Time Warp Thursday: Retrospective: Metal Gear

Time Warp Thursday: Retrospective: Metal Gear

A look back at Snake's legacy.

This week, one of gaming’s greatest icons makes a triumphant return in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.  While serving as an introduction to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes  takes its influence from the series’ illustrious past and makes a game that is both unique and familiar. So to celebrate Snake’s return, we’ve decide to kick off a whole new feature for us here at 3GEM: our very own Retrospective series.

Little Snakelets (1987-1990)

Snake was introduced to Japanese gamers on the MSX 2 computer in July of 1987 with Metal Gear.  The game introduced something never before seen in the action genre: stealth. This time around, pure brawn wouldn’t be enough for gamers to get to the end; they had to use their cunning and intellect to complete their objectives. However, North American gamers were treated to a very different game just a few months later.

Metal Gear  for the Nintendo Entertainment System threw out almost everything that defined the MSX 2 original. The NES version was all about more action, more intensity, and more bad translations. While the game is currently being ignored by Konami and series auteur Hideo Kojima, it helped cement the Metal Gear brand in North America – so much so that an “unofficial” sequel, Snake’s Revenge,  was released in 1990. And that one, too, was all about action, shooting, and blowing stuff up. But one thing was for certain: Snake was on the rise.

A few months later in 1990, Hideo Kojima finally gave fans what they were looking for with a true sequel to the original Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.  The game pushed the boundaries of what was possible in terms of storytelling on an 8-bit system and took everything that made the original Metal Gear great and made it twice as good. Sadly, though, it took over 15 years for the game to ever reach our shores, and by then Snake had already moved onto bigger and better things.

Humble beginnings.

Snake Does Us A Solid (1998-2015)

Eight years after the last Metal Gear title, Kojima returned in force with the seminal Metal Gear Solid  for the PlayStation.  Upon its release, the game was showered with critical acclaim and hailed as one of the PlayStation’s premiere titles thanks in no small part to its incredible storyline, well thought-out set pieces, and gameplay unlike anything we had ever seen before. Almost overnight, a throng of imitators popped up to try to fill Snake’s boots. In the end, only Snake could fill those shoes – or so we thought.

Gamers were treated to one of the biggest bait and switches in gaming history when Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty landed on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. Instead of the game starring Snake, we were put in control of the naked, cartwheeling Raiden. Along with the change of protagonist, the series also took a more philosophical approach to its storytelling which, while alienating to some long-time fans, was a bold new direction for one of gaming’s heavy hitters.

Well this is awkward.

A few years later, the PlayStation 2 was home to another solid hit with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  Once again, the game garnered critical acclaim thanks in part to its more traditional story and the integration of RPG and survival elements throughout. This game cemented the series as one that constantly delivers, no matter what wacky new elements it introduces, and gamers couldn’t wait for Snake’s next mission.

Fast forward to 2008, and the PlayStation 3 was still looking to find its audience. Well, if one game went a long way in helping the PS3 find its success, it has to be Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots.  It pushed what was then possible on the PS3 and gave people a reason that they had to buy a PS3. And while some will lament the inclusion of hours worth of cutscenes, few will deny that Guns of the Patriots  was a fitting end to Snake’s saga… or so we thought.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what Metal Gear Solid V  will offer thanks to the Ground Zeroes  introduction pack. And while we’re still months away from seeing how the events of The Phantom Pain  will play out, we’re already giddy with excitement at the thought of guiding Snake through a massive sprawling world.

So we’ve covered the early 8-bit games and the “mainline” Metal Gear Solid story arc, but there’s a ton more Snake to be found, so read on!

A Snake In Your Hands

Did you know that the first portable Metal Gear game was for the Game Boy Color? And that it was AMAZING? Metal Gear Solid (GBC)  was released in 2000 and served as an “alternate story” to the more famous PlayStation version. This was followed up by Metal Gear Acid  for the PlayStation Portable in 2004 and its sequel a year later. These games introduced a strategic card-collecting element to the franchise and were excellent options for early adopters of Sony’s first handheld.

The Metal Gear love didn’t end for the PSP – the system not only received two original Metal Gear games, but two of the best the franchise has ever spawned. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops  in 2006 and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker  are both considered some of the best games to ever land on the PlayStation Portable, so much so that fans are consistently knocking on Konami’s door asking for sequels to be produced for the PlayStation Vita.

Lastly, the series also gave so love to mobile platforms. Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Touch  and Special Ops  (Japan Only) may not be the best games in the series, but they helped expand the reach of the Metal Gear brand outside of traditional gaming mediums.

The best PSP game?

Slithering Spinoffs

We’ll end this look back at Snake’s handiwork with several spinoffs, remakes, and random things that Snake’s been featured in.

In 2004, the struggling Nintendo GameCube got a remake of Metal Gear Solid  titled Twin Snakes  that incorporated the control scheme of Metal Gear Solid 2  with the story from the PlayStation classic. The game garnered universal acclaim (again) but since then, Nintendo’s relationship with Solid Snake can best be described as cool, as the only other Metal Gear game to appear on Nintendo hardware was the enhanced remake of Metal Gear Solid 3  for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. At least Snake was a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Metal Gear Online  was released for the PlayStation 3 in 2008, albeit only in Japan. The game allows up to 16 players to engage in competitive and cooperative gameplay. While gamers in North America were disappointed that the title never made it to our shores, Kojima has promised that a revamped version will be included in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,  so we have that to look forward to as well.

Last we have, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.  In addition to making my spell-checker cringe, the title is unique for many reasons. For one it marks the return of Raiden (now a cyborg) to the series and the gameplay is much, much, MUCH more action-focused than any of the games that came before.

Well this isn’t very stealthy.

Innovation and quality are terms that have defined the Metal Gear franchise from the very beginning and nothing looks like it’s about to change as the series heads to the next-generation (I guess it’s the current generation now…). It’s rare that a game series is completely filled with surefire hits and quality releases, but the Metal Gear franchise is exactly that – Solid.

This concludes our first ever Retrospective. Liked it? Hated it? Have suggestions for our next installment? Let us know in the comments below.