Search This Blog

Saturday, July 7, 2012

25 Years of "Metal Gear?!"

Japan, July 7, 1987 Metal Gear was released by Konami on the MSX2 computer. Playing as the rookie soldier Solid Snake, you were to infiltrate Outer Heaven, free hostages and stop the weapon of mass destruction known as Metal Gear.

Sounds like it could be the plot of a major motion picture, huh? (Considering the direction the series took later on, I guess that's funny in retrospect) You'd think you'd be in for some all-out, non-stop action. Wrong. While Metal Gear was billed as an action game, the limitations of the MSX2 proved to be quite the hurdle to jump over. With this in mind, Hideo Kojima designed Metal Gear as an action game where avoiding conflict with the enemy would be to the player's benefit. You could acquire a sizable arsenal of weapons, but you were still outnumbered, which means you were better off staying out of fights unless it became necessary. Kojima's concept didn't thrill his bosses, but he stayed the course. The game was released and 25 years later, Metal Gear is one of the biggest, most well-received franchises in the gaming industry.

[Metal Gear, MSX2] One man against a nuclear
battle tank. That hardly seems like a fair fight.
[Metal Gear 2, MSX2] The radar make it's debut
in the first official sequel.

Metal Gear was later ported to the NES without involvement from Kojima. A forest section was added to the beginning of the game and some new music pieces were implemented, one theme substituted the famous Terra theme once you made it inside the base. These weren't the only changes that were made. The walking battle tank itself, Metal Gear wasn't even seen in the game at all. Instead the final boss was a Super Computer. Kojima sees the NES version as having sullied his reputation. The game wasn't perfect but by no means was it as bad as he or others make it out to be. Sure, it was hard but not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hard. Kojima may not be fond of the NES version of Metal Gear but more players were exposed to it than the MSX2 version, which sadly, had low sales.

Because the NES version of Metal Gear was such a success, a sequel was made. Called Snake's Revenge, the game had no involvement with Kojima. Snake's Revenge had far more action than it's predecessor and was releases exclusively in America. Kojima had no intentions continuing the Metal Gear series after the abysmal sales of the MSX2 version. It wasn't until he was accompanied by a team member working on Snake's Revenge during a train ride. The man was one of Kojima's juniors and he told him about Snake's Revenge. But what he really wanted from Kojima was a true sequel. Many fans hate Snake's Revenge but by Kojima's own admission, it is because Snake's Revenge was made that he was inspired to make a true sequel in the form of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, released in 1990. Snake's Revenge isn't cannon and while fans may never admit it, they do have this game to thank for Metal Gear's continued existence.  Metal Gear 2 escaped most players until it was released as a bonus along with the original MSX2 Metal Gear on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, which are now bonuses on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.

[Metal Gear Sold, PSone] The first entry in the
"Solid" series is one of the best games tocome
out of the 32-bit era.
[Metal Gear Solid 2, PS2] Unleash your inner
bully by stuffing guards in lockers. If need be, you
could also use them to hide from your pursuers.

The Metal Gear series has always been plot heavy but in 1998, for better or for worse, story became an ever increasing important element. Eight years had passed since the last official Metal Gear had been released. More powerful hardware made for greater possibilities, something Kojima was ready to take full advantage of. Released in the fall of 1998, Meta Gear Solid took everything Metal Gear 2 did and expanded upon it. While some of the in-game engine cut scenes can be quite long (actually, these are pretty short compared to Metal Gear Solid 4), they feature the best voice acting the PlayStation has even had. You will not find a better dubbed PSone game. David Hater did such an incredible job voicing Solid Snake that many believe him to be the only candidate for the job if a live action Metal Gear movie were to be made. The story was also quite exceptional, full of plenty of twists and turns. This game also has some of the most memorable boss fights of the series. There probably isn't a gamer that doesn't recall being spooked when Psycho Mantis told them they liked Castlevania.

When screen shots of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty were released, gamers were drowning in puddles of their own drool. It was just late 2000 and it was already looking like Konami knew had to handle the PlayStation 2. Zone of the Enders ended up selling by the truckloads just so people could play the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo that came with it. As great as Metal Gear 2 looked and sounded, it held a dark secret, one of the best kept secrets in the gaming industry: Snake was not the main character. After playing through the Tanker chapter, players were given control of Raiden, much to their unbelievable shock. The differences between Snake and Raiden's personalities were more than apparent and this is one of the main reasons Metal Gear Solid 2 is looked at as a black sheep. That and the story can be quite the confusing mess. Still, Metal Gear Solid 2 ended up selling by the millions and it is hard not to respect Kojima for making such a ballsy move.

[Metal Gear Solid 3, PS2] Welcome to the
Jungle. This guard's ninja skills are
clearly lacking.
[The Twin Snakes, GCN] It isn't perfect, but this
remake of the first Metal Gear Solid is still a
fantastic game. It wasn't included with the
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection so it remains
exclusive to the GameCube.

The third game in the Metal Gear Solid saga would go back to the past, 1964 to be exact. Set in the era of the Cold War, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater mixed in a little James Bond, which felt right at home in Snake's world. Snake would have to eat to keep himself healthy and use different types of camo to blend in with his surroundings. Instead of playing as Solid Snake, you controlled Naked Snaked, the man who would later come to be known as Big Boss. Up until this game, we'd only seen Big Boss as an antagonist so it was quite the treat to see how his journey to where he eventually ended up turned out. If you haven't played Metal Gear Solid 3, without spoiling anything, let me just say that this game has one of the best stories of the whole Metal Gear franchise, rivaling that of the first game. Metal Gear Solid 3 was chronologically speaking, the start of the entire Metal Gear Saga.

[Metal Gear Solid 4, PS3] People rag on the
story of MGS2, but MGS4's story is far from being
a masterpiece and with it's abundance of
cut scenes, you'll be seeing loads of it.

With Metal Gear Solid 4, the series love for cut scenes would become all too obvious. Solid Snake, now an old name due to the genetic coding of being a clone of Big Boss was sent to take out Liquid Ocelot, the name Liquid Snake took after he had fully taken over Ocelot's body. You can probably sum up Metal Gear Solid 4's story with one word: nanomachines. Seriously. If you have a drinking game and take a sip every time someone says "nanomachines" you will contract alcohol poison. The cut scenes in Metal Gear Solid 4 were some of the longest ones in the series. It isn't strange to feel that there's more cut scenes than actual gameplay. But even with the lengthy movie scenes, it was nice to see everyone involved with the Metal Gear Solid series brought back for one last hurrah.

Metal Gear Solid 4 may have been Snake's final adventure but the series is far from finished. Raiden is getting another chance to shine in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, set to release sometime in 2013. There's also another Meta Gear game in development for the main series. But even if there were to be no more Metal Gear games made, I could still look back and say it's been an exhilarating ride. If Metal Gear is still around 25 years from now, I'll have no complaints.

1 comment:

Tom Badguy said...

No doubt, an awesome series.