Monday, April 20, 2009

DFB – “Operation Intrude F014” (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake) – Part IV

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake remains tied with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater as my second favorite title in the entire franchise. For a 1990 game, it did a startling number of amazing things. Most importantly, it still communicates proficiently two decades after it’s initial release. The first Metal Gear was admirable for it’s time, but it’s sequel upped the ante so much, that it actually infected the perception it’s own successors. Make no mistake, the Solid games are all excellent titles, but the increases in their abilities as games were noticeably smaller starting from the obligatory awe that comes with shoving an acclaimed franchise into 3D (a.k.a. Metal Gear Solid). I don’t buy that whole “we’re only going to get incremental increases from now on” argument either. Sure enough, the changes and “exceeds” that will happen to video-games will no doubt eventually become more subtle and increasingly smaller. However, pretending to perceive certain absolute limits of the medium right now is insipid and disgustingly pragmatic. This game also served as a primer for what would later be pedestalized by many in it’s Playstation successor as well. It introduced an individual cinematic “release” (no matter how silly of a take it is on Western film) that still defines a chunk of the franchise today. Most stand by the quick-hit assumption that Metal Gear Solid is the surfacing reality of “Kojima being trapped in a filmmaker’s body”, but I firmly assert that it’s this game that shows such realization (with Metal Gear’s only limitation being it’s blatant technical limitations). Metal Gear is Kojima’s first game, Metal Gear 2 is Kojima’s first cinematic game, and the Metal Gear Solid franchise is him unwaveringly attempting to beat the two mediums into one (with all of them being only chartable evolutions on Metal Gear 2).

The symptoms are apparent here as well; the Metal Gear franchise’s enjoyable introduction sequences started with this title. The series spirals forth from a minimalist movie-like design sequence towards:

MGS1: A humble, yet slowly building introduction onto a cold and solitary island.
MGS2: A “self-aware” cinematic experience quickly gaining momentum.
MGS3: A competently crafted citation on James Bond films.
MGS4: An austere commentary on the evolution of not only a game’s fictional war construct, but a gamer’s experiential relationship with it.


One of my favorite video-game introductions.

Truly Holstering a Gamer’s Firearm.

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Though I intend to chip away that this with more resolve as I move into Metal Gear Solid, this post is inspiring enough for me to showcase Metal Gear 2’s place in such an topic. Though I played this game much later after it’s release (I first played it after Metal Gear SOLID 2), I imagine this being the first title that I would have truly been “putting my gun away”. Like I just stated, there will be some deeper analysis in the “bigger context” as I make my way to the Shadow Moses incident, but for right now I admire that Metal Gear 2: that still inspires me to actually sneak around. Integral parts to this actuality would obviously be Snake’s little makeshift hiding places in addition to his ability to duck and crawl beneath them now. Sure, I personally begin to butt up against it sometimes in the narrative context (e.g. “WHY IS THIS HIDLING PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN DESERT?!”), but it’s a realization to what I described in a previous entry (see Part II – “Complex Combat”). I don’t know if Snake has that single action that will define him in “gaming’s eye”, but as this game and it’s successors commendably try to iterate on, it’s the eventuality that Snake’s only option is that of collective actions, not just a single one (the essence of the word “sneak”). I realized this in Metal Gear 2 while trailing the green beret. As perversely gimmicky as that section of the game is, it perfectly illustrates a sort of fundamental paradigm that the entire series runs off of. On the surface, it’s a comically annoying trailing sequence with a music track composed of leitmotifs suspiciously reminiscent of Mission Impossible. Beyond that however, it’s baring Metal Gear’s soul in such a way that won’t be seen again until nearly the entirety of Metal Gear Solid 3.

Art Imitates Life

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As another idea I’m playing around with regarding my fan-devs, I’ve often wondered about the nature of “realism” regarding Snake’s weapons (for a very long time). It’s a common staple in not only Metal Gear, but 90% of video-games that nearly every weapon the player picks up will magically be stored in their “backpack of awesomeness”. I theorized how tampering with this notion could affect the layer and pacing of a Metal Gear Solid title now. It’s a fundamental acceptance that anybody with expertise in infiltration or desire to simply not want to be seen will want to have as few items with them as possible. Thus, is it overly ridiculous to postulate real-time weapon drops for Solid Snake? (e.g. titles such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion & Fallout III). Being able to store items much like an enemy’s body would create an extremely complex layering in how the player would tackle the game and it would temper the developer’s desires to just stick in as many weapons as they can. Dragging the Stinger Missile Launcher around should be a chore, not simply a convenient “It’s-a-game!” given. It works drastically different in the aforementioned RPG titles for reasons I won’t deviate to, but it would be a fantastic means to further establish stealth in a game, especially now. To give each weapon a “feel” and importance beyond “keys to this area or boss fight”, more emphasis should be placed on how they relate in any given space. This is just how it works people…I know that Konami was aware of this, at least at the time of Metal Gear Solid 3, as they humorously poked fun of “Snake’s backpack” on multiple occasions. Not to mention they began the weight mechanic that governed Snake’s stamina. That creates another issue in my eyes though as they’re commendable but ultimately futile attempts. Any more reason for a another meter in a cinematic game…well…it just makes matters more complicated.

Being Lost Starts to Feel Like Home.

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In Metal Gear, being lost was hell, as the goofy localization and somewhat clumsy design led to a lot of moments where even I simply shouted:

“FUCK IT, GIVE ME THE DAMN GUIDE!”

In Metal Gear 2 however, things were polished enough for the player to begin enjoy being in the dark. The inclusions like the radio seeing an increase in “airtime” are examples as to how such things came to be. Making one’s way back, to, and from certain areas creates a sense of place more so than even it’s successors. Gamers bitch and moan when a game makes them backtrack, but it’s a humorous admittance in my eyes. It’s yet another admittance to the cultivated consumerism on which gamers thrive:

“I WANT SOMETHING NEW AT EVERY SINGLE CORNER OF THE GAME”

People with that mindset can stuff it up their ass as far as I’m concerned. As long as the game is obeying it’s narrative context (assuming we’re talking about just narrative games for the moment of course), I’m all for praising a game for doing this. Dr. Madnar’s statement of Natasha being “somewhere” in his building meant not only did I have to backtrack across the entire game’s map, but I had to find her once I got there (then I had to get her in the damn bathroom). Instances like this certainly aren’t fun, but they don’t damage the game. No, they simply showcase people’s own narrow minded perceptions of it. Frustrations like this generate and sharpen experiences, more so than that worthless headshot you’re so proud of. I don’t even think Kojima and the minds behind Metal Gear were consciously trying to cultivate such thought (which is why the poor little man has such a crackpot theory on why his own games aren’t art). I actually think it’s the simple action of Asian design discipline and humor being filtered over in a Western context. Maybe that’s just me reading more into the matter than I should though... as this blog is nothing more than the equivalent to Dumbledore’s Pensive for me. Having somewhere to constructively dump out one’s “exhaust-thoughts” is a godsend.

Now to and for those actually interested in knowing or re-reading Metal Gear’s story…here’s the continuation of my progress (from a narrative point of view)…

Plot Overview – Catchup on My Progress

*Apology/Correction* - In my last few posts, I made the mistake of establishing Zanzibar Land as an African nation. According to the recent information I got while re-playing these, I’ve seen it described as an central-Asian establishment. I’m pretty sure I have some reason as to why I got mixed up (probably some twisted context on my part from Metal Gear Solid’s description), but I just thought I’d point it out either way.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake picks up roughly four years after the Operation Intrude N313 (The Outer Heaven insurrection).
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In the year 1999, oil reserves are dangerously at a global critical low and the planet is on the verge of taking drastic measures in order to compensate. Fortunately, Dr. Kio Marv has a breakthrough with bioengineering, which allows the creation of an organism that excretes a high-grade petroleum equivalent (with gracious financial margin no less). This creation (dubbed “OILIX”) was to be presented to a conference when Dr. Marv is suddenly kidnapped in transit. His detainers were members of “Zanzibar Land”, a fortified fortress in central Asia composed of hostile mercenaries seizing nuclear weaponry at will (which has left them as the world’s only nuclear superpower). Their goal was complete hegemony over Marv’s new creation. With OILIX control added to their overwhelming nuclear capabilities, Zanzibar Land would virtually be a truly absolute global authority.

Meanwhile, Foxhound has come under new command and it’s current leader (Roy Campbell) seeks out the assistance of infiltrations expert Solid Snake, who retired after his mission at Outer Heaven. After Solid Snake successfully penetrates Zanzibar Land, Campbell informs him (through a radio transceiver) of the necessary steps he’ll have to take in order to rescue Dr. Marv. After proceeding through the entrance of Outer Heaven (via ventilation ducts), Snake is contacted by an inside informant, Holly White. White is a CIA agent posing as a journalist for access to Zanzibar Land. She informs Snake that she’ll help in any way she can and he continues deeper into the facility. While making his way around the third floor, Snake finally finds Dr. Kio Marv, but as he reaches him, the scientist surprisingly reprimands Snake (and Foxhound) for being behind the times and reveals he’s an imposter. The figure then divulges himself as a mysterious man disguised in all black, maneuvering in what most would identify as a “ninja”. The figure addresses himself as “Black Color” and proceeds to assault Snake. Against a formidable assault, Snake is able to neutralize his opponent and the ninja finally reveals his identity, Kyle Schneider. Schneider was part of the resistance squad that helped Snake during Outer Heaven four years ago. Snake assumed him dead after his last transmission (where Schneider unsuccessfully tried to warn Snake that Big Boss was behind Outer Heaven’s actions). Schneider then recalls how a bombing run (initiated by NATO) decimated all the innocent survivors of Outer Heaven. He continues to recount to Snake how “someone” saved his life and gave him a new cause and purpose, which included fighting for Zanzibar Land. Snake is flabbergasted by the apparent actions of his own military, but Schneider just laments Snake’s naivety. With his remaining strength, Schneider aids Snake by giving him directions and a keycard, which allow him to proceed further towards Dr. Marv; Schneider then passes away soon afterwards.

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Following Schneider’s directions, Snake trails an individual guard (notable by his green beret) through a jungle. After tailing the solider, Snake arrives at a building, which he hopefully enters in order to rescue Dr. Marv. Inside however, Snake finds absolutely nothing…but hears a very peculiar sequence of tappings on a wall to his right. As he exits the building, Campbell calls him and informs that the tappings are a form of Morse code, revealing a frequency that he can reach on his own radio. When Snake calls the frequency however, it’s not Dr. Marv who answers…It’s Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar, the same scientist who designed the TX-55 Metal Gear at Outer Heaven. He informs Snake that he was captured along with Marv (who he says has been moved to a different building). He also tells Snake that his continued presence at ZL means precisely what Snake fears; a new Metal Gear model of Metal Gear has been developed. Madar tells Snake that the TX-55 was simply a prototype, made as a precursor to the current model. He also informs Snake of the most disturbing news…Big Boss is the one behind all of Zanzibar Land’s current actions. Madnar continues on, expressing to Snake that rescuing Marv takes priority, so he advises to be left where he is for the time being. Snake agrees and proceeds through back through the jungle and ends up at a swamp. While making his way through the swamp, Snake comes across small children who give him clues about the most viable path to take through the otherwise inaccessible swampland. As Snake finally reaches the other side of the marsh, he finds another building, which he then proceeds to enter. Inside, he encounters a new Zanzibar Land elite soldier, The Running Man. The Running Man then boasts about his abilities (living up to his namesake with extraordinary speed) and proceeds to fill the room with gas, informing Snake that in order to defeat him, he must catch him. Snake is far too slow to keep up with the mercenary, but outsmarts the unwitty soldier by using his own speed against him; he places hidden land mines in his path and then chases him around the building, running him directly into them. Upon his defeat, The Running man requests Snake’s name seemingly in an admittance of respect. The fallen mercenary then laments his loss and explodes, leaving behind a keycard for Snake to proceed further.

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As Snake makes his way back through the jungle, he uses his newly acquired keycard to search the main Zanzibar building. Doing so allows his acquirement of Stinger missiles. Snake then makes his way across a desert in search of Dr. Marv. As Snake is treading through the sand, Holly contacts him and warns him against the purposeful “squeaking” of the sand meant to alert guards to his presence. Using this information, he successfully crosses the desert by crawling under the vehicles, just under the guards’ noses. However, as Snake reaches the other end of the desert, he’s presented with another obstacle blocking his progress, a Hind D alerted to his presence. Snake is fortunately able to deal with this by making quick-use of his newly-found Stinger missiles and cover provided by the desert heliport. Afterwards, Snake infiltrates the next heavily-guarded building by disguising himself as goods for it’s interior (via his cardboard box). Inside, Snake begins to make his way around when he’s contacted by Holly again. She reveals that she’s been captured and locked in a room (and she was blindfolded in transit so she doesn’t know where). However, she describes to Snake what she hears in the surrounding rooms, providing him with a “sound map” to investigate. After searching the massive tower, Snake comes across a waterway in the basement, where children roam, providing him with “empty” clues to Holly’s whereabouts. Luckily, Snake is able to find a room in which he can hear the same things Holly described to him earlier. He then feels out the walls and discovers she’s been sealed in the adjacent room. After blowing through it (via plastic explosives) he then discovers the captive Holly. She gives Snake a copied key card and thanks him for his help. She also tells him of a carrier pigeon that is supposedly carrying some sort of clue regarding Dr. Marv. Keeping this in mind, Snake continues deeper into the tower using Holly’s keycard. With it, he’s able to locate what more wandering children refer to as “green pineapples”, better known as hand grenades. While making his way further into the tower, he is ambushed by another Zanzibar Elite soldier, who is crawling on the ceiling of the 30th’s floor. This mercenary (known as The Red Blaster) assaults Snake by tossing grenades at him via his advantageous position. His upper hand is further conditioned as the corridor they’re both on features wires scattered about, which limit Snake’s movement. This allows Red Blaster to leisurely and sadistically toss grenades him. Against the odds however, Snake is once again able to dispatch the crafty soldier, and continues further upwards…towards the tower’s roof (in search for the pigeon that Holly described).

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On the roof, Snake finally locates the carrier pigeon, but is unable to catch him. Using the advice from his radio support (Yozef Norden, animal expert), he learns that certain types of his own rations can be used to lure the gluttonous bird. Using this advice, he’s able to capture the bird and finds a note attached upon it which reads:

“HELP! WiS.OhIO KIO MARV”

Snake is able to decode the message and learns that it’s a frequency. He calls it and finally finds himself speaking to Dr. Kio Marv. Unfortunately, the poor man immediately begins to speak hurriedly in a language which Snake can’t understand at all. Snake then contacts Dr. Madnar again and the doctor tells him that Dr. Marv is Czech, and neither of them will be able to understand him. He does however, tell Snake to seek out Natasha Markova, who is an STB agent that was captured (but she escaped) with both doctors to Zanzibar Land. He further elaborates to Snake that she would be able to translate for Dr. Marv. The only clue Madnar can give to her location however is that she’s in his complex, the main Zanzibar building. They both then come to the simple conclusion that making contact with her will be easiest when she uses “her respective restroom”. Snake then makes his way all the way back to the first building of the complex and discovers more children on his way to the previously inaccessible parts of the building. After much searching, Snake is able to locate a single soldier deceitfully making “his” way into the women’s restroom. He then trails the soldier inside and discovers that is indeed, Natasha Markova. She and Snake engage in flirtatious banter for a moment and she then uses Snake’s transceiver to contact Dr. Marv and translate for him. She tells Snake that Dr. Marv is located in the detention center, which is further north. She then aids Snake in accessing the basement, which leads them to rescue Dr. Madnar who was also being held in the same building.

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The three then proceed to make their way through the labyrinthine basement until Dr. Madnar announces very painfully that he must make a trip to the restroom. As he’s off handling his business, Natasha and Snake discuss why she quit her previous career of ice skating to become a government agent. She also relates the fateful irony of three unlikely-grouped people making their way through the sewers. Supposedly it reminds her of a story told by her mother in which she experienced a similar situation during a World War II escape. After this, she then tells Snake of her previous affair with a young man known as “Frank Jaeger”, whom she was very much in love with. The two were separated after she was refused asylum and they never saw each other again. As the two begin to idly blossom a relationship, Dr. Madnar returns from an extremely long restroom break (to which Snake immediately but quietly identifies as suspicious). As the trio continues to make their way through the basement, they finally reach an elevator and make their way up to the ground level. They then attempt to cross a frail-looking bridge overlooking a canyon. They proceed to make their way across one at a time, starting with Dr. Madnar. Natasha then crosses and as she’s halfway across, she advises Snake that it’s safe to proceed. Unfortunately, as Snake begins to cross, Natasha’s position is suddenly struck by a missile, flinging both her and Snake back on land, opposite Dr. Madnar. Snake was unharmed, but unfortunately Natasha was struck dead on. Snake tells her to hang on, but Natasha seems to be content with her rapidly worsening condition. She then laments her imminent passing and gives Snake a new keycard along with her brooch to use. Snake is curious to what the brooch’s purpose is and asks Natasha about it. However, Natasha is only able to utter the word “…Frank…” before dying in Snake’s arms. Suddenly, Dr. Madnar screams out for Snake and he is witnessed being captured by two Zanzibar Land guards. Snake is helpless to prevent this, as the now-destroyed bridge is separating him from Dr. Madnar’s position. As he watches the doctor being being taken away, two giant mechanical feet suddenly step upon the cliffside. Snake looks up and instantly recognizes the sight…Metal Gear. What he doesn’t expect however, is the voice arrogantly shouting his name from the cockpit. He looks up and notices Gray Fox, piloting the machine. This is the same soldier, who served as Snake’s mentor and friend, not to mention who Snake saved during the Outer Heaven insurgence four years prior. Most disturbingly however, this is the highest ranked member of Foxhound ever, exclusively holding the top-ranked code name “Fox”.

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Fox then calls Snake on his radio and advises him to give up and leave the country (also that he’s taking Dr. Madnar with him). He then tells Snake that as a friend, he’ll let him go this time and then marches off in Metal Gear. Snake then runs up to the destroyed remains of the bridge shouting contemptuously that he’ll never give up. He then turns around and makes his way back to the main Zanzibar building, leaving Natasha’s body by the cliffside…

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To be continued…

“Les Enfants Disque” #1

Similarities between Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake & Metal Gear Solid, that’s a list that’s surprisingly longer than most people realize. Even the tangible copy of the game itself is a parody, as Metal Gear Solid is a “clone” in of itself. In addition to the more general “Recurring Thechanics” section, I’m going to use this as a repository to process all the things that Metal Gear 2 does that will initially be copied and pasted directly into it’s 3D successor (Metal Gear Solid).

1 - Reanimated Ally's Return in the Form of a Ninja

Kyle Schneider was only the first of Snake’s allies to make a return in a subsequent title as an earnestly respectful adversary. More people are familiar with the following “return” though, as it had more “cineplay” flair to it. Ironically enough, that returning character is deeply and intrinsically tied to this game as well.

2 - Red Dot

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Mei Ling’s appearance in Metal Gear Solid marked the appearance of the Soliton Radar. During the first few hours of the game, a great deal of vocal inflection is placed through the voice actor’s pronunciation of “Dots” (specifically Mei Ling's stereotypical asian accent) when describing Snake’s current objective. It’s only one line in this game, but it’s enough to warrant noting nonetheless. In Metal Gear Solid, it simply became a a green dot.

3 - Call About Mines from an Unknown Aid

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Snake gets almost the same exact call at the same exact time in both games. The only difference between these two portions is ironically the diametrically opposed backdrops (desert & Alaskan canyon). Snake receives a call from an individual masking his face and voice, yet warning Snake of buried mines directly in front of him. They both also advise Snake to use a mine detector.

3.2 – The Identity of That Caller

The ironic awesomeness is this is that the caller is actually the same exact person in both games.

4 - Frequencies of Members

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Frequencies become a mainstay in this title, and they also carry onto not only the first Metal Gear Solid title, but it’s sequels as well. 140.85 becomes the expected channel of the commanding officer, while 140.96 becomes a mainstay saving frequency (Mei Ling acknowledges it as a dedicated channel especially made for such purposes). There are some individual sharings between just the two games however. Most notably being the frequency of a disguised female soldier who Snake ends up ditching romantically at the end of the game (140.15).

5 – Searching a Ladies bathroom for a disguised woman

As I just described, the player will find themselves waiting outside a woman’s bathroom in these two titles specifically. Once again, Metal Gear Solid is more famous here, as the “contextual window” and humor for the instance was exacerbated by a stereotypical feminine trait that’s being made fun of.

???: “You were really looking…”
???: “Well, she has a very cute ____”

5 – Hind with Just Stingers?

More emphasis was placed on the action’s hero's film glory in the sequel now, but Metal Gear 2 features a fight in which the player must dispatch a Hind D. What these two titles share exclusively is that the dispatching is done with a Stinger missile launcher (A grenade launcher is used in the first game and the closet thing accessible in Snake Eater is an RPG).

6- Tank Hangar Entrance to a hub-like elevator

Both Metal Gear 2 and Metal Gear Solid feature a sequence in which a player must make their way around a cliffside, and crawl through ventilation ducts. This in turn, leads them directly into a tank hangar. A further relation between the two depending on the player’s action is the introduction of Master Miller, a survival expert as part of Snake’s radio support. In a sense, he’s introduced in the same exact area. However in Metal Gear Solid, the call is mandatory, in this title, Campbell merely suggests Miller’s frequency to Snake. Of course, there’s a trick to Miller when we get to Metal Gear Solid, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Recurring Thechanics

1 – Faker scientist set up to lure Snake

In Metal Gear, this was simply some unnamed bastard standing over a pitfall. In Metal Gear 2, it turned into an entire boss battle preceded by a cinematic reprimand directed at Snake. Given Decoy Octopus’s role in Metal Gear Solid, this thechanic gets a bit more complex (while sacrificing it’s “play” for a cutscene).

2 – Blatant Film References

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The Subsistence version of Metal Gear 2: SS is by my knowledge the only official American release of the game, and was retrofitted with Shinkawa’s designs to reflect this. Though everyone here should know my favoritist attitude towards Shinkawa, I actually prefer the original MSX presentation to it’s U.S. port. There’s self-contradiction written all over this affinity, but I recognize it at least (more than most can say). As much as I prefer the Shinkawa designs above everything else, something about this game’s cheesy & novel film allusions are more true to “it’s purpose” as a game. Snake first beared box-art resemblance to Michael Beihn’s Terminator appearance, and in this title he takes on a Mel Gibson modeling. Big Boss has a Sean Connery thing going on in this title as well. Logically speaking, I guess the retrofitted titles are more preferred when I really think about it. With the novelty of film refrences, the game begins to eerily creep towards the line of simply becoming a product of it’s time...in a bad way.

3 – “Look In/On the Disc/Manual!”

Metal Gear did it, Metal Gear 2 does it, and Metal Gear Solid does it. If you don’t own the actual package for the game, and have no access to the internet, you will be in trouble (unless you’re playing Metal Gear Solid). Usually, this is tied to learning some obligatory radio or codec frequency. The structuring of Metal Gear’s Solid’s dialogue made it seem as if the ”disc” was solely tied to an actual data disc just given to Snake by Kenneth Baker. In Metal Gear, the vagueness and poor localization could just leave the player stupefied if they don’t initially pick up on the concept of the game breaking the fourth wall. In Metal Gear 2, the same trick is used to help decode the Dr. Madnar’s tapping on the wall as Snake stumbles upon his location. Ironically enough, the concept of decoding a message through the game’s manual presents a cognitive sensibility that is easily picked up on. This trick’s siblings are either distorted or reviled for their unintentional humor. I just find it amusing that one’s frustratingly stupid, one’s humorously misleading, and the other is a balance between the two (in this game’s case it lies in the in the middle suggesting such balance as well)...

4 - The Games Laugh At Themselves.

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Metal Gear titles seem to constantly make fun of themselves with arbitrary references to remind the player that “you’re playing a video-game buddy”. Examples include things such as Snake pointing his bandanna out to Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 with the response:

Raiden: “You got enough?…”
Solid Snake: “Absolutely *points at bandanna*….Infinite Ammo.”

In Metal Gear 2, Natasha leads Snake to an elevator after he finds her in the woman’s bathroom. The ludicrousness of an elevator in the woman’s bathroom is openly stated upon by Snake. The only thing that was missing from this moment was him staring at the screen dumbfoundedly questioning the novelty of it’s existence (a.k.a. Peanuts style).

Sense of Place

The sense of place starts in Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake. With the limitations of the NES, the visual range of what the original Metal Gear could do is understandably stilted. The amount and novelty of it’s limitations are certainly notable, but the skill of design for Metal Gear 2 is noticeably heightened. Areas are more communicable for what they are, the colors are far more vibrant, and the contextual interactions contingent on the narrative are far more acceptable (because they’re better hidden behind “the veil” =D). Punching the button for the elevator rather than “riding the cart” in the original is a step forward here as well. Also, let’s not forget that it’s far more pleasurable to simply be lost in this game; with the ability to call or actually “rely” on radio support to help make one’s way through.

“Like a Boss…”

Plenty of the bosses in the Metal Gear universe begin to appeal to the quirky senses of humor after Metal Gear 2. However, with “demonstrations” like The Running Man’s, it’s hard to say that this didn’t start in Zanzibar Land as well. Though I’m sure someone thinks the novelty of Metal Gear’s mercenaries are just as humorous through their introductory one-liners:

“I’m the Firetrooper!, I’m gonna burn you!”
(Well, what the fuck else WOULD you do?”)


It’s pretty hit and miss throughout the entire series, but always manages to strike the same exact note in different ways. When taken into the context with the player’s interaction, this recurrent concept seemingly explodes. The example being the sole defeat of The Running Man. Technically, there are no shots fired, but Snake will find himself simply chasing the man as a means of defeating him, which I find humorous if no one else does. What the series does most admirably is juxtapose it’s own humor with some imminent threat of death. This by-product-esque amount of levity prevents the entire Metal Gear franchise from becoming more preachy than it already is.

*Call, Call, Call*

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The radio being used an interactive means of cinema sparked in this game; the player has access to a handful of frequencies, even from the start of the title. That list also grows and is interrupted as the game progresses (with people changing frequencies and whatnot). Having someone to call during a boss encounter or to help while lost in an initial playthrough; those are priceless moments for many Metal Gear fans. This is not even regarding the scripted cinematic sequences nor the humorous ones (which don’t really start themselves until Metal Gear Solid). The radio begins to become a mainstay of constant use in the franchise as the player is able to use it at will to further connect with the world for themselves. This is an option that has remained exclusive to the series, as many titles are leaning towards becoming more and more interactive. Some have disregarded the specialty of mechanics like these because it’s in such a notable proximity of the cutscene. We’ll open my real-time talk can of worms as we move further into the Solid side of the series…

Metal Gear Melodies #1

*NOTE* Most tracks mentioned in this blog are usually on my music player (on the right side of the page) for sampling and context.

The music in Metal Gear 2 is choice cut, apparent even from Solid Snake’s Theme in the opening video that I posted at the beginning of this article. Of course, the Solid games went crazy with their sound design (in the best way possible of course), but for an MSX2 title in 1990, Metal Gear 2, should be exalted for what it did, even today. My only complaint with the music is that the first two Famicom games have main building themes are oddly obnoxious to me when juxtaposed between being caught and staying in hiding. Tara’s Theme is the worst with this, but it’s still highly tied to Metal Gear’s music. I love any remixes of the main building/sneaking themes that are toned down significantly to actually help aid the surprise that comes with being caught. This is something the Metal Gear Solid games do the best, as by then the technology allowed for different types of music to not only be displayed between phases but more consistently match with each scene, giving them all a unique feel. This obnoxiousness I just described is also dealt with by toning back infiltration music. It governs not only certain types of tension, but as this game points out, it can sometimes be used to create contextual humor. The little synthetic “twerps” that go with the green beret checking himself for tails almost dovetails perfectly with the track “Chasing the Green Beret”. Metal Gear 2’s cinematic tracks work best for me personally. The way “Killers” is used for boss encounters for example; it gradually builds tension while releasing it in sync as the player regains control from the bosses introductions. My favorite track in this game is by far “Farewell”, which is odd, given it’s used at the end when the game is entirely over. For some reason, it’s lodged in my head as some grand piece playing while Snake and Gray Fox have their epic encounter later in the title.

Colored Card Fix

The problematic, yet base mechanic of “Metal Gear as a game” is alluded to in Metal Gear 2 by the continued existence of keycards. In Metal Gear it became a bit of a nuisance constantly switching between cards while opening doors. Metal Gear 2 remedies this (kind of…) by introducing colored master keycards. These cards open a range of doors once a certain level is acquired (e.g. acquiring the red card opens door levels 1-3). These are almost optional finds though (the chances that the player won’t stumble across them is pretty remote), and even near the end of the game, the player will have three of them that they’ll have to change between on a constant basis. The leveling issue was “fixed” entirely in Metal Gear Solid, but I am intrigued as to how this was a layered mechanic in the first two games. The sequel seemed to be apologizing to the player while passive-aggressively insulting them as well. I mean…I still found myself in front of doors switching between cards.

I Accidently Killed One!

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When I played Xenogears, I noticed the questioning from not only myself, but others around me regarding children in video-games. Make no mistake, Metal Gear 2’s kids are no amazing presence (in it’s current state anyway). The purpose of Big Boss’s haven heightens their qualitive context of course, but as far as what the player experiences while running around Zanzibar Land, it’s a cheap presence. I noticed this when I accidently killed one and my only response was a passing laugh. I was struck by myself not caring about it either way. Certainly this is no fault of the game, as the guards aren’t even allusive to human nature, but it was just an observation. In this title, I thought it would have been slightly more amusing to see some of the kids faintly follow Snake while he’s in their respective rooms. The little bastard that walked across my plastic explosive while I was looking for Holly deserved precisely what he got. I honestly felt more remorse for killing dogs in Snake Eater, but it is notable in that this is one of the few games that the player can actually kill children in.

Turning Heads, Even in 1990

This kind of disappeared in lieu of the cone shaped field of vision that started in Metal Gear Solid, but it’s something that I instantly notice now. This is especially apparent when one contrasts it with how it works as an actual mechanic in Metal Gear Solid 4’s multiplayer component. The head models in MGO show exactly where that actual player is looking. It makes sneaking past them or taking them out that much more interesting and dynamic to the setup. Metal Gear 2 also presented the guards responding to Snake’s sounds, which was a first for the series at the time. The illusion in most of the Metal Gear Solid games was only slightly evolved from this (and in the head’s movement case it actually stepped back). As cool as Octocamo is to play with, a guard should be able to see a large plaid lump on the ground…that’s just more important to me guys.

Wednesday’s Post: DFB – “Operation Intrude F014” (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake) – Part V

~sLs~