Monday, October 12, 2015

3DS review: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

Metal Gear Solid 3, the tale of how Naked Snake set out on the path to become Big Boss, and the effective starting point of the entire Metal Gear legacy, received a 3DS port early in the handheld’s life cycle. Much like Star Fox 64 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D, and Majora’s Mask 3D, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is taken directly from its console version and reworked to fit the control scheme of the 3DS. However, unlike those other 3DS re-releases, Snake Eater 3D does not see any graphical upgrades from the Playstation 2 original. Which is not to say that the game is any less aesthetically pleasing or immersive than ten years ago, when it debuted – the jungles are lush and dense with greenery, the animals active, and the wandering patrols a constant threat to Snake’s location being exposed. The frame rate does, unfortunately, dip a bit during cutscenes where there are many characters or events on screen at the same time. Gameplay, however, is never hampered by this.

The touch screen is utilized wonderfully, as the stylus can be used to easily access Snake’s codec, medical supplies, and food items. Weapons and items have also been relegated to the touch screen, and nine of each can be set to be on-hand at any given time, while another icon allows you to swap those out with additional items that Snake picks up and stores in his supply pack. This cuts down significantly on switching up Snake’s loadouts, which were previously managed via a scroll wheel on the PS2 and HD Collection releases.

Snake can also draw his weapons and put them away with a press of the right shoulder button. However, a simple tap of the shoulder button will not suffice – you have to hold it down for a brief second, otherwise the input may not take. Given the stealth-heavy nature of Snake Eater 3D, this rarely proves problematic, save for a couple of the boss fights, wherein it can be mildly frustrating as you dodge attacks and attempt to quickly react to Snake’s supernaturally-powered foes. While not necessary for playing Snake Eater 3D, the 3DS’ Circle Pad Pro attachment is highly recommended for anyone already familiar with the button and joystick layouts on the home console releases. All in all, though, despite being a port of a game that whose original release was never designed with a handheld in mind, Snake Eater 3D runs very well on the system, and the new control scheme is handled wonderfully – far better than some would have suspected.

The voice acting is, of course, just as great as it was a decade ago on the PS2. David Hayter’s iconic Snake voice keeps players company for the majority of the adventure, with humor from support members Major Zero and Para-Medic often flying right over his head. Suzetta Minet portrays the sultry and quick-witted EVA, Neil Ross puts forth a commanding performance as sadistic villain Colonel Volgin, while Josh Keaton’s depiction of a young Ocelot is one of a lovable try-hard who often slips up in his own attempts to impress his superiors. A few new sequences of dialogue have been added to this 3DS release, covering the updated control scheme. All of the spoken dialogue, as well as the iconic soundtrack and titular theme song, come across clear and clean through the 3DS’ speakers.

Equally memorable to the voice work in Snake Eater 3D are the boss encounters with the members of the Cobra Unit. They remain as intense and varied as ever, seeing no alterations from their PS2 counterparts. More seasoned veterans of the Metal Gear series will likely opt for as stealthy a playthrough as possible, maximizing their camouflage percentage by pairing patterns and face paint to the surrounding environment to better avoid detection. The 3DS' camera can be utilized to make new camo patterns for Snake, though these are not as complex in nature as the game's pre-loaded camo options, and will always default to registering as the most prominent color within the picture that was taken, ignoring any less prominent colors that are a part of that same image.

For those new to the Metal Gear play style, there are plenty of weapons beyond the default silenced tranquilizer pistol that can be found in the jungle, including an AK-47, a short-barrel shotgun, an SDV sniper rifle, and a more lethal handgun, to name a few - just don't expect a warm welcome from Volgin's GRU forces if you fire loudly in their direction. Plenty of additional items and food rations can be missed, should you choose not to devote time to exploration. The 3DS' gyroscope is briefly used to balance Snake on branches and bridges, while the hidden collect-a-thon Kerotan statues have been replaced with the likeness of Mario’s green pal Yoshi.

A first time playthrough of Snake Eater 3D will likely push close to the twenty hour mark, while players who have beaten Snake Eater in the past and simply want a quick retread can finish the game in less than fifteen. Snake Eater 3D does see a few technical hang-ups, and some very minor control oversights, but more often than not it excels as yet another great handheld port of a console classic in the 3DS' library. And at the end of the day, it remains the greatest Metal Gear story ever told.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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