Metal Gear: 30 Years of Mayhem and Meta Madness (Part One)

By GlobaX Gaming Staff

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX2 (Copyright owned by Konami)

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX2 (Copyright owned by Konami)

Since Konami released a top-down stealth game for the MSX home computers called Metal Gear in 1987, things have only gotten more…confusing. Not simply because of the games’ eventually leaning into the postmodernist ideology of series creator and director Hideo Kojima to the point that they seem like Eugène Ionesco plays, but their tortured development history and odd handling of localizations make it a chore to even figure out what a friggin’ Metal Gear game is!

So rather than have one person journey, Heart of Darkness style, into the depths of Kojima’s mind, we’re splitting up the load and having different writers write about their experiences with the assorted games. And we’re not doing the handheld games because we discovered none of us have played any of them! Maybe we’ll get to that eventually. Anyway — enjoy!

Metal Gear (MSX, 1987)

The one that started it all! I only played Metal Gear recently, not having access to any kind of an MSX emulator until this year and never buying one of those PS3 bundles that included it. Though certainly a marvel of inventive level design and a showcase for Kojima’s solutions surrounding the limitations of the MSX hardware (can’t have a million bullets and enemies on screen? Make it a stealth game!), what really sticks out the original Metal Gear is just how…normal it plays. Bosses, upon meeting them, usually have one line of dialogue akin to “I am the strongest warrior! I shall defeat you!” Not exactly a thirty minute unstoppable cutscene, there.

Its Cold War backdrop is barely explored, and Kojima seems totally content to not worry about world-building at all. Oh, how that will change. (Nicholas Tristan)

Metal Gear (NES, 1988)

Here is a port that’s so wildly different than the original that it has to be included separately. Also, it’s probably the better known version in the west, and well…that’s not a good thing. I had this on my NES growing up and I was baffled by it. Comparing it with the MSX game shows just how much the stealth was neutered in favour of some more buggy, buggy action! Super C this ain’t, let’s just put it that way. Kojima has called the game a “mistake” and a “disaster”, and reportedly was almost entirely uninvolved, leaving Konami’s Ultra Games imprint to handle the botching on their own. (Ben Beck)

Snake’s Revenge (NES, 1990)

And here’s another reason to include it! The US Metal Gear got a sequel unrelated to Metal Gear 2, made entirely by Ultra Games without Hideo Kojima’s involvement. In some ways, Snake’s Revenge is a superior game to the NES Metal Gear, with it executing stealth concepts better than its predecessor. Kojima himself carries no ill will toward the game either, saying he “doesn’t consider it to be a bad game”. Wow, what an endorsement! (Ben Beck)

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2 , 1990)

We’re back in Japan on the mothership Konami, with mad genius Hideo Kojima back at the helm. I have only ever played a fan translated romhack a few years back, not the official localization, but it’s quite a remarkable improvement over the original Metal Gear. The stealth elements are strong as ever, and maybe the level designs lean too heavily on backtracking, but the increased focus on plot, storyline, and character really show Metal Gear Solid’s upcoming brilliance while using but 8 glorious bits. (Terri Rose)

Metal Gear Solid (Playstation, 1998)

In the fifth generation of consoles, the Playstation was king worldwide. Sure, the Nintendo 64 bounced back from its late start with strong sales in the west, and the Sega Saturn finished a respectable second in Japan thanks to its continued focus on 2D gaming and JRPGs (as well as being pretty successful in Brazil, if I’m remembering family trips correctly), but Sony were on top of it all. And they had some of the absolute killer apps, one of them being Metal Gear Solid. If you didn’t have a Playstation in 1998, you were constantly finding excuses to go to the homes of friends’, relatives, and the kids you babysat to get a chance to play Metal Gear Solid (no, I never broke into the home of the kids I babysat, I just insisted their parents go for dinner on more than one occasion). Metal Gear Solid showed exactly how you make an engrossing, accessible stealth game…and it did it with wry dialogue, a complex plot, and quite frankly the hunkiest protagonist in video game history. Men, just so you know — we want guys who look like Solid Snake from behind, not some musclebound Duke Nukem from the front. (Editor’s note: Jennifer originally included more about Snake’s butt, it has been cut despite her protests) My point is, buy Metal Gear Solid. Do it now. Play it. It’s an all-time great game. (Jennifer Calheiros-Martin)

Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of the Patriots (Playstation 2, 2001)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to merge the stoned ramblings of your college freshman roommate, the writings of Michel Foucault, and an extremely well-made stealth video game into one? You have? Are you Hideo Kojima?

Everything about MGS2 was designed to pull the rug from under its fans. Did you want a sequel that’s exactly like the last game, but ramped up for the next generation? Here it is, in trailer form! And in its first level is just amazing, just what you expected!!

But everything goes south from there. There is absolutely no point in outlining the plots of any of these games, so I won’t even try. But this is where the term “meta”, even though there were fourth wall breaks in both MGS and even Metal Gear 2, becomes the du jour way to explain the series.

And you know what? Frustrating as Kojima’s flights of fancy can be, MGS2 is a masterpiece of form and function. It’s incredibly fun to play, the lengthy cut scenes are head scratchers but often very entertaining, and the ending does seem eerily prescient in today’s world. And Raiden was supposed to be a bad character, you guys.

Wow. Just got flashbacks to video game forum flame wars from 2006. (Ben Beck)

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004, Nintendo GameCube)

Now this was my entry to the Metal Gear series, being an N64 and GameCube owner growing up. I rented this game from Blockbuster (hello yes i am old thank you) a year or so after it came out and realized that there was absolutely nothing like this on my system, not even the likes of Resident Evil 4 or Eternal Darkness played quite like this. It’s a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid, and having now played both I do slightly prefer The Twin Snakes, if for no other reason than it uses THE GREATEST CONTROLLER OF ALL TIME. We can have just experienced the heat death of the universe and Nintendo will release a statement saying their new console with have compatibility with the GameCube controller.

But I digress. MGS: The Twin Snakes handles like a dream, looks great on the GameCube’s hardware, and is a worthy addition to the series. (Nicholas Tristan)

That’s all for now, folks! See you for the back half of the catalogue next Wednesday!