'Metal Black' is an arcade shoot 'em up released by Taito. It is the end result of "Project Gun Frontier 2," being made by the same development staff, though it bears little resemblance to the original Gun Frontier. It is more similar to another Taito shooter, Darius.
Players control the Black Fly on their mission to defeat the forces of Nemesis in hopes of saving the human race. Players collected many small power-ups to build their weapon's power. Players could then unleash a large beam attack that would drain their power level back to zero. Bosses could also collect these power-ups and use similar beam attacks. When a player's beam collided with a bosses, it would culminate in a spectacular reaction before the more powerful attack would push the weaker down.
The year is 2042: A companion star of the planet Jupiter appears a few Astronomical Units away from the planet and not long before its discovery propels the asteroids along Jupiter's orbit which sends a wave of meteorites towards the Earth. As the Earthlings struggled to survive, extraterrestrial cybernetic invaders from beyond the distant star used the meteorites as cover for invading Earth with little resistance, intending to plunder Earth for inorganic materials needed to sustain their forms. Both the aliens and the star they came from were quickly dubbed 'Nemesis.'
What resistance the aliens did face from Earth's combined international defense forces were quickly obliterated by the alien's powerful beam weapons. Earth's scientists studied the molecules that powered the alien's weaponry which started to litter the Earth and called the molecule 'Newalone.' With Newalone in their hands, scientists quickly began Project Metal Black, which focused on developing at least twenty-thousand human space craft capable of wielding the same beam-weaponry as the aliens. The space craft was known as the CF-345 Black Fly, named by its method of Newalone energy use.
However, ten years after the invasion, Earth's remaining diplomats passed a treaty on to the aliens under a peaceful surrender, which promised to keep all of Earth's remaining forces from attacking: This applied to Project Metal Black which sealed the Black Fly space craft from the people. The Earth's natural resources were dying and the planet's population was thinning... it was only a matter of time until someone discovered Metal Black and struck back.
The gameplay to Metal Black was unique in that there were no alternate weapons or bombs: the player's only weapon power-up were the innumerous Newalone molecules scattered by Nemesis. Collecting Newalone increased the player's beam level which served as the player's only defense. The more Newalone the player picks up, the stronger their standard beam fire became.
When reaching a mid-level or maximum level on the ship's Beam Level gauge, players could then unleash a very large beam capable of destroying various enemies as well as causing a lightening effect that would briefly shock the screen and consequentially destroy enemies behind and around the Black Fly.
However, certain enemies also had beam gauges of their own, most notably the end-level bosses who would in turn collect as much Newalone as they could and unleash their own beam weapon. When the player and the boss' beam weapons fired simultaneously, one beam would overpower the other depending on how high each gauge was, initiating a 'Beam Duel.' Players would have to mash the beam button repeatedly in order to keep the large beam blast away from them which would accumulate into a large ball of destructive matter. The blast would change in color depending on which wielder had a stronger beam.
There were six levels in the game. After the first level of each three sets of levels, a Bonus Stage would occur to indicate the player's advancement into space (the first bonus stage occurs when the players leave Earth's atmosphere and the second occurred as players entered a worm hole as a shortcut to Jupiter). Each Bonus stage had the player encircle a group of crustacean shaped enemies. The player had to lock on to the moving targets in order to launch cluster missiles at them for extra points. Each bonus stage was timed so as to challenge the player in seeking and destroying before the timer ran out.
- Level 1: Down to the Earth - Players start their journey in a desolated Shinjuku in the Black Fly space craft. What few remaining air and ground forces of Earth are thrown at the players along with the only positive glimpse of the alien invaders as the player/s fly towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Songs: "Born to Be Free" (stage), "Visitor" (fight with Apartheid)
- Bonus Level 1: Over Ride - As the Black Fly leaves the atmosphere, they are confronted by mechanical forces. This is where the Black Fly's secondary weapon is put to the test. Song: "Dancing Homing"
- Level 2: Cry for the Moon - The journey continues to Earth's Moon which the aliens have also seized, though its appearance is hauntingly different because the first moon seen is not what it appears to be... Songs: "Dual Moon" (stage), "Yueez" (fight with Feeder)
- Level 3: Dream Land - Any and all space exploration colonies and satellites stationed away from Earth remain here as the grave-mark of the lives that were lost and their destroyed dreams. Parts of the broken satellites were gathered by the aliens and transformed into an enormous stronghold code-named Sargassum. Songs: "Memory" (stage start), "Area 26-10" (stage), "Dio Panic!" (fight with Daio & Gishiin)
- Bonus Level 2: Black Out - The journey continues as the player/s enter a wormhole where once again mechanical drones storm the entrance. Song: "Nonfiction"
- Level 4: Crystal Lize - Further into the worm hole, players encounter an alternate dimension filled with rock formations and bizarre mineral-based life-forms. Songs: "Waste Days" (stage), "Gate of Guardian" (fight with Amazo)
- Level 5: Nemesis Crisis - The wormhole takes the player/s closer to Jupiter where the players enter an asteroid close to Callisto. The asteroid drifts dangerously close to The Great Red Spot where a boss battle ensues. Songs: "Doubt" (stage), "Phantasm" (fight with Ghost)
- Level 6: Mirage of Mind Gaia - The player/s finally reach the star Nemesis as close as they can get to it. The player/s encounter strange rock formations and what appear to be remnants of a strange mechanical object scrapped together before encountering the heart of the alien forces where the plot unfolds. Song: "Time" (stage). Most of the other songs in the game play during the fight with Omega Zone.
When development began on Metal Black, it was originally planned as Darius III, where Proco and Tiat would return from Sol after the events of Darius II, only to find Darius horribly ravaged by the Belser Army. Taito, however, ultimately decided that this was too bleak a scenario for the Darius series, and so gave Metal Black its own setting. Vestiges of the game's time as a Darius title still persist in a select few marine-themed enemies (e.g. sunfish-shaped ships, Feeder's similarity to a giant rattail, diatom-like enemies in the fourth stage, the giant Opabinia that supports and powers Daio-to-Gishiin at the end of the third stage, the aircraft carrier-bearing hermit crab in the middle of the first stage).
A similar "beam duel" system combat was featured in Taito's G-Darius. The game Border Down (made by G.rev, which includes many former Taito employees) also featured such a system, and the game itself references Metal Black in other ways.