Link to the Past is a new feature of where I will be posting once a month about the games that I grew up with.
Since this week marks 15 years since Metal Gear Solid was released in Japan, an article on my history with the first ‘Solid’ game in the Metal Gear series seemed apt.
Over the years since I first discovered games through my Mega Drive, I’ve a list of top 10 games that has changed time and time again over the years, and since I first played Metal Gear Solid in February 1999, it’s in no doubt at the top 3.
I first discovered Metal Gear Solid in the demo disc of Official PlayStation Magazine.
Once you heard the familiar techno-funk menu music and selected Metal Gear Solid you would begin the game. Here the player watched the game’s protagonist, Solid Snake, emerge from a pool of water and then all of a sudden you were thrown into action, evading four guards in an underground base. Having given the guards the slip you reach an elevator and in a true cinematic moment, you see Solid Snake appear, in his sneaking suit, and the logo ‘Metal Gear Solid’ appears.
The series began on the MSX as ‘Metal Gear’ with the iconic box art cover, which was a copy of Michael Bein in the first ‘Terminator’ film, and involved Solid Snake infiltrating the battleship ‘Outer Haven’ and defeating the head of the organisation, Big Boss.
So 12 years on, this is the third entry in the series. The reason this isn’t called Metal Gear 3, is because the creator, Hideo Kojima, wanted the name ‘Solid’ to reference Solid Snake, and the new title reflects the series’ first entry into fully 3D polygon graphics.
The story goes that a group of terrorists lead by Liquid Snake have invaded a facility called Shadow Moses, taking hostages and holding a nuclear weapon that will detonate in under 12 hours unless their demands are met. But it’s not your standard nuclear weapon.
As soon as you gain control of Solid Snake, you feel like you’re in the game, you’re part of the story.
When you see a codec conversation of the bomb having a time limit of under 12 hours, I used to think that an actual timer was counting down as I was playing through, hurriedly trying to finish it before the group unleashed the weapon.
Then once you reach a certain point, the game branches off into two ways.
Survive through a few stages of button mashing and save the girl, or submit and get the guy?
Throughout the game you need to use your head and make sure you’re not spotted, otherwise the alert is shown, and you better hide, otherwise it’s game over, and the familiar scream will be heard.
Soon as you meet with the DARPA Chief, everything goes up a gear, and you’re thrust into a shootout with Revolver Ocelot, and if you try and go through the wires, the C4 explodes, and it’s game over.
Another highlight was that soon after this you had to input the codec frequency that was on the back of the game case, so Meryl could open a door for you, and you could then use the cigarettes in your inventory so you could see the trip wires. One false move, and the door shuts, and deadly gas appears, ending the game.
The surprises just kept coming and coming.
Already at only a fifth of the way through the game, it’s a thrilling time, and the story that weaves through this is flawless. The only time the game gives you a breather is when you’re in the torture room, and between the stages you get thrown into a cell where another innovation occurs.
The boss fights throughout the game are an epic fight, from Revolver Ocelot, to a Ninja, to innovations with Psycho Mantis and finally, Metal Gear itself with Liquid Snake. In every fight, there’s no one same method to defeat a boss. With Psycho Mantis, he can read your every move, and you’ll run out of ammo in 5 minutes unless you simply plug your controller port into the second socket, which puts an end to his mind reading, and allowed you to defeat him in only a few minutes.
This, was mind blowing to me. The fact that the boss could know my every move and then ‘tricking’ him by switching the controller port, was innovation at its peak.
Other bosses such as the Ninja, who is the anti-hero of the game, faces off against you, and also helps you after a while in another memorable scene involving a prison, a guard, and ketchup.
The final battle is essentially in 3 parts; Metal Gear, then Liquid, then the Escape Route involving guards and Liquid. By the end there’s the feeling that it’s all to play for, that it’s solely a showdown between Solid Snake and Liquid Snake.
The game introduced innovations that are still in use today.
Stealth, which didn’t require you to face every single character that was a threat to you. You could grab them and strangle them, you could shoot, or you could simply hide in the shadows. Giving the player choice to this was a great innovation. Granted, I first toyed with a stealth feature in Tomb Raider 3 with the Nevada Compound level, but this was only one part of the game, not the leg of an overall seat.
Story, with FMV scenes that gave backstory and depth to all of the characters, and made you feel that you were in Shadow Moses as well.
(Jump to the 4 minute mark)
The game is spread over two disks, but if you just want to play the game and avoid the story, you can complete it in a weekend easily.
If this is your first time, I implore you to experience the game for what it is; an action-thriller with heart and a story with depth that will make you care of what happens to who you meet, and even who you face off against.
By the time you complete the game, you are given an item dependant on what you did in the torture scene. Each of these items gives you an incentive to go through the game again, to see what you can do different in situations, or by simply having more fun of sticking some C4 to the back of a guard.
The final scene gives the player a thought about the bigger picture. A picture of hope, a picture of adventure, a picture of redemption. And then once the credits roll, an extra scene is given to give the player a hint of who would be the protagonist for Metal Gear Solid 2.
With the subsequent games in the series, they all reference this game in some way. You experience a moment of nostalgia in Metal Gear Solid 4 with a return to Shadow Moses, and it almost makes you want a remake for the Playstation 4. There was a remake on the Gamecube with the features introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2, such as the ‘Evasion’ mode and first person view, but with different voice actors and new music, it just didn’t feel the same.
To sum up, this is a game that I still keep coming back to time and time again, and to me it was the beginning of a game telling a story so well in this medium. The subsequent games are also of a high caliber, but they don’t quite reach the same standard of what this game soared to.
Metal Gear Solid introduced innovations that are still being used today in games such as Splinter Cell, Hitman and many more third person games.
It’s a game that would be a turning point of when story and action became so interwined that you would happily sit through the many cut scenes just to see how they came to be at Shadow Moses.
I have it on my Vita, and on my original Playstation, with a memory card save with about 12 playthroughs over ever since that first fateful one, and many more to come.
It’s available on the Playstation Network for PS Vita and PlayStation 3, and can be bought on the PC.