It’s summer time and you know what that means. Why, it means playing just about every Metal Gear game ever made, naturally! Over the last year I’ve been slowly working towards catching up on the PS3 titles I’ve missed, one of them being Metal Gear Solid 4. Come to think of it, I never got around to playing 3 either, and I definitely never played the “real” original versions of Metal Gear 1 and 2, so hell, why not make a thing of it. Sadly, the PS3 doesn’t even have a standard screenshot feature so I can’t fill most of these with tons of my own fascinating footage. You’ll just have to settle for a few random stock photos. Oh well.
Metal Gear (original MSX version)
Yeah, so as it turns out, the Metal Gear we all knew and loved back on the NES was actually a port of this game on an obscure old Japanese desktop computer system that had a few alterations made. Original creator Hideo Kojima was not involved with this port, much to his dismay. He apparently hates the NES version with a passion and even refers to it as “an abomination”. Really, I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference myself. The NES version had a brief new beginning part that isn’t seen here and there are 2 big bosses in this version that were cut out of the NES version (and ok, one of them was Metal Gear itself. I guess it is kind of a big deal that you couldn’t even fight Metal Gear in the damn game Metal Gear, but still…not a huge number of differences). Other than that though the game plays exactly the same as I remember it. I guess the editing on the NES version was pretty sloppy, looking back on it. For example, they removed the fight with Metal Gear, but they left the same room in there still. You can see its exploded legs and debris as you would see after beating it in the original. I’m pretty sure the original had at least one character that told you how to beat Metal Gear with a specific order of plastic explosives too…even though you never end up fighting it. Oh well.
This modern version is nice enough to include an Easy mode, which I admit I ended up switching to after not too long because this game is still ridiculously difficult on its regular difficulty. Rations and ammo were sparse and alarms would last a ridiculously long time and be spawning enemies the whole time, while you’re sitting there with half a health bar, 10 bullets, 1 ration, and nowhere to go. Basically if you’re seen at all, you’re probably dead, and with a game this old it’s pretty damn hard to be accurately stealthy. I didn’t want to spend 12 hours on this so…Easy mode it was.
Anyway, it was pretty fun after that, for the most part. There isn’t much in the way of story in this one. Just a lot of exploring, hiding, and oh the deadly, deadly traps. Oh, and an insane amount of backtracking, mostly thanks to the fact that there are 8 different cardkeys throughout the game, but NONE of the doors are labeled in any way to let you know which key they need. Holy shit is that annoying. There are also a few baffling “puzzle” choices that required a guide to find the ridiculously obscure answer to. We see the first examples of Kojima trolling the player here too, with Big Boss calling you and giving you painfully misleading advice once you start getting close to figuring out that he’s not a nice guy near the end of the game. You will get told to walk into rooms with nothing but deadly traps, that you should abort the mission and turn your console off immediately, and the best one…to jump into a truck which ends up dragging you all the way back to the beginning area of the game. Argh. Still, it was a nice trip down nostalgia lane and I never was able to beat this one as a kid. Just don’t expect this “grandfather of stealth games” to have any kind of reasonably functional stealth in it and it’s still an interesting action-adventure.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (original MSX version)
This had a similar bizarre origin to the first one. This was Hideo Kojima’s original sequel to Metal Gear, which released on the MSX just like its predecessor. With the success of the NES version of Metal Gear, Konami decided us Americans needed more, but how could they do that when Metal Gear 2 was making use of then-advanced PC technology that the NES was still too far behind? The answer is…hire a completely different team of people to create an entirely different Metal Gear 2 just to sell to America! That’s how we ended up with “Snake’s Revenge” (which I still have never played. I don’t know, maybe I’ll give it a try after these are all done as part of the Bonus Round).
So…this sequel had some nice improvements from the original. A radar screen and a crouch/sneak position were added, to finally make stealth somewhat functional. This also saw the first appearance of the mechanic of running out of sight of an enemy and ducking into a hiding spot until a timer ran down, at which point they would lose interest and go back to their business (you know, like all military guards do). Keycards almost improved, with the addition of colored cards that you could find that combine 3 regular cards into one “master” card…but none of the damn doors are labeled still, so it isn’t much help really. There are still some bizarrely unintuitive puzzles to be found, but again, it still manages to be fun somehow and a story even starts taking form here, continuing the dangling story of the rogue agent known as Big Boss. If I remember correctly, the events of this story are actually pretty heavily reference in Metal Gear Solid, so maybe now I’ll finally know what the hell they’re talking about when they keep mentioning Zanzibar and etc.
It IS home to a puzzle that should win an award for “most ridiculously convoluted” though. Late in the game you need to get into an area, but are blocked by a laser fence. You find a character that tells you that the guards only turn the laser fence off at night. Oh, sure, that’s the very best time to turn your security system off. Anyway, you can’t actually wait until night so what you have to do is go to this other bio-lab building where you find 2 mysterious eggs. After a few minutes in your inventory they begin to hatch. A snake pops out of the first one and starts running around your inventory and slowly eating your rations and you can’t do anything about it. You have to wait for the second egg to hatch, which turns out to be an owl. You can now get rid of the snake…by waiting until it touches the owl in your inventory and then clicking on the broken shell at that moment. Sure, why not. Now for the payoff. You equip the owl and stand around near the laser fence. The owl starts hooting. The guard now thinks it must be night time now so he turns the fence off and you walk right in. What the fuck.
Metal Gear Solid
Well…it turns out Zanzibar wasn’t referenced quite as much as I remember. The cyberninja/Grey Fox stuff made slightly more sense, but that’s about it. Oddly enough, the most important reference to the previous game, the revelation that Big Boss was Solid Snake’s father, didn’t ever actually happen in the previous game. Nothing like that was ever said at any point, they just slid this into the story after the fact. Oh well.
This game holds up pretty well still, despite the pretty terrible aging of Playstation 1’s graphics. Everything is so damn jagged and blurry and all those weird wavy textures, ugh. Although…somehow it still made me nostalgic for PS1. The controls are a bit clunky too, especially remembering how to successfully use that weird auto aim system where aim and fire are both controlled with the same button, but you have to press it in just the right way: hold, then release, then tap tap tap. It was all very advanced and ambitious for its time though and it still ends up being pretty fun for the most part, despite all its rough edges. The stealth mechanics of the series continue to improve and there are plenty of interesting, deadly traps to evade and bizarre boss characters to outsmart and outshoot. The now famous Kojima style of outlandish characters and plots continues to grow here with bizarre bits like the infamous Psycho Mantis fight, which “reads your mind” through your memory card and forces you to plug your controller into the second controller port to be able to beat him.
The dialogue still gets to be a bit much though. I don’t really mind the lengthy and overly technical explanations of devices and plots in the game, but they get way too carried away with the overly sentimental soap opera-ish stuff. After about the 4th uber-dramatic “I’m dying! Let me tell you my life story and everything I regret real quick!” speech, it starts getting a little annoying, and holy shit does that end drag on with some ridiculously long speeches from Liquid Snake and then a super heavy dose of “life is precious” philosophical ramblings, because there weren’t enough of those spread throughout the rest of the game, from the entire cast for what feels like an hour before the credits finally roll. I seem to remember that it was this very thing that put me off of the series back in the day (I only ever made it as far as Metal Gear Solid 2 in the past). I guess we’ll see what happens when I play that one again…but first, one more thing…
Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions
This is basically just a big pile of challenge missions of various types. Many of them are pretty basic weapons training type deals, but they get increasingly bizarre and frustratingly difficult in the later half.
There’s not much else to say about this one. Unless you’re really, really into the series and really like challenge levels, there’s not much point to it. By the end I was about ready to throw my controller through the wall. I guess at least I’ll be super well trained for the sequels now though. Thus ends part 1 of this Metal Gear marathon. I need to take a quick break and play something different before jumping into the next big chunk. I will leave you with this, the most memorable moment from MGS: VR Missions…
To be continued…