Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge – Metal Gear Solid

Chronological Challenge – Metal Gear Solid

January 22, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

And here’s your second review for the day, on schedule unlike the one you got earlier. This game’s also a bit obscure. Not sure if you’ve ever heard of it. I’ll be impressed if you have…

Metal Gear Solid
Publisher: Konami | Developer: KCEJ | Year: 1998 (Japanese release)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: See how far I can get in a single sitting

Actual Outcome: The game saw that I like Castlevania

With Hideo Kojima’s much-publicised departure from Konami due to the latter’s public meltdown, it’s easy to forget where it all began. Well, okay, pedants are going to point out that Metal Gear actually started in 1987 on the semi-obscure MSX2 computer (obscure in the West, at least), but it wasn’t until this game that Kojima’s franchise became a huge critical and commercial success worldwide.

And today, we revisit it. It’s hard not to go into this knowing exactly where the series and its creator ended up, but I’m going to try and ignore that and focus on the game itself.

At the time of its release, Metal Gear Solid grabbed people’s attention in ways few other games did. It was praised endlessly for its graphics and its design in ways other games of the time could only dream of. It got perfect scores from magazines across the board and was hyped and celebrated as the new standard for all future games to hold themselves to.

And do you know what? All that still holds up today. Metal Gear Solid is still a fantastic-looking game. Okay, sure, it’s a bit blocky by modern standards but as PS1 games go, it’s aged significantly better than some of its contemporaries. Shadow Moses is still an imposing place with some interesting design, and the characters and bosses are all as visually impressive as they were back in the day. Okay, the game’s age is notable in the ludicrous head-bobbing every time someone speaks, but apart from that, it holds up. And it’s easy to see why this won everyone over in the days of relatively early 3D gaming.

On top of that, the gameplay is still excellent. Controls are smooth and responsive, while the menu system and top-down view help alleviate some of the potential problems other games of the time snagged on when figuring out how to do things in a 3D space. The emphasis on stealth works incredibly well and plays so unlike anything else from the era. Admittedly, all of Kojima’s attempts to build in the formula in later games make this game feel limited in retrospect – no tranquiliser gun or first-person aiming here – but it’s a good, solid foundation.

Of course, the real joy of Metal Gear Solid lies in how inventive it was, and still remains. While replaying the game now means that I already know all the surprises that are set to arrive, they’re still able to bring a smile to my face because you can tell just how much of a passion project this is. There’s heart in MGS, and it shows in so many ways – Meryl hasn’t got enough time to fully change if you follow her fast enough, the “codec number on the CD case” silliness, the uniqueness of each and every boss fight; all of it shines through and make this a product that’s more than what you expect on first glance.

And of course, the Psycho Mantis fight remains one of the greatest moments in video game history. We all know how genius it is; the fake-out “HIDEO” screen that tricked so many players into thinking their console had disconnected, Mantis reading your memory card and telling you how much you love Castlevania (a joy I never experienced in 1999 but got to finally see in the wild during this replay thanks to this), and of course, the use of the second controller port so that Mantis can’t “read your mind”.

On top of all this memorable stuff, it’s also impressive how good the sound design is too. Unlike so many other games of the era, the voice acting is done by professional voice actors delivering fantastic performances, which is probably a big reason why Snake’s gravelly tones became as iconic as the game itself. The music is also brilliant, providing plenty of hushed tension that makes stealthing that more exciting, while bursting into catchy, chaotic danger music when fighting a boss or escaping after being seen.

Basically, Metal Gear Solid is one of the PS1’s best games. It has a deserved classic status, and it’s still as inventive and playable as the day it was released. And playing it again is a huge reminder that once upon a time, Konami fully supported fun, interesting game ideas such as this one. Happier times.

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  1. January 27, 2016 at 2:25 am

    My favorite memory is playing the beginning sequence on an old demo disc

  1. March 31, 2016 at 4:46 pm

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