Last year, I put myself to the task of completing five games that I’ve always wanted to see through to the end, but never did for a variety of reasons. I was able to beat three out of the five, and I still plan on at least giving Final Fantasy IX a solid go this summer, as that type of JRPG feels like the kind one plays piecemeal-like across some warm, sockless nights. I thought about doing another list like that again this year, but secretly I’ve had another idea in mind ever since I bought Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012 last fall and then never cracked its case.
The idea is simple, but lengthy. Possibly even maddening. Basically, I’m going to play through every game in the collection in the order of release. That means like this:
- Metal Gear
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
- Metal Gear Solid
- Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition
Woah. Talk about a plunge. Some quick history is that I’ve played Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3, all of them at least once. I know for sure I’ve mucked around on several occasions with MGS2‘s opening tanker level, just to try things a few different ways. Other than that, everything else above has never been experienced. And it’s been many moons since I did play those previously checked titles, meaning I remember very little of the story, the gameplay, the secrets, and the surprises. I’m looking forward to revisiting and seeing these games for the first time, all of which is, I guess, fine preparation for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Anyways, I spent most of Sunday playing the original Metal Gear. I was confused, I was pleased, I was determined, and I befuddled from time to time. First off, to play Metal Gear in this collection, you have to load up MGS3‘s main menu and select it from there. Took me a bit to figure that out. Then, right from the get-go, I realized this was some different version, seeing at it starts you directly with Solid Snake swimming up to Building 1 instead of in the jungle. I know about the jungle level because of the Internet, and so I immediately went investigating. Evidently, there’s an NES version (jungle) and an MSX version (Building 1), and the NES release was produced without any involvement from series creator Hideo Kojima. In fact, Kojima has been quoted as calling the NES version “complete garbage” so I guess it’s better that the collection comes with the MSX edition instead.
Set in 1995, Metal Gear stars the newest FOXHOUND member, a rookie soldier codenamed Solid Snake. His mission is to infiltrate Outer Heaven, which is militaristic state founded by some “legendary mercenary,” and destroy Metal Gear, a mysterious weapon capable of mass nuclear destruction. That’s kind of it for story beats, and you’ll occasionally get some more info through Snake’s transceiver and meeting other people in the buildings, but it doesn’t add much detail to the overall plot. I do like that you eventually learn that Metal Gear is being built 100 floors below Building 3, but when you take an elevator to go fight it, you only descend like nine or ten floors. Close enough, I guess.
Right. Metal Gear. It’s a top-down action-adventure game that puts an emphasis on stealth–but not a requirement. Solid Snake can shoot guns as well as punch soldiers in the noggin, and these are his two offensive tactics through the whole game. He can also sneak past unalerted guards, which works too, until you get spotted, and then you have to fight or flee. You’ll explore buildings and floors, looking for clues and hostages to rescue; once you rescue enough hostages, your class star will increase, which allows Snake to have more health and hold more ammo. You’re always being steered in a specific direction, whether it is to find a certain level key card or an item to help you move to the next area, but I will admit I used a walkthrough in a few spots where I missed a certain item, like the enemy’s uniform.
Even here, in its earliest form, it is still quite rewarding to slip past guards or make it through an entire room unnoticed while still taking out every enemy soldier. This is only lessened by the fact that enemies respawn immediately after leaving and re-entering a room. All that work for naught. Or, if you really enjoyed it, well…do it again. Sometimes it was not worth the effort, and I found myself either running for the exit or punching every guard in the face with little care to alarms. The boss battles always appear intimidating, but there’s a pattern to look for, and they come with some killer chiptune tracks.
Alas, not all is amazing in Metal Gear, even in Kojima’s preferred version. Here’s the stuff I hated in list form:
- For some reason, Solid Snake has to take his gas mask off in gas-filled rooms to use a key card because there’s only one accessory spot to use, and you lose a decent sliver of health in this process.
- The portable transceiver is steamy trash. No one ever answers Snake when he calls, and if they do, they speak batshit or just repeat text even though I already found the item they told me to go find. What was the point of Diane?
- The checkpoint system is bonkers. Basically, it checkpoints every time you enter an elevator, but that’s it. You can “save” your data at any time through the pause menu, but if you die, you can’t reload to this save spot. Only the checkpoint. Thus, I don’t understand what the point of “saving” is. Thankfully, I played the game in a single sitting, so no worries there.
- I wouldn’t say I hated this as it helped me more often than not, but you can basically grind for ammo and rations by entering and exiting rooms over and over. Seemed like a silly oversight.
- Not enough reasons to use many of the items outside of their required spots. Like the bomb-blast suit or the cardboard box.
- There’s no way to know what key works on what door. You just have to keep switching between them until the door slides open. Not a problem early on, but later, after you have cards 1-7, it can be a nuisance.
Lastly, for all you data nerds, my end game stats:
As they say, it’s not a stealth game unless you kill 319 humans. Probably a dozen dogs, too, though that data wasn’t tracked. Okay, that’s it. On to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake next!