Tag Archives: Solid Snake

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes on a 1960s Soviet jungle setting

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I’ve only played through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater once in my life, and I remember very little, save for the obvious much-written about boss fight with The End. And a few other details. Borrowing the game from a friend kept the pressure on me to burn through Naked Snake’s map-less operation as quickly as possible and return it to its rightful owner. This is ultimately why I no longer borrow things; something goes wonky in my brain, and all I can concentrate on it how I’m holding captive someone else’s possession, as if they are just standing behind me, tapping their foot in impatience, demanding it all back.

All that said, I was hoping to not start playing Snake Eater this soon, especially considering I just started Final Fantasy IX up. Timing is everything though, and Metal Gear Scanlon is back in action, which means I need to stay a bit ahead of them to both enjoy my second replay and experience Drew’s first dip into Hideo Kojima’s Cold War antics. For me, it’s more enjoyably knowing what’s coming up and watching someone’s reaction as they get there. Granted, I don’t need to see everything first, but knowing that a young revolver-less Ocelot meows to summon extra back-up is the sort of ridiculousness that I like to be aware of as I watch Giant Bomb play.

It’s only been a few months since I took down twenty-five Metal Gear Rays in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but whatever skills I refined then are now completely gone. In the few hours I’ve spent running through a Soviet Union rainforest, I’ve lead Naked Snake to his death more than at least twenty times already, and this was me just trying to get a handle on movement, shooting, and CQC-ing, all of which are still as clunky as ever. I was totally spoiled by radar and vision cones in the last game, now struggling with even being able to tell what’s around me when flat on my stomach in some thick, dark grass. There’s also a ton more meters to pay attention to–health, stamina, camouflage, battery life, the cure menu, your backpack–as well as your surroundings, such as enemies, wildlife, hidden mines, and so on. As a general rule, I go into these games trying to be stealthy and unseen, but I’m not afraid to pop an unconscious soldier in the head if he’s giving me grief; yes, I know what repercussions this will wrought.

Progress-wise, I burned through the Virtuous Mission, showed The Pain, The Fear, and The End what real pain, fear, and end is, respectively, during Operation Snake Eater, if you catch my drift. If I’m being honest, I died once during the ravine-split encounter versus young Ocelot before those named gobbers, but didn’t die at all during the named boss fights. Which I find odd. I’m playing on Normal, but so far, I feel like these fights were…fairly easy. Certainly much more forgiving than the boss fights in Metal Gear Solid. Amusingly, I have more trouble getting through an area of four or five guards, or one loaded with booby-traps.

Everyone plays Metal Gear Solid differently. That’s just a way of life. I’d love to be sneaky all the time, but when the going gets rough, I do enjoy using CQC to knock dudes unconscious. Or the occasional shotgun blast to see their bodies cartoonishly zip backwards. Right now, there’s a lot of…let’s call it heated criticism over how Drew is playing in Metal Gear Scanlon 3, but I think he’s solving problems as he see fits. Personally, I’d like to see Dan be less of a backseat driver and let his friend experience the game in his own manner, his own pace. Sure, we as viewers might miss some content or silly codec calls or episodes could go on for pretty long, but if it means Drew takes his time (or doesn’t) and clears a room of soldiers (or doesn’t) without being seen (or is), then that’s more rewarding and still entertaining.

With that, I just saved before the ladder sequence. You know what I speak of. I’m thinking I’m now past the halfway mark, with a goal of finishing Snake Eater up soon so I can get back to learning equipped abilities in Final Fantasy IX.

Metal Gear Solid 2, an unpredictable mix of gloss and dross

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I wish I could remember whether I knew about the big early twist in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty or not before I deep dove into it. At this stage, it just seems like one of those known certainties that everyone who games is aware of. I was certainly reading a lot of gaming magazines at the time, though the Internet was not yet the spoiler battlefield we have to crawl through today. Plus, at the time, I had other priorities to worry about: drawing, failing at drawing, crying in bathrooms, girls, making friends, losing friends, throwing up in bathrooms, and pondering the future. Hideo Kojima’s second cool action guy game in the Metal Gear Solid series came out in November 2001, my freshman year of college at Rowan University when I was still rocking my original PlayStation and using a dorm-mate’s PlayStation 2 to experience things like Grand Theft Auto III.

In fact, I remember exactly when I got my copy of Metal Gear Solid 2 and for how much; the receipt is still in the case, though now very faded after about twelve years. I snagged it on November 22, 2002 for $16.99 at the Deptford Mall’s GameStop (the receipt says the cashier’s name was Jay–hey Jay!) and then visited a girl at a candy store before heading home to immerse myself in nanomachine-driven mindfuckery and yellow-green gummi worms. That was also probably roughly the last time I played it, completing it over a few days or so while juggling school, dates, something of a social life, and the impending Thanksgiving break.

All right, imagine if I’m telling you this plot summary via Codec and you can use the analog sticks to be silly and zoom in on my face. You start out by reprising your role as Solid Snake, ex-FOXHOUND operative, who is now working with his Shadow Moses buddy Otacon to stop the production of Metal Gear machines by the military. Currently, Snake sneaks aboard a tanker supposedly housing Metal Gear RAY, an anti-Metal Gear machine. Spoiler alert, but after this section runs its course, the story begins somewhere else, starring someone else. Big Shell, a massive offshore clean-up facility, has been seized by a group of terrorists calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty” and demanding a large ransom in exchange for the life of the POTUS. You now play as Raiden, a greenhorn member of FOXHOUND fresh out of VR training and ready for his first real mission.

There are many things that stand out when you go right from Metal Gear Solid to Metal Gear Solid 2, and I’m not just talking about the graphical uptick that greatly allows characters to emote more voicelessly. The goal remains the same and always has since the beginning: sneak, scurry, crawl, cartwheel, and occasionally shoot your way past enemies until you’ve reached your destination. However, Metal Gear Solid 2 really ups the ante, giving both Snake and Raiden new tools, new ways of traversing, and new perspectives. My favorite was being able to hop over guard rails to a floor below or, if needed, just hang there until the enemy walks past. You can also dive into a roll, if you need to get under a desk real fast. Plus, there’s the first-person shooting perspective, which is vital for using the tranquilizer gun, as well as looking around corners. That said, the controls are still tough to master and do not work 100% of the time (I won’t even go into how many times I’d try to pick up an unconscious guard only to immediately drop them back down); in line with that, I’ll also never master holding up an enemy from behind and then walking in front of them, weapon still drawn, to make them nervous. I got less than five dog tags total during my replay.

I continue to find it easier to simply die or jump off into the water after being spotted in Metal Gear games, rather than try to hide and wait for the enemies to go back to their standard patrol routes. For one thing, in Metal Gear Solid 2, the enemy artificial intelligence got a serious boost, as they will hunt you down, call for reinforcements, double-check areas, and so forth. Their vision cones also extend a bit further than what the radar actually displays, which leads to me getting spotted more often than I wanted. Still, one of my favorite moments is when Snake leans against a wall and accidentally knocks over a fire extinguisher, alerting a nearby guard. In fact, I had more trouble dealing with guards and flying gun-toting drones than boss fights, which is probably the completely opposite with all the previous games in the series.

The action in Metal Gear Solid 2 is mostly solid (pun intended), but it’s the story that many remember (or continue to disbelieve). It goes to some zany places, and I truthfully don’t know how I swallowed it all the first time I completed it, doing naked cartwheels and reliving the past. That said, that’s one of my favorite thing about this series, the clash of super series tech talk and then the ghost of a dead twin brother in the arm of your enemy. Fighting a tentacle-wielding ex-U.S. President after taking down a bunch of Metal Gear RAYs. Learning about top-secret military weapon technology while hiding in a locker and masturbating to pin-up posters. I’m so looking forward to Giant Bomb‘s playthrough, especially given the moments in the original game that Drew scoffed at; he has no idea what’s in store.

There’s a lot of bonus stuff to experience on this copy of Metal Gear Sold 2 from the Legacy Collection. Not sure if it was included in the original or not. Sadly, there’s no skate-boarding mini-game from the Substance version, which I’ve always heard was silly fun. Included though are a bunch of VR missions, Snake Tales (five story-based missions featuring Solid Snake as the main character), and some kind of cutscene remix tool. I dabbled in each a wee bit, but think I’m sated for the time being.

Truthfully, this final summary blog post exists so I can continue sharing my end-game screen statistics with y’all:

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I also believe my code animal grade was…elephant? Which was what Drew got for his recent completion of Metal Gear Solid. I think elephants are pretty cool, but I feel like it’s a “bad” grade. Let’s compare rations across the series so far though:

  • Metal Gear – used 57 rations
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake – used 27 rations
  • Metal Gear Solid – used 90 rations (the photo I took is a little blurry and hard to decipher)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – used 69 rations

I’m not exactly sure what those statistics say about my skills, but at least I didn’t need to heal as much as a I did in the previous game. Either way, rations are yummers. I look forward to eating more of them, as well as snakes, in the next cool action guy game in the series. When will that happen, I muse out loud as I glance at the calendar and see that 2014 is dangerously close to closing. I don’t really know. My goal of playing through all the Metal Gear games this year is, alas, teetering on the edge, and I didn’t bother upgrading my grip strength to level 3.

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

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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.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #32 – Metal Gear

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Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

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

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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:

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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!

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, where stealthy men are made

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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 2besides 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:

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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!