Tag Archives: Metal Gear Solid

#GameStruck4 – The Four Games That Define Me

I’m a sucker for memes, especially videogame ones, but alas, this #GameStruck4 one seems to be mega popular only on Twitter, a platform I’m not really active on anymore. So I’m doing it here instead and using it as an excuse to write about four very important games in my upbringing. As if I haven’t already touched upon these masterpieces in the past. Oh, and these are all from my SNES and PlayStation 1 days, which is really where gaming got its hooks into me–sorry, GameBoy–and I’m sure I could come up with four for every console generation I’ve gotten to experience up to this very day and date, but these are the ones that certainly shaped me early on.

Suikoden II

Ah, my sweet, sweet Suikoden II. You were everything I liked about the first Suikoden and then some, showing me that characters, that tiny bits of sprites and colors and text boxes, were just as believable and real and full of feelings as 3D polygonal dudes and dudettes. And Suikoden II has so many great characters. Here, let me name a few: Jowy, Nanami, Viktor, Flik, Bolgan, Luc, Clive, Luca Blight, and so on.

I replayed the game back in 2014 and wrote a bunch of thoughts along the way, many that I don’t need to rehash here. It’s a game that continues to live on inside me, and I often find myself comparing a lot of things to it. Or comparing it to everything. Either take works. Like, if a game lets you recruit party members, that’s cool and all, but six pales in comparison to 108 Stars of Destiny. No cooking minigame will ever beat Suikoden II‘s cooking minigame, and watching your castle grow and expand as your army increases makes going out and finding these new recruits worth it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is probably the first game to ever make me cry. Not out of joy or love or the beauty of its colorful pixels, but frustration. I was young and struggled to beat a boss, and it affected me greatly. I remember physically tossing my SNES controller, something I’ve never done again. I’ve since grown from this time and now have backpacks full of patience, but this game, if anything, taught me to take things slow, to examine and prepare, to live in these environments and not rush to the next screen just for some shiny object or plot point. There’s a good number of secrets to discover in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and playing around with teleporting between the Light World and Dark World is one of my favorite time-killers, especially if it resulted in an extra Heart Piece or path to a new area.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid oozes atmosphere without saying a whole lot directly. You really have to pay attention to the environment to rise above it and defeat all the Space Pirate bosses. The two most long-lasting memories for me for Super Metroid, a game I’ve most definitely replayed a bunch and claim (back in 2011) has the most epic scene ever, are when you first get to the powerless and ghost-infested Wrecked Ship on Zebes and learning how to wall-jump from the blue, monkey-like Etecoons.

For the former, the eerie stillness of the area is immediately unnerving, and your constants, such as upgrading the map and restoring health and missiles via the respective stations, no longer work until you switch the power back on. There’s a ton of implied storytelling here, like piecing together that the ghosts are actually the deceased crew. For the latter, you need to watch the critters work their magic leaping wall to wall and then replicate it; otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere. It’s not easy, but when you successfully climb that tall column and hit the top, getting higher than the Etecoons, it feels beyond amazing. It’s also neat to know that you can do this move at any point in the game, from the very start. You just don’t know about it until until you run into them later.

Metal Gear Solid

I’m bummed to no longer have a physical copy of this game unlike the three listed above, especially when you consider how essential the retail box is to a specific part in the story. Still, when I bought the Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012 for the PlayStation 3, it came with digital download codes for Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Sold: VR Missions. Both of which I played through relatively recently when I was on a sojourn to see this series through from start to finish; my progress came to a complete and grinding halt during Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which I did not find all that interesting or captivating, and I should probably just skip it entirely and move on to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Anyways, Metal Gear Solid taught me that games can be larger than life, that they can take their time telling whatever story they want, no matter how inane or far-fetched or action-cool it was. That your surroundings and actions matter, that you can go about a mission in multiple ways, whether it be by sneaking past unaware soldiers, sniping them from far back, or a mixture of both plans. It was certainly the first stealth game I ever played, which planted a pacifism seed in me that, to this day, no matter the game, has me always trying to accomplish tasks nonviolently, with as few casualties as possible.

What are the four games that define you? Tell me about ’em below in the comments or link to your very own hot take on the #GameStruck4 meme.

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Running the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières like a Big Boss

peace walker gd early impressions

I’m not sure where I first heard this–or if it is even true–but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was originally supposed to be the real Metal Gear Solid V. And Hideo Kojima’s last game. I’m glad neither of those came to be, and while I don’t know too much about The Phantom Pain–I’ve avoided listening to countless podcasts over the last month or so, as well as skipped any and all coverage at Giant Bomb to remain as spoiler-free as possible–I do know that the newest game involves taking on individual missions to recruit members to your main base and grow its power and potential. Well, Peace Walker does that too, but on a much smaller scale.

Set in 1974 in Costa Rica, Peace Walker follows the exploits of returning protagonist Big Boss–you might remember him as Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater–as he runs the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers Without Borders). A mysterious group called the Peace Sentinels have been deployed in-country. Unfortunately, the Costa Rica government cannot do anything about them because the country’s constitution does not allow the creation of armed forces. The presence of the Peace Sentinels threatens to endanger the balance of power between the East and West, forcing Snake to intervene. Plus, he wants to build up his Mother Base.

Peace Walker is broken up into two primary modes: “Mission” and “Mother Base.” Missions are the traditional action/sneaking scenarios of the previous games, with Snake creeping through a jungle or occupied building to either kill a certain someone, rescue somebody or somebodies, or gather some intel. It’s the expected mix of sneaking, fighting, and watching. Mother Base is a crew managing simulation where you assign people to different work areas to strengthen your soldiers, upgrade your items and weapons, or keep everybody healthy, happy, and fed.

For missions, you can play either as Snake or a male or female MSF soldier, though some missions will only be available for one or the other. Your score is penalized with a lower rank and reduced heroism for the excessive murdering of soldiers or frequently being discovered, which works fine for me as I’m all about stealth pistols, stun grenades, and using the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system to send knocked-out enemies to Mother Base to switch sides. Also, using items and weapons results in leveling them up at the end of a successful mission, which means Snake is only going to get better and better at making grown men fall asleep where they stand. Peace Walker is designed for co-op play, but I’ve been doing fine so far going at it solo.

In terms of story, so far, Peace Walker is fairly traditional. Shocking, right? I mean, I’m fighting straight up tanks for boss battles at the moment, not psychics that can read my memory card save data. That said, I expect this to go from sane to insane in a short span of time, and I’m really digging the comic book style to the cutscenes, drawn by Ashley Wood, especially when they are interactive. Peace Walker was originally a PSP game, and it shows, but boy is its style on fleek. On the fleck? I don’t know how the kids talk these days.

Not all is amazing though. Camouflage, while still being there and a collectible factor in terms of different outfits for Naked Snake, seems to be completely inessential. You also cannot crawl, and I will never remember this as it is my go to when almost being spotted–to drop to the ground as swiftly as possible and lay prone. I’m not sure going forward what the bosses are like, but I’ve only taken on a tank currently and am looking to more supernatural elements to intervene. Lastly, the whole Mother Base simulation side can be extremely daunting at first, to the point that I simply relied on auto-assignment to place captured soldiers; thankfully, Mother Base opens slowly, which means it is not overwhelming immediately.

It certainly seems like there’s a lot of missions–both main story-wise and side objectives–to go for Peace Walker, so I’ve got some time still before I can load up Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and see how the newest franchise plays. Surely Naked Snake will be able to crawl on his stomach. Surely.

Big Boss will carry on the fight after Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

final thoughts for mgs 3 snake eater gd

I’m not sure why I was so worried that Drew and Dan over at Giant Bomb would get ahead of me in this sneakathon to experience all the Metal Gear games, to fully absorb their cool and zany and ridiculousness, one after the other. Well, I’m aiming to play ’em all, but I believe they’ll be skipping Peace Walker, and already bypassed the original MSX2 titles and, thankfully, the lackluster VR Missions.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater goes the distance in terms of providing a realistic setting where sneaking, where hiding in grass and tiptoeing around booby traps, makes much more sense than an isolated oil rig or even an Alaskan nuclear weapons disposal facility. The trick to super-sleuthing through a Cold War jungle is to no longer rely on your old tricks, such as a radar and pressing against a wall before peaking out from behind it to pop a guard in the noggin with a tranquilizer dart. I spent the majority of my time as Naked Snake laying flat on his stomach, crawling through tall grass and closely monitoring my camouflage meter. My trek from screen to screen wasn’t a perfect, spotless run, as my stats at the bottom of this post will reveal, but when I got through a scenario relatively unnoticed, with only snoring bodies left behind, it sure felt awesome and super spy cool.

I’ve already talked a bit about some of the game mechanics, as well as my love for healing radio frequencies. For this post, I’d like to quickly examine that classic Metal Gear Solid juxtaposition of realistic and bonkers, of military-driven jargon and a man that shoots bullet bees from his mouth. You could compare it to a James Bond film–for me, I’m thinking of Roger Moore’s Moonraker–where the action is certainly outrageous, but believable in some slant of light. Perhaps if you squint. The weapons are traditional and accurate for the time period, but a number of items, such as porn, toss-able venomous snakes, and the crocodile cap, can lead to rather amusing moments. The game even goes so far as to comment on its James Bond-like elements, with Naked Snake refusing to be put next to such a goofy master spy.

Also, more so than the previous games, one of which had you staring closely at Meryl’s butt, there’s a high amount of sexuality here, starting naturally with EVA and her zipped down bikini outfit, kiss of death lipstick, and press LB to stare at her chest sequences. Later on, there’s breast and crouch grabbing, as well as nods to Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin’s bisexuality. Some of it is handled better than others, and yes, scene where EVA removes the tracker from Naked Snake’s nether region, I’m looking directly at you.

Lastly, other than the lengthy cat-and-mouse chase with The End and emotional, time-restricted last go against The Boss, the rest of the boss fights are a major disappointment. Yup, I’m even including the Shagohod. Gone are the gray characters you are battling with, replaced with cartoonish, black-and-white named goons that mostly only say their codename and then explode when you defeat them. I don’t think I could tell you much about The Pain, The Fear, or The Fury, as the game barely reveals anything about them. Remember how you got to know Metal Gear Solid‘s Psycho Mantis and Sniper Wolf intimately after defeating them? That kind of stuff doesn’t happen here. These COBRA unit members are merely roadblocks, and they don’t take too much work to bypass; once you do, you’ll never think of them again.

As per tradition, I took a snapshot of my end game stats screen:

mgs 3 final stats

I think that 22 hours and 45 minutes logged play time is a bit bloated; a few times, I left the game on the “pause” menu or sitting at the end of a codec call if I needed to do something else or got a phone call. I killed 142 people, but I swear the majority of those were after the fight with The Sorrow. Leading up to that legendary encounter, I was pretty conservative with lethal rounds. Other than that, I’m not sure what to make of the crocodile title rating…is that good? So-so? For beating the game on Normal difficulty, I got a bunch of special items, like a tuxedo and The Boss’ Patriot gun, but I’m not going back into the jungle just yet. Though I did miss the Trophies to poison a guard and blow up an ammunition shed. Hmm.

For some reason, I always thought that Peace Walker came out next in the series. Nope. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is up next, and I know very little about it, save for something about a funny install process and that Snake–as in Solid Snake–is old and coughing up blood. I’ll get to it soon. That is so long as another sneaking mission doesn’t occupy my attention first.

Solid Snake struggles with investigating the development of a new Metal Gear

Metal Gear Solid 2 initial thoughts

Well, with Suikoden done, I’m moving on to my next target for 2014, which is coincidentally another Konami title–replaying Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. You might’ve assumed I’d go right into Suikoden II, but there is a wee time-crunch hanging over my head. See, Dan Ryckert and Drew Scanlon are playing through the original Metal Gear Solid over at Giant Bomb, with hints that they’ll be tackling more tactical espionage action titles in the series afterwards. And they’re moving forward swiftly. Personally, I’d love to watch them replay Solid Snake’s first outing on the PlayStation 2 after I get to re-experience it myself. Call me selfish, but I don’t want my replay to be tainted by their actions or thoughts in any way whatsoever. Thus, I loaded up Metal Gear Solid 2 the other night via my disc copy of Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012.

To open, it didn’t go well, and I’m going to call my first hour or so with the game a complete wash. I didn’t even bother saving it once, knowing I’d like to try again and not immediately goof up and get spotted every few steps. I’m not sure exactly where everything went wrong, but the controls are a huge change from the–well, what now seems rudimentary–controls from Metal Gear Solid. The biggest addition is a useful first-person POV, one where you can aim your gun in and strafe. Before, you merely used it to look around the environment, but this new angle becomes vital when using the M9 tranquilizer gun because guards will fall asleep faster based on where you hit them with darts (go for the heads, Snake, not the knees). However, every time I went to use it, I kept trying to hit the Triangle button instead of the now used R1 button, causing Snake to stand still out in the open a few seconds longer than I’d like. I also found it harder to stick to surfaces using the analog stick, with Snake often slipping off cover and getting spotted. Ugh.

Wait, wait, wait. I guess I should actually try to some up the story before getting into the trials and triumphs of my replay. Metal Gear Solid 2 opens with a flashback in 2007, two years after the Shadow Moses incident that went down in the original Metal Gear Solid. Solid Snake and Otacon, now members of the non-governmental organization Philanthropy, are investigating the development of a new Metal Gear by American marines. To do this, Snake sneaks on to the tanker transporting the weapon and must produce legitimate pictures of it.

Of course, as many fans of the series already knows, this was a bait and switch tactic by Konami, and the tanker section is only a prologue, with the main meat of the game starring FOXHOUND’s newest recruit Raiden two years later. His objectives are to infiltrate the Big Shell clean-up facility to rescue hostages, including the U.S. president, from the terrorist group Sons of Liberty. This terrorist group is purported to be lead by Solid Snake and backed up by Dead Cell, a rogue anti-terror training unit. They are also threatening to destroy the facility they have seized.

So, I had trouble on the tanker. I played for an hour, got spotted a lot, tried to fight my way out of alert mode, died, and so on. At one point, because I didn’t remember how hanging worked, I dropped Snake right into the cold, unrelenting mistress known as the ocean. Thinking back to my VR days, I decided to try a few training sessions out and see if they helped any. Once I felt ready, I went back in to Metal Gear Solid 2 with the following repeating loudly and clearly in my mind: getting caught is not the end. See, games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mark of the Ninja really pushed for non-lethal playthroughs, the perfect kind, where you don’t even get spotted once. Well, that seems really hard and also not fun, so I’m not going to worry too much if things go awry rather fast because I darted by some guard’s vision cone too soon. Plus, I’ve found it is easier to simply let Raiden die than try to take out five or six guards or, even more impossible, hide from them; the game does a good job of auto-saving when you enter a new area.

Metal Gear Solid and its earlier brethren spoiled me by providing the radar from the get-go. Here, you have to first find a terminal and download a radar for each new area, which means when you first arrive somewhere, you can only see what you can see, and have to use the AP sensor as much as possible. This makes each new area tougher to initially run through, but also more exciting. There’s some strange new items, like pornographic magazines and coolant sprays, to use, and I am still horrible at holding up soldiers and getting them to shake dog tags free. Well, that’s only partially true; I can consistently sneak up behind a guard and get them to freeze, but then trying to reposition Raiden to take advantage of this always leads to mayhem.

If there is one thing I forgot about Metal Gear Solid 2, it’s that its color scheme, specifically once you get to Big Shell, is phenomenal. I know teal and orange is a bit overdone, but maybe it is used over and over for a reason–it works. I love traveling from one strut to another and being outside on the bridges with the sea gulls and blue sky. The music is intense and stirring, and while there is the occasional bit of still awkward and robotic dialogue (ironically from the Colonel), the voice acting still draws you in despite the ridiculous characters and situations. I particularly like the Rosemary and Jack stuff, which I somehow forgot entirely since I last played this back in college.

Right now, I’ve infiltrated Raiden’s way into Shell 1’s core by wearing an enemy’s disguise and carrying an assault rifle. Now I need to figure out how to work around a retinal scan in hopes of learning the location of the captured U.S. president from a man or woman named Ames, who apparently has a pacemaker. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this zany plot unravels as I really only remember the most zany moments–naked cartwheels–and not the quiet stuff, like Fortune’s affection for Vamp and the silly detail of Fatman drinking a fruity drink before starting the boss fight.

Every mission repeatedly in Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions

spot_g7-metalgearsolidvrmissions-1

It all began in Metal Gear Solid, right there on the main menu. Basically, you could take on 10 different tutorial missions all set in a Tron-inspired virtual reality that would teach Solid Snake–or rather you, the player–the ins and outs of being a sneaky, alarm-bypassing soldier. The idea behind this is that players were offered a chance to learn how to be Solid Snake outside of the game while not interrupting the main flow of the narrative-driven gameplay. Ironically, Codec calls from Mei Ling and friends during Metal Gear Solid‘s early hours would still happen, with them casually breaking the fourth wall to tell you how to save or crawl under a table and so on.

I found the 10 VR missions in Metal Gear Solid to be beyond easy. Even bland. I breezed through all of them without fault and then immediately found myself sad, wanting more challenge. Well, Paul, I say to myself, nodding and grinning and lightly stroking my somewhat out-of-control mountain beard, then I have good news…

Welcome to Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, an entire game devoted to all things tutorial missions, as well as some of that crazy mindfuckery that we’d eventually really get to know Kojima for with the series follow-up of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. VR Missions is exactly what it says on the tin, adding 300 additional training missions for the stealthy gamers salivating for more. Oh, and if one finishes all 300 missions, “mystery missions” are unlocked, and there’s also three bonus missions where you get to play as the ninja Gray Fox. And some kind of photo-taking event that reportedly takes up your entire memory card. I’ll spoil y’all reading this now that I won’t ever see that stuff, as I don’t expect to cross even the 80% completion rate; as of this writing, I’m around 73% and really feel like I’m done with VR Missions, ready to move on in my Metal Gear sojourn to Sons of Liberty (the PS3 version with Trophies!).

VR Missions is divided up into four sets of missions, but only two of them are accessible from the very start: Sneaking and Weapon. Basically, you have to grind out access to other categories by completing a certain percentage of the ones you already have available. This often means playing the same mission twice, but now on a timed version, which is not very fun or even Metal Gear-like, but I’ll get to that in just a bit. For now, here’s a breakdown of what the game offers mission-wise:

“Sneaking” consists of 15 missions, most of which are lifted whole cloth from the VR training included in the original Metal Gear Solid. I ran through them in record timing thanks to having just played them recently, and then you get to repeat these same missions all over again in “Time Attack” form, “Socom” form, and then the dreaded “Socom Time Attack” form. For those counting along, that right there is already 60 missions of the much touted 300 missions.

“Weapon” tasks you with target shooting missions in 5 levels for each of the game’s main weapons. Yup, even C4. You basically take out both stationary and moving targets with a limited amount of ammo to chew through. Some are more puzzle-based than others. Then you get to do it all over again in “Time Attack” form, totaling 70 missions. If you add these plus all the “Sneaking” ones, you get 130 missions, nearly half the game’s content.

The “Advanced” section of missions is a little trickier, as you now have to use the game’s cache of weapons to kill guards and avoid alarms. Your only goal is to obliterate everyone, however you deem fit, which leads to more creativity than previous missions allowed. Unfortunately, before you can play the levels for the next weapon, you must first complete all five of the current weapon’s levels, which only got difficult for me when the Nikita and grenades were involved. Solid Snake is not meant to throw grenades, and I mean that.

“Special” is where VR Missions stands uniquely above itself, and it’s a shame that to get there you have to grind through all those timed modes and redundant missions. You won’t gain access to it until you’ve completed 50% of the rest of the game (around 150 missions). The first section of “Special” is “Puzzle” mode, where you need to use physics to knock off unreachable guards from platforms. Considering you’re using PS1-era physics, it’s not the easiest of tasks, but silly enough ideas. There’s some other stuff, but you need to be above 80% to see it, and alas, I’m not there. This means I’m missing out on the “Mystery” mode where you apparently solve Genome Soldier murders by examining rooms for clues. Oh, and those ninja missions, a fight against a giant Genome soldier (yes, I’ve seen the screenshot), and some kind of endurance run where you have to do like 10 missions in a row on one single bar of health, which I tried once and did not complete.

I was really excited about the idea of VR Missions and even enjoying everything early on, as seeing Snake leap triumphantly when you finish a set of missions was enough to fuel me forward, but as I quickly saw that I’d have to grind out missions to open up more to play…well, my enthusiasm dwindled. Especially when it came to the “Time Attack” forms of missions, which require Solid Snake to move fast and strike faster. He is a man that crouches, that crawls, that slinks around corners, so having him timed to kill X soldiers in X amount of time really makes you throw all that stealth stuff away and just run up to snap necks or pop silently with the Socom pistol. It’s certainly not at all how I like to play these games, and it certainly isn’t how the game was built; for example, try to crawl up behind an enemy, stand, and grab him, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

VR Missions is not the most visually exciting game, as it is the same virtual reality setup from mission to mission. Sometimes it is gold-colored, sometimes light blue. Might even get green at one time or two. Strangely, you can still see the cold breath of Solid Snake and the enemy guards. The music is fine if limited, and all the voice sample cues come from the original Metal Gear Solid, so don’t expect any new story beats here, unless you find hidden layers in how many times Naomi Hunter can say, “Impressive, Snake.”

Again, I’m disappointed that most of VR Missions is the same mission, but on repeat, and that the really crazy stuff is locked away for a long, long time. I might end up looking some stuff up via YouTube as I’m just not interested in grinding out those “Time Attack” levels. A shame, but oh well–this isn’t a traditional game, more like bonus DLC for those that really love these kinds of challenges. Me? I’m ready to move on to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and hopefully I’ve grown stronger as a Solid Snake–but not Raiden–thanks to VR Missions. We’ll see, I guess.

Sixteen years later, Metal Gear Solid is still big budget stealth and action

mgs1 ps1 tank hangar2

Before I start, let me just own up to the fact that this blog post’s picture is taken from Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, the 2004 remake for the GameCube. I tried finding decent screencaps from the original PlayStation 1 version, but none of them were good enough to fill the slot, all too muddy or pixelated or extremely low res; I have some standards to uphold, y’know.

Released in 1998, some eight years after Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid is much more of the same stealth and shoot gameplay found in the previous game, but now in glorious 3D. Well, for the time, it was pretty glorious. Either it hasn’t aged well or I had a phenomenal imagination as a teenager, able to make faces appear where flat texture washes were, able to see actual footprints in the snow instead of grayish-black globs that faded fast, and, though I’m reluctant to admit this, able to see Meryl as a stunning, do-anything-for-her kind of woman instead of the feisty, yet lifeless character she actually turned out to be. Thankfully, looks aren’t everything, and where Metal Gear Solid shone was in the gameplay–which I now know was a nearly identical rehash of what went down in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake–but it was fun, is still a decent amount of fun these days, and helped balance the wordy storytelling with interesting set pieces and things to do in them.

The story, as simply as can be said, goes a little something like this: Six years after Solid Snake, a war-hardened infiltrator of the U.S. special forces unit FOXHOUND, snuck into the military nation of Zanzibar Land and destroyed the armored bi-pedal tank Metal Gear D and its leader, the rogue FOXHOUND commander Big Boss, he’s called back to action. On a remote Alaskan island, Liquid Snake is operating a secret nuclear weapon disposal facility codenamed Shadow Moses with nefarious intentions. Also, he has some hostages. And so in goes the snake with nothing but his smokes and a loose plan of action to his name.

And this story goes from perfunctory to insane pretty quickly, but thanks to the power of voice acting, lengthier Codec chats, and movie-framed cutscenes, everything is told well and at a good pace. In fact, this is a fairly short, straightforward action adventure game in the seven to ten hour range. There really is no filler; everything is pushing Snake forward to the eventual showdown with Liquid Snake and whatever new incarnation of Metal Gear is around. David Hayter’s performance unequivocally defines that character, and he even shows some emotional range by the end of things, depending on whether or not you gave into Revolver Ocelot’s torture (I did). Some of the other voice actors lay the accents on pretty thick, like Mei Ling and Nastasha Romanenko, and it’s beyond clear from the first word that Master Miller says what’s going on there. But yeah, I found myself losing my mind again over the twists and turns, and I’m a sucker for the real footage of warheads exploding and storage buildings mixed in with the in-game cutscenes.

A lot of Metal Gear Solid‘s “unique” gameplay elements were lifted almost verbatim out of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and I never realized that until recently, since I got to play both of them back to back. Oh well, no biggie. Just learn your game history, that’s all. Mainly, I’m highlighting having to recover a Codec frequency from the game’s packaging, figuring out how to identify a woman disguised as a soldier, and changing the shape of a key based on hot/cold temperatures. There’s plenty of smaller nods too, but those are the big boys. Being a digital copy, I was happily surprised that I could still look up Meryl’s Codec frequency by accessing the manual through the pause menu. Maybe not as cool as it once was, flipping over the jewel case we all probably just tossed aside once the game’s CD was in our hungry PlayStation, but still pleasing.

Here’s a thing: I do remember the game being larger, with more areas to explore, but it’s actually quite contained. Maybe that was them new 3D graphics playing tricks on my still evolving mind. For instance, outside in the snow with Sniper Wolf, there’s really only a couple of screens to explore, whereas a teenage kid I felt I was lost in some snowy wilderness, far from the comfort of card key-activated doors and guard-alarming cameras. The buildings themselves are compact, and you’ll eventually come back to every locked door for one reason or another. Again, there’s a good amount of back and forthing, but it’s not as frustrating as in the previous games, mostly because it is much easier to stay alive this time around. Most of Snake’s deaths were a result of boss fights, which leads into the next paragraph nicely.

I’ve never had much luck with boss fights, especially Metal Gear ones. Those early NES games all followed followable patterns, but you could only make two or three mistakes before it was all over. Well, the same applies here, except I handled 75% of the bosses with ease. No, really. Sniper Wolf, Psycho Mantis, Revolver Ocelot–easy peasy. It was really the final three sequences–fighting Metal Gear Rex, hand-to-hand combat with your genetically identical bro Liquid Snake, and then that drive-and-gun escape sequence–that nearly proved too much for me. Thankfully, I soldiered on and watched that sun rise anew over that beautifully cold Alaskan horizon.

So yeah, I’m glad I got to revisit Metal Gear Solid in this self-assigned journey of mine. It was pretty enjoyable, even if I remembered it a little differently, but I don’t suspect I’ll touch it again for many years to come, if ever again at all. If you’ve never played it, however, and are just entering the franchise with, say, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, then I highly recommend it. You’ll probably even see some connection with how Kojima wrote Meryl in relation to some of the more controversial topics in his newest game.

Lastly, we’ll end as we have the previous two Metal Gear posts with my stats screen:

WP_20140420_001

Sorry for the blurry text. I think that says I saved 25 times and used a lot of rations. Anyone know if Leopard is a good rank to get?

Up next…Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions!

The Half-hour Hitbox: April 2014

april 2014 half-hour hitbox

Well, this turned into a terrible month, and so I haven’t been writing about games a lot here these last few days, but I still continued to add to this thing, like a man who pokes a fire looking for it to grow, to spread. And spread it has, so here are some short paragraphs about the games I’ve played for a bit, as well as the ones I’ve played for a good while and just haven’t gotten around to giving them their fancy own blog posts. All in due time, or possibly never again; I really can’t say right now.

Line ’em up, knock ’em down.

The Everloom

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When does a dream become a nightmare? Is it when you can’t escape it? The Everloom is a minimalistic adventure game by Lucas Paakh that dances around these questions while guiding the player through a realm where imagination runs wild. It’s basically fetch quest after fetch quest, and I’d easily dismiss it as flat boring gameplay-wise, but it’s absolutely gorgeous to both look at and listen to. The pixel graphics are crisp and colorful, with some amazing parallax scrolling effects when moving throughout the forest section. Some bizarre characters and outcomes, too.

Where Is My Beard?

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A strange and cute little Flash physics-based puzzle game. Man, that was a mouthful. Where Is My Beard? tasks you with rolling a bearded face–also known as a decapitated head–into non-bearded face-shapes to decorate them with facial hair. Sometimes this involves building a bridge across a gap and other times involves playing with gravity just right to that the ball hits every single target. There are 20 levels in total, and only two really roadblocked me for a bit; thankfully, when you refresh the level, all the pieces you put down remain in place, so you can tinker with placement and keep trying things without having to rebuild your schematic from scratch. It’s got a fun art style á la The Binding of Isaac. Oh, and watch out for the crabs…

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

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A PlayStation Plus freebie for April 2014 and, from what I’ve played so far, a walk in the park. Granted, I only did the first world and am now in the toy-themed levels, but it’s a fairly mundane platformer, and yes, there’s irony there, given that it is set in a fantasy land and magical castle. You walk left and right, you jump on enemies to kill them, you collect things, you throw projectiles, and the bosses all follow a simple pattern. I love me some Disney, but this is just a little too tame for me, though it’s nice that the game came packaged with the original Genesis title as well.

Deadlight

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A freebie on the ol’ Xbox 360 this month for the Games With Gold campaign. Deadlight is a mix of Limbo and Shadow Complex, but with zombies–also called shadows–and more of a focus on puzzle platforming and avoiding combat when possible. I haven’t gotten too far, and so far, it’s okay. I’d probably be more impressed if I haven’t read most of The Walking Dead comics–all of volume one–and followed the show so closely, as they are pretty similar in both looks and story-telling. Also, the main character’s jumping is really clunky, and that’s something you want to make sure is right in your platforming game, that jumping to platforms feels smooth.

Disney Magical World

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I’ve definitely got a bigger post in the works for this Animal Crossing: New Leaf-wannabe and still own individualistic collectathon brimming with classic Disney characters and gimmicks. Not going to say anymore other than it has surprised me, and it’s kind of what I need right now in my life: a solid bit of distraction that does not make me work too hard to progress.

Metal Gear Solid

ps1 metal-gear-solid

Yup, my journey through all of the Metal Gear games continues, and I beat Metal Gear Solid over a couple of sittings, taking around 11 hours or so. As you might expect, I have many things to say about this one and Solid Snake and the use of FMV and remembering locations differently, meaning we’ll leave it for another day. Next on the list is…VR Missions, which I don’t expect to be very exciting, though I do hope they offer more of a challenge than the n00b-friendly ten in Metal Gear Solid‘s main menu. I wonder if I’ll be able to do ’em all.

Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, Episode 3: Muzzled!

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Not really picking up where the last episode ended, Wallace and Gromit meet Monty Muzzle, who comes to town to try and raise money for a dog shelter. Unfortunately, this mustached man has ulterior motives, and it falls upon Wallace and Gromit to save some dogs and get the townspeople’s money back before Monty can slink away. What follows is more of the same single item-only puzzles and funny dialogue. I looked up a solution or two, but enjoyed everything regardless, especially the idea of a fish and chips-flavored pie. Again, this episode ends on a big cliffhanger, one I really hope doesn’t get dropped as we move into the final act of this grand adventure.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.