Monday, September 3, 2012
"We've managed to avoid drowning!" - 25 Years of Metal Gear
Though Solid Snake officially debuted back in 1987 with the original Metal Gear game, his popularity did not gain major momentum until the release of Metal Gear Solid, which hit the Playstation in 1998. Since then, Solid Snake has become one of the most recognizable faces in gaming history. The series has also earned itself significant praise for the ways it changed the experience of gaming. While I have not played every single game in the Metal Gear franchise, the games I have experienced have all proved thoroughly enjoyable.
My first experiences with Metal Gear came in the form of the Metal Gear Solid Essentials Collection, which was released shortly before Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots as a means for newcomers to familiarize themselves with the series, or for veterans to revisit Snake's previous adventures. I knew very little about Metal Gear at that point in time, and I figured a thirty dollar price tag wasn't too bad a deal for three games - if I ended up disliking them, it would be easy enough for me to turn around and sell them. Thankfully, that was not what happened.
Metal Gear Solid is not a graphically pretty game. Even for the time of its release, it has some rather grainy textures and Snake's character model wears a bandana that covers his eyes instead of having a proper face. But what it lacks there it makes up for in some truly groundbreaking game mechanics and storytelling elements. The use of cigarette smoke to detect lasers, Psycho Mantis reading your memory card, and the placement of a codec number on the back of the physical game case are inclusions that are honestly quite simple in concept, but make the game so much more immersive and fun. Hell, the simple fact that Snake has to sneak around enemies instead of fighting them head-on is a welcome departure from the all-too-familiar run and gun routine of so many other action games.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty added a few new features that would have been helpful in the first game, such as the ability to enter a first-person view. I don't mean to knock the PS1 classic, but from a design perspective, MGS2 handles much more smoothly. Sons of Liberty certainly retained the masterful storytelling element, though it was handled in a different manner. Snake took on the role of a side character, with Raiden stepping into the spotlight. Like many other fans, I found Raiden to be quite annoying at first - not as nauseatingly so as his support/girlfriend Rose, but he was still whiny and immature. But patience yielded great results, as the final few hours of Sons of Liberty delivered a phenomenal ending that answered as many questions as it asked.
As far as I am concerned, though, the best of the bunch has to be Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I have experienced few video games so perfect in their design. Snake Eater took everything that worked in MGS2 and improved upon while simultaneously adding in a host of new elements, each of which proves just as polished and helpful during Naked Snake's trek through the jungles of Russia. Only a handful of games have genuinely moved me so emotionally, and I'll be damned if Snake Eater does not have one the most beautiful and bittersweet conclusions ever written into a game. All of the MGS games rely heavily on cutscenes to deliver their stories, and though MGS4's may be the most Hollywood high-budget, I still feel that MGS3 does the best job of all the games in the series in weaving a story that trumps many a film and novel.
Though not as perfect a game as Snake Eater, Peace Walker did a solid job of continuing the story of Naked Snake as he builds his own personal and becomes involved in the late days of the Cold War. Hot Coldman isn't a particularly memorable villain when compared to the likes of the Cobra Unit, but the boss fights against the Chrysalis, Pupa, and so on are both challenging and varied. Peace Walker is a little more action-heavy than other MGS games and it is also shorter than the main numbered entries, but I felt it did a good job of bridging the gap between the era of Naked Snake and that of Solid Snake.
The series has such a wonderful cast of characters, from Psycho Mantis to Solidus and Otacon to Ocelot - I could list them all, but I think it's just easier for me to say that there are only a few select characters that I don't like. And as much as I enjoy exploring Hyrule and Zebes, the world of Metal Gear is also one of the best visions ever realized in gaming. It's a perfect blend of practical realism and dystopian science fiction. Though the storyline of the main games may have come to a conclusion, the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes indicates that there is still plenty of story to be told in the Metal Gear universe. I look forward to whatever new directions Hideo Kojima takes the series in, because even when a Metal Gear game hits its lowest point, it is still a whole tier above most other video games.
Some of my favorite boss fights from the series include:
- Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid
- Harrier Jet in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Metal Gear RAY in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- The Fury in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- The Shagohod in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Chrysalis in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Some of my favorite songs from the various soundtracks include:
- The Best is Yet to Come from MGS
- Main Theme from MGS2
- Yell Dead Cell from MGS2
- Father and Son from MGS2
- Snake Eater from MGS3
- Debriefing from MGS3
- Old Snake from MGS4
Some of my favorite characters include:
- Solid Snake
- Grey Fox
- Naked Snake/Big Boss
- Young Ocelot
- The Boss