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Demon Front

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Released: 2002

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: IGS

Developer: IGS

They say that first impressions are important, and Demon Front makes one that is hard to forget – just one look will have you convinced that the game is a shameless Metal Slug clone. That’s an impression that persists when you actually play it, as there’s a distinct set of similarities between the two games that goes beyond the similar art style. The shared use of huge bosses, the near-identical selection of weaponry and the copycat controls all contribute towards the idea that this is idea theft of the highest order. Of course, if you’re going to clone anything, choosing an excellent game like Metal Slug is definitely the way to go.

The game does actually contain some unique elements, though. These primarily revolve around the pets that accompany each character, which replace grenades and have a dual purpose. Holding down the fire button charges them up for a special attack, the effect of which depends on your choice of character – one will unleash homing shots, while another will just hover ahead of you. This levels up as you kill enemies with ranged weapons, producing more powerful attacks. The second function for pets is use as a shield, which remains active from the time you press the button until you manually deactivate it or it runs out. Increasing the shield duration is handled by killing enemies with your close-range weapon or pet attacks.

Demon Front is a worthy competitor to Metal Slug, based largely on the fact that it copies so much of the formula, from the beautiful sprites to the time-tested game design. However, it does fail to match its inspiration in some areas. Demon Front’s forgettable music doesn’t come close to matching any of the excellent Metal Slug tunes, and stage design is slightly weaker all-round – in part, this is due to the excessive length of the stages. It’s certainly worth your attention if you’ve exhausted SNK’s series, though.

Unfortunately, Demon Front has never received a home conversion – it was produced by IGS, a company which is only active in the arcade market and doesn’t tend to licence its games. It’s a shame, because more people should have the opportunity to play this obscure gem.