and even a Gundam-like flying suit provides such a fuzzy and trigger-happy feeling. Your objective in every level is to rescue hostages for higher scores, which was also later taken over by Metal Slug. Luckily, they are sexy half-dressed cuties instead of Robinson Crusoe's look-a-likes, but they won't leave any rewards or power-ups behind.
Plot-wise, Metal Slug and Gun Force are not related, although you fight off mutants, soldiers and aliens in both games. But technically they are almost identical, utilizing the same graphic design and color palette for backgrounds, explosions and vehicles. There's lots of metal and shrapnel flying everywhere following the extremely well animated explosions (which, interestingly enough, also causes slowdown here). The characters are less cartoonish than Metal Slug. They look more menacing and cool, except for the goofy looking hero, who looks like his arms are going to fall off from carrying those two huge guns. All of the sprites are fluidly animated, with huge mechanical bosses and mini-bosses that perform various attack sequences, with the ability to destroy parts of the background too. The music is just repetitive and bland, but what's interesting is that some of it was first used in another Irem game. They are remixed versions of stages 1, 3 and 4 of Air Duel. Some weapon samples and sound effects are exactly the same as in Metal Slug.
Gun Force 2 looks nothing like its predecessor. The graphic design, playability and animation has completely changed and it's improved in every point. An excellent last arcade jewel from Irem even if you are not a Metal Slug fan, and if you are, do yourself a favor and catch up on the game's roots. You shouldn't miss this.