Hey hey! It's Tuesday, so it's time for another look back into gaming's past. Last week, I replayed a polarity-shifting minimalist shoot-em-up.
This week, I'm going a bit more mainstream than I usually do. Regardless, it's worth it.
Can you believe the first Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998? That's sixteen freaking years ago! And yet, it's still better than a lot of games that come out today.
Everyone knows the story by now, but just for laughs...MGS, being the sequel to the original Metal Gear for NES (more accurately, the two Metal Gear games in Japan on the MSX), casts you as that most super of agents, Solid Snake. Snake infiltrates a secret base on an Alaskan island that has been taken over by FOXHOUND, an elite special forces unit populated by genetically enhanced soldiers. Not to mention the requisite goofy characters that serve as the bosses. Snake's initial goal is to neutralize the terrorists, who are in possession of the nuclear weaponry on the island...oh yeah, they also have a giant mech called Metal Gear. Plot twists, complicated exposition, and general chaos ensue.
Though quite dated by today's standards (and extremely dated when compared to future Metal Gear games), the gameplay here holds up pretty well. One of the first real stealth-focused games of the 3-D era, it was a breath of fresh air back in the day. Note that this was a time when games focused more on blowing up crap rather than using your brain. Remember how Goldeneye was supposed to be stealthy? It wasn't. Let's not pretend it was. (Still good, though).
MGS, on the other hand, presented you with a different kind of challenge. It said "Here's a bunch of enemies. Don't get spotted; try to sneak around them."
Huh? Wait, aren't I supposed to just waste everyone in sight?
"Well," says MGS, "you could try, but you're totally outnumbered and underpowered, and, uh, your enemies can call reinforcements, so...yeah..."
We take it for granted, now. There's stealth games all around us now. And there's even unbelievably shitty stealth sequences in non-stealth games. And MGS, of course, doesn't escape the quirks of stealth games past or present. The enemies are easily exploitable. Escape after you get spotted, and the enemy force will totally forget you ever existed.
But even now, it's all easily forgivable, because you're playing MGS for the story more than the gameplay. Let's face it; that's how it's always been. Not that I'm complaining about the gameplay. Because it's solid (I am so sorry). But for me, really MGS is a complete package, just one that skews more towards plot. And it's one of the best stories in gaming.
Looking past the insane but lovable characters (Psycho Mantis being a fan favorite despite the ludicrous battle with him), MGS tackles themes like genetics, identity, and war and peace. Nuclear war is examined, as is the repercussions of revenge. Hell, you even learn a thing or two along the way. And really, the over-the-top nature of the story, in my opinion, helps the player connect more with the plot. This story simply wouldn't work if it was told in an uber-realistic setting without characters like Mantis, Sniper Wolf, and Revolver Ocelot. Let's not forget Metal Gear itself; REX being my personal favorite Metal Gear design.
And the boss battles are still awesome. The battle with Ocelot, in which you trade shots around the tied-up ArmsTech president, both battles with Vulcan Raven, the duel with Sniper Wolf (my personal favorite), that infamous, controller-port switching fight with Mantis...every boss battle here is an event in itself, and naturally, each one is bookended with lengthy, expositional cutscenes. This is a Metal Gear game, after all.
One thing I nearly forgot: the humor. Though this is a serious, thought-provoking tale, MGS keeps it light, at times. Which is another reason to love the quirky series. Funny that one of the most iconic bits in the game isn't the story, or the abundance of mecha and cyborg ninjas.
It's a box.
Specifically, hiding in a box, which in and of itself is ridiculous. But it really became the series' most known image; that of concealing yourself in a box-where no box has any earthly business being-and watching as your enemies ignore you, because who would hide in a box anyway.
Most of the other comedic bits come courtesy of Otacon, the awkward scientist who helped develop Metal Gear REX, and who's unlikely friendship with Snake would become one of gaming's greatest. Fun things like the Playstation in Otacon's lab, the Konami Moai head, and the weird but lovable "meta" moments in the game-like Colonel Campbell telling you which buttons to press ("Here's how to rappel-Press the X button to...) and finding Meryl's Codec frequency on the back of the real-life CD case gave the game an identity all it's own.
Graphically...this is a Playstation 1 game. Low-res textures and low-polygon models dominate the game. It's still pretty tolerable today, though, like most Playstation titles. Though it's pretty surprising how small the island of Shadow Moses seems today. But that could be the fact that I've played through the game, um, quite a few times in my life.
Oh, but man, does this game shine in the audio department. Metal Gear Solid contains one of the best voice casts ever put together in video game history. David Hayter's performance as Snake would go down as one of the most iconic, recognizable voices in gaming. The rest of the cast, though, stands tall as well. Every voice here just fits their respective character so well, my favorite performance probably being Greg Eagles as Gray Fox.
I feel like no one really talks too much about the soundtrack to Metal Gear Solid (the series as a whole), and that's a shame, because it's phenomenal. It's just as big a part of the series as anything else. Here's a couple of favorites.
The first one plays during a memorable death in the game, and is one of the saddest, most beautiful songs in gaming. The second is the theme song to the series (though it's the version from Metal Gear Solid 2, because I like that version better)
Replay Metal Gear Solid, people. It's such a perfect game.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to hit the comments section for, um, comments. Also, you can suggest future article games here, OR tweet them to me @WingZero351. You can also follow me there, which would be cool :)
BTW, the Game of The Week 1-year anniversary is coming up! Need ideas for what to do!
Next week-Staying mainstream for now, Metal Gear Solid was one of the first games to teach us patience in the form of stealth. Let's look at one of the first games to teach us something else: Fear.