Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A Masterpiece

Well I'm back, after well over two months of nothing I've decided to write a new blog post at long last. So what has brought me back you ask? Well, a) I'm bored and b) I've wanted to write about this for a while and now seemed a good time, for reasons I will get to in a bit.

So what am I going to talk about? Well, it's a game (surprise surprise) and it's regarding as one of the greatest of all time and is my personal favourite. Metal Gear Solid.

The European box art for the PlayStation version of Metal Gear Solid
Why talk about this now? Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the Metal Gear franchise, the first Metal Gear game, called Metal Gear obviously, was released in 1987 on the MSX2 computer. There was a NES version too, but series creator Hideo Kojima had no involvement in that release and tends to disregard it as part of the series. Metal Gear got two sequels in quick succession, the first was called Snake's Revenge. This is seen as an unofficial sequel since Kojima had no involvement in it. Snake's Revenge was the reason Kojima returned to Metal Gear and made Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. This was released in 1990 exclusively on the MSX2. No shitty NES port was made this time.

The Metal Gear series was rested until 1998, when the technology in games had moved on enough for Kojima to realise a vision of making a 3D Metal Gear game. Metal Gear Solid. The fact that the game sees the series moves from a 2D game to 3D gave Kojima the idea of adding "Solid" to the title. It also serves as a reference to the protagonist, Solid Snake.

Now before I go further, I have a confession to make. When I first played Metal Gear Solid, I didn't like it, strange, maybe stupid I know but I was young and the idea that you had no weapons didn't sit well with the 8 year old me. Of course, I eventually learned the error of my ways and got to experience a landmark game. It's strange because I felt the same about another game and that is also now in amongst my favourite games of all time, Gran Turismo.

I believe that Metal Gear Solid is a landmark game. It was first game that I played where I was engaged by the story and the characters, which made me want to play on and find out where the story went and what happens to the characters. These days, games which strive to be story driven and cinematic aren't uncommon but back in 1998 it was unheard of. Metal Gear Solid was a trailblazer in that regard.

Another way in which Metal Gear Solid was ahead of the curve was in breaking the fourth wall. If you don't know what that means, the fourth wall is a term used in film to distinguish between the movie and viewer with a wall inbetween, separating them. Breaking that basically means that the film or game will directly interact with the viewer/player.

There are numerous examples of this in the Metal Gear Solid series but since I'm talking about the first one, the third Metal Gear game overall, I'll refer to an example in that. Early in the game, after having a gun duel with Revolver Ocelot, a villain with an interesting purpose.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!1 It turns out Ocelot was on your side the whole time and that he was only fighting you so that you would succeed, if that makes sense, MGS4 has quite a few WTF plot tie-ups to be fair.

Anyway, after the first encounter, the Colonel asks you to contact his niece Meryl, who depending on which ending you get is revealed to be someone a little closer than a niece, and says that her codec frequency (codec is like a personal communication device used to contact anyone anywhere) is "on the back of the CD case". Normally, you'd be looking for some CD case that has her frequency on it, many people did here too but the Colonel was referring to the actual CD case the game came in. Mind. Blown.

The back of the Metal Gear Solid European PlayStation case. As you can see, it has a picture of Meryl and Snake with the frequency of 140.15
This is just one of the numerous examples of Hideo Kojima playing with the person who is playing the game's mind. It's become a part of the series, just as much as stealth and Snake's gruff, masculine voice, unless you're playing MGS2, where you play as androgynous mop head Raiden for the most part. Funnily enough, Kojima evens plays on that, by having the US President in the game grabbing Raiden's genitals because he's unsure what Raiden is. Hilarious.

The gameplay for Metal Gear Solid was unusual for it's time as well, as it made the player avoid confrontation when possible due to lack of weapons. As I said, I didn't like it at first but once I learned how to play I loved it because it made the player think about how to avoid the enemy. Instead of me rambling on you should play it, despite it looking a little basic by today's standards it hold up pretty well if you ask me. 

Another area where the game excels is the music, it sets the tone for the game perfectly, from the main menu music, to the alert music when things get hairy, to the end and you reflect on the journey Snake has gone on.

Here is a few of the songs from Metal Gear Solid:

Menu Theme:

Encounter (Alert and Boss theme):
The Best is Yet to Come (Opening Intro and Ending theme, it also appears in MGS4, it sent shivers down my spine when I first heard it, it still does. That part of MGS4 is truly incredible, pure MGS fan service.):
Metal Gear Solid Main Theme (It doesn't appear in MGS4 because it apparently plagiarised some Russian song, which is complete bullshit.):
If you have never had the pleasure of playing this fantastic piece of gaming history then you should. It's easily available on the PlayStation Network for the PS3, PSP and the PS Vita for £7.99/$9.99. You could track down an original PS1 copy if you don't have any of those, or just want to play it how nature intended. There was also a PC version, which was apparently rubbish because it didn't work very well. 

Then, there's the remake for the Gamecube (why it wasn't released on the PS2 still annoys me) called Twin Snakes. Twin Snakes is basically the original with redone (read; worse) voice acting, better graphics, new gameplay mechanics, well MGS2 ones but retained the same level design which made the game too easy. It also has redone cut scenes which are completely bat shit insane and look ridiculous. If you can, play the original PS1 version, the disc version actually has issues if you play it on a PS2, which makes it impossible to finish the game, so I recommend the PSN download version, no issues there. It's a flawless transfer and the best version.Metal Gear Solid is a true masterpiece.

No comments:

Post a Comment