So, this plan of mine to play through all of these Metal Gear games in order of release…hmm. I knew going in that the first two games–Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake–were going to prove the most difficult of the bunch, and that’s mostly because they are…well, old. That’s not to say that all older games are more difficult by default (and design), but it does seem to be the case with me, as I can barely get through a level unscathed in any Mega Man game (circa 1987 to now), let alone reach a boss with enough health left to give me a fighting chance. The Legend of Zelda…I love it oh so very much, but I also absolutely suck at it, with Link making it to a dungeon one out of every ten chances I try, and that alarm sound that plays when he’s down to half a heart a constant companion in his journey across Hyrule.
That said, to make this process easier and not force me to give up from the word “go,” I’ve used some online walkthroughs for both Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Not ideal, but had to be done. Still, even knowing what to do next does not mean you’ll succeed 100% of the time, especially when it comes to boss battles, which can quickly go topsy-turvy if you’re not using the right weapon and equipment. But more on that stuff soon. Gotta first summarize what’s happening this time around. Oh, and did you know that Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake did not have an official English version until it was included as a bonus game in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for the PlayStation 2 in 2006? Well, now you do. Evidently, there was a non-canonical installment produced without Kojima’s involvement for the NES called Snake’s Revenge, but non-canonical means a whole bunch of fart noises to me.
Right. Well, it’s Christmas Eve, December 1999. FOXHOUND’s new commander, Roy Campbell, brings Solid Snake out of retirement and sends him to Zanzibar Land, a heavily defended territory located in Central Asia, in hopes of rescuing Dr. Kio Marv, a Czech scientist capable of bio-engineering a new species of algae. Also, Snake has to destroy the revised Metal Gear D. Y’know, typical secret “save the world” mission stuff. Along the way, Snake will team up with a colorful band of others, like Holly White, a CIA operative posing as a journalist, Gustava Heffner, an StB agent and bodyguard, and Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar, the Metal Gear inventor from Outer Heaven. Understood? Over and out.
Let’s get to the good stuff first. Metal Gear 2 improves upon just about every complaint I had with the original Metal Gear. Gone is an inventory of card keys, now replaced with colorized keys that work on multiple doors (i.e., the red card can open any door requiring cards 1 to 3). There’s still some guess-work to do on doors, but much less than before. Codec conversations are both more meaningful and interesting, with plenty of people to call and get responses from. Snake has a new move, crawling, and this is where the stealth mechanic becomes a Real Thing™, as the previous game was more about occasionally hiding. Being unseen is extremely vital to staying alive, since guards can see better and will work harder to find you after going into alert mode, and grinding for ten-plus rations no longer works. The story is better told, with some fantastic moments, and I’m mostly thinking about Snake’s conversation with Heffner, though the game itself tries to end on a knee-slapper, playing Snake off as just another clown with his head in the clouds.
The parts I’m continuing to not dig are the checkpoint system, the heavy emphasis on backtracking, how difficult it can be to drop back into the shadows, and…honestly, that’s it this time. And those first two elements are heavily related to one another, which is why I ended up playing this, just like the original Metal Gear, in one sitting. Well, two actually. The newest season of Game of Thrones interrupted Snake’s mission for the night, but only that. Naturally, I thought I was near the end of the game when up against the Metal Gear D, but in true franchise form, there were a couple more sections to get through after that.
I think the most grueling part of Metal Gear 2—besides the invisible swamp path and inane puzzle involving an owl, a snake, and your stockpile of rations–is just how much it relies on back-tracking, going from one building to another, crossing a desert full of mines each time. For all of time. Eventually, you get really good at it, but early on, without a walkthrough telling me specifically where to go, I wandered aimlessly and ended up just getting caught and killed for no good reason. Because guards are relentless in searching for you, following you across screens and into elevators and jamming your radar, and you basically have a millisecond to find a hiding spot when they go into caution mode, though you’re unlikely to, leading to scenarios where it’s better to just gun everyone down than crawl under a cardboard box. Hence, my 198 alerts in the stats at the bottom of this post.
Oh, one more thing. You know how the Metal Gear series loves to force you to look outside the game for answers, like codec frequencies and such? Well, that’s here too, but alas, since the game comes bundled in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there wasn’t an actual game manual for me to access, and so I missed out on figuring these nifty tie-ins myself. One involved deciphering some kind of code. Instead, the walkthroughs just put it all out there. Boo to that.
And just like before, I have stats for y’all. Mmm, numbers and details:
Last time I was a deer, and this time a zebra. Not sure which is a better rating, though I’m glad to see I killed six fewer humans for this operation. We’ll call that “improving.”
Well, with Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake completed, it’s time for me to move on to…Metal Gear Solid. Dun dun dunnn. Which I’ve not played since its release date of September 1998. Really looking forward to seeing how it–and if it does at all–holds up. The Internet tells me that Metal Gear Solid is basically a 3D version of Metal Gear 2, and playing them back to back should hopefully show whether that’s true or not. Onwards, to Alaska!