Stage 3 starts with something familiar, something that you thought was over but clearly was not- a reprise of the Psycho Soldier theme. It's still a bit crackly and not the best quality but... Oh, oh no, is it happening? Is the song starting to earworm its way in? No! You've got to resist the idol sickness before it consumes you!! Besides, there's slightly more pressing matters at hand- this stage introduces discoloured floors that catapult you right up to the top of the screen when you walk on them. There's no negotiation here- if you get anywhere near these things, you're going up, and you'd better hope there's nothing above you, otherwise you're dead. Best to avoid them entirely, which is easy here, as they're shocking pink, so you should hopefully spot them. Unfortunately, this is the least of your worries on this stage...
This is pretty much the turning point of the game, as from here on out the kid gloves are well and truly off, and Psycho Soldier gets nasty. The enemies are much more aggressive and numerous, and two of the new enemies that appear are absolutely vicious- the Head Guys and the Triceratops. The Head Guys are particularly obnoxious, as they rip their head off (?!) and throw it, leaving it to roll on the floor, then grow another head almost instantly, throw it again, and repeat until they die or they're off the screen. If you've only got the basic shot, it'll take three shots to destroy each head, and if you leave them alone for more than a few seconds, the screen will be be filled with rolling heads. Amusingly, the best strategy is to destroy the body first rather than the heads, which goes against that old axiom. Well, it made me laugh.
Worse than that is the Triceratops who starts by firing laser bolts in three directions- no matter where you are on screen, at least one of them will be heading straight for you. The only place you're safe from it is behind it, but actually getting there means you've got to dodge the bolts anyway, so that's not too useful. Hopefully you've got enough energy and Psycho Balls to block those attacks, otherwise the screen's going to be even more crowded than usual. Eventually, the Triceratops will get sick of this nonsense and charge straight at you. He can be killed with a few high-power Psycho Balls (two Red Psycho Ball attacks are enough to bump him off, and if you're at max shot power you can take him down quickly too) but if by this point the Head Guys have killed you a few times, you'll at minimum power so trying to kill the Triceratops is a losing battle. In that case, just get out of its way and flee! Luckily, they telegraph their charge well in advance, so definitely prioritise dodging over finishing it off.
The boss isn't such a big deal compared to the rest of the stage. The eyes! Oh God, the eyes! Billions of them! That's pretty much the attack pattern here- the hole at the base of the wall throws loads of eyeballs in your general direction, covering pretty much every level of the stage, and the eyeballs on the wall also fire lightning bolts at you periodically. As ever, the order of the day is pelting the wall with as many Psycho Balls as you can spare, but you really need to keep an eye on the bottom corner- the eyes it launches don't really have a pattern, but they're destroyed in one hit, so jamming the Fire button like an idiot should sort them out. Be on the lookout for any eyeballs that turn into E or B Balls- grab them for an energy or Psycho Ball boost. Avoid moving too much as well, as the eyeballs can really catch you by surprise. If that's not enough, remember to use a Psycho Ball for that all-important invincibility window, and victory shall be yours.
Incidentally, this boss has a glitch- jump straight up in the top-left corner and you'll find yourself standing on an fifth row, off-screen.
In what is almost certainly a first for an SNK game, the difficulty drops between levels.
Yes, next up is Stage 4, and not only are the Head Guys and Triceratops gone, but they're replaced with far less obnoxious obstacles; the return of Gamera Jr., flying fish that jump from the water to crash into you, and water spouts that emerge from holes in the bottom and kill you on contact. The fish are easy enough to dodge until they evolve, grow legs (?!) and gain an attack where they'll just drop straight into the water (if you're anywhere near them when they do this, guess what? You're dead), Gamera Jr. hasn't changed his tricks since the second stage, and the water spouts only come from the holes on the bottom floor, so you know well in advance where they're going to be, it's just a case of being alert. The only harder part is that the catapult blocks are back and this time they're actually camouflaged rather well, so you have to pay attention, but this isn't such a tough stage compared to the last one you were subjected to. Mostly because you can see the fish enemies coming from miles away.
The boss is, well, actually a boss rather than just a giant wall. It's a giant fish, and the first time you fight it, you'll probably snap the joystick right off the machine because you'll be constantly getting killed. However, there is a strategy to this fight, honest. It's got two main attacks- a spread of diamond bullets that make their way to the top of the screen slowly, a jump from one side of the screen to the other above the surface, and there's also two water spout spots. Basically, the only time it's safe to attack this thing is when it's on the right-hand side of the screen, away from you- get to the bottom and attack it with everything you've got while it's there. The rest of the time, it's too risky, so stay at the top when it does its bullet spread, get down to the bottom-left, attack it from the corner, wait for its jump, then clamber back to the top and repeat. Pretty simple.
The Psycho Soldiers must fight their greatest foe on the next page!