So, an odd thing happened recently. Well, maybe not that odd, but who am I to judge? In any case, it happened just recently enough to inspire this article, but late enough that I couldn’t have it for the launch day of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (hereafter just Metal Gear Solid V or MGSV) yesterday. Probably just as well; I doubt anyone was reading anything but reviews on the game, anyway, so maybe the gap will work in my favor.
In any case, my wife and I are in the market for a PlayStation 4 (and an Xbox One, but why a PS4 first is a long story), something close to becoming a reality thanks to some recent freelance work I managed to pick up. Looking to get the most bang for our buck, I took a keener-than-usual interest in the Weekly Deals bit I do over on Mario’s Hat. As luck would have it, Best Buy is offering a free copy of Metal Gear Solid V with the purchase of a PlayStation 4 The Last of Us Remastered bundle. The check arrived, and while the exchange rate helped to generously bring the amount close to what we needed, it wasn’t close enough for us to make the purchase in the 3-day window provided for the sale.
Nadia wasn’t sure why I was bothered by this, as we’ve never really partaken in much of the series. You might not think I’d be a Metal Gear fan, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I go far enough back with it that there’s a reason I refer to the franchise as “Metal Gear” instead of “Metal Gear Solid.” And upon reflecting on her words, it dawned on me:
I have almost every mainline Metal Gear title (and then some), but I’ve never played most of them. And that’s kind of a funny story in itself.
The first time I ever heard of Metal Gear that I can remember is seeing an ad for it in a comic book. In fact, I vividly remember there being two-page spreads in some, but good luck finding one of those online nowadays. Fortunately, the single page version (at right) is the same basic concept.
The late 80s were kind of a weird time, and upon flipping through whatever comic I was reading (likely either Marvel’s Transformers or Archie’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures), I saw the ads, but I didn’t pay especially close attention to them. I thought it was a line of military-themed role-playing toys, as the Nintendo branding wasn’t especially prominent. Plus, things like Spy Tech toys were in at the time, leading me to think this was something similar, albeit more on the “props and playthings” side than the “real spy equipment” of the other. Like you do.
I’d learn more about what Metal Gear really was when my dad brought home a copy. Truth be told, it was always his game, but I always enjoyed watching and occasionally playing it myself later. At the time, of course, we had no clue that there was a superior MSX version released in Japan, and even if we had known, it wouldn’t have done us any good.
Just the same, while a lot of people like to dump on it as a bad game, I disagree. I still think it was a good game in its own right, particularly in a vacuum, which is how we played it. There were no other frames of reference; to us, this was Metal Gear, end of story. I’m not saying that it’s as good or better than the MSX game that it was based on, however, just that it’s still good in its own right…
…warts and all.
The same went for the extremely unloved sequel, Snake’s Revenge, which has been so terribly disavowed by fans, even though that very game was responsible for there being any more Metal Gear to follow at all — itself only coming about as a result of the popularity of the preceding Nintendo Entertainment System game. Series creator Hideo Kojima himself is on the record as saying that he thought it was “faithful to the Metal Gear concept” and wasn’t a “bad game.”
Me, I’ve always felt that if nothing else, it has a terrific soundtrack. I’ve even had it loaded on my phone before a botched iTunes sync screwed everything up.
Even though the games are/were technically my dad’s, I still have both right here, safe and sound in my relatively meager NES collection.
I feel like I ought to mention that somewhere along the way, I ended up getting the Metal Gear book from the Scholastic Worlds of Power series. It’s a funny item to have, not the least of which being the fact that Snake doesn’t shoot anyone throughout the entire story.
Eight years would pass, but it was to our surprise when Konami revealed that Metal Gear was coming to the PlayStation. I was excited for it, and I think a friend of mine was the one who even managed to get a demo of it. It was cool enough that I ended up pre-ordering the game at Best Buy (and got an extra PlayStation controller in the process). It came out, I brought it home, and…
I sucked at it. Terribly so.
I don’t know what it is, but I can barely get into the base at the start, if that. My dad and our friend could get things going fine, and I was great at the included VR training missions, but once I was in the real game, the only law was Murphy’s Law. It rather disappointed me as I’d wanted to more actively participate in this one from the word go, but instead I was more or less forced to the sidelines to watch — no mirroring playthrough of my own this time.
As an aside, I remember we were generally confused at first when the story recap got to Metal Gear Solid 2: Solid Snake and it wasn’t anything like Snake’s Revenge at all. That tipped us off and it was later confirmed that yeah, we got something else.
This is the point I was more or less put off of the series. I still enjoyed all the characters and lore and music and damn near everything that makes Metal Gear Solid great, but if I couldn’t play it? That stung a little too much. I’d hear years later that, despite its own quirks and flaws, the GameCube remake Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes was a more approachable version of the game that was easier to get through. I’d be all over that, but it doesn’t come cheap. I only found out some time after I’d left Blockbuster, where we had a used copy going for a pretty low price.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty later came to the PlayStation 2 with great fanfare surrounding it (as well as some anger at Kojima bait-and-switching fans with the main character). I kept up with it in the news, but I didn’t pay too close attention, either. As it turns out, we wouldn’t get a PlayStation 2 until after the Wii and PlayStation 3 had come out, so like many PlayStation 2 games, it was background noise for a while. At some point, I did pick up the PC version of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance for a song at Toys R Us — less than five bucks. I forget why I never got around to playing it, though — likely insufficient specs, or lack of a good controller, maybe both. By the time we had that stuff, the game was all but forgotten.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came about in much the same way, and that apparently never had a PC version to get. In the interim, IDW released a comic adaptation of both of the first two Solid games, allowing me to fill in any blanks I had on the first game and catch up on the second. Sadly, an adaptation of the third never happened.
My interest rose substantially, however, after I learned sometime later that the release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence came with the MSX original games of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, translated into English. Unfortunately, this was already well after the game had been through its “new” period, so I was stuck looking for a used copy at any game shop I could find that carried such a thing. Funny thing (there are a lot of those) about that: a lot of people are apparently happy to trade in the main game of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, but the other discs? Not so much.
I’d all but given up that ghost when, at some point in time, Konami announced they were re-releasing it as a part of the Metal Gear 20th Anniversary: Metal Gear Solid Collection in Japan. When they announced the North American counterpart, Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection, I was excited to learn that the version of Metal Gear Solid 3 included was Subsistence… and then that it was only the first disc, leaving the other extras — including Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake — by the wayside.
These wrongs were set right a few years later when the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection was announced. Besides including high definition versions of the PlayStation 2 Metal Gear Solid games (The Twin Snakes being left out due to Nintendo’s involvement in developing it, no doubt), they were also including the two MSX games as well. Perfect! So straight onto my Amazon Wish List it went, but things didn’t work out for me to get it at the time.
Then a funny thing happened. The local Cash Converters — something of a pawn/trade shop — got in a used copy of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. And it was complete. So I wasted no time in grabbing that, getting home, and playing the two games. Sadly, that place — home to some great finds — closed recently.
Ironically, for as long as I’d been waiting and hunting, though, I’ve not gotten to put as much time into them as I’d like, much less beat them. Still, I feel better just knowing that they’re there, ready for such a time when I can dedicate myself to getting through them and seeing for myself what I’ve heard about for so many years.
Rewinding things a bit, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots had come out for the PlayStation 3 some years prior to fulfilling my MSX quest. Not owning a PlayStation 3 (no particular reason short of finances; it just never happened), I never got the game. And to be honest? This one I really did want to play (and still do). The mystery surrounding Old Snake (no relation) and the end of the series? Too much for me to resist. The gameplay looked fun, too.
Most recently, I managed to snag Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for five bucks during an EB Games sale. I was already intrigued, but like others, I haven’t gotten to play that yet, either. Someday, I am going to marathon this series so hard.
That pretty much brings us to where we are today: Somehow, I’ve ended up with the NES version of Metal Gear, the MSX version of Metal Gear, Snake’s Revenge, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions (I got that at some point, figuring that since I was at least good at those in the PS1 game that I could play this. Wrong.), Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but have barely played or beaten anything that came out after 1990.
With all the hype surrounding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s release, the fun gameplay we’ve seen, the great reviews, and it being said to bring the series full circle, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s time to change that… though at this point, maybe I’ll just wait until I have Metal Gear Solid 4 (and a way to play it) and MGSV before doing so. Maybe The Twin Snakes, too.
Of course, that’s not even getting into all the other little side games like Ghost Babel for Game Boy Color (I’ve long wanted a Virtual Console release), Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Metal Gear Acid and Metal Gear Acid 2, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (which sounds like the only one of this lot that “matters”). Oh, right, and there’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, too.
All the same, how weird is it to grow up with a game series — and actually be something of a fan (I’m even planning a Metal Gear cosplay for Otakon next year) — own the vast majority of the games, yet not played them through? It certainly lends a unique perspective to the series; of that much, I’m sure.
Cover art via The Metal Gear Wiki.