I am a big fan of the Metal Gear series, and it’s kind of sad to think that it will all be over once part 4 comes out on June 12th. Sure, Konami says that they will make more Metal Gear games, but as far as I’m concerned without Solid Snake and Hideo Kojima, they will not be the same.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I think that its high time to jump in the way-back machine and take a look at where it all started and to tell you why the version of the original Metal Gear that you grew up with is basically a piece of crap.
Metal Gear was Hideo Kojima’s first published video game; at the time when Metal Gear was being developed, Kojima was an entry level game designer working for Konami’s MSX Home Computer Division. He had previously served as an assistant director for Penguin Adventure, which is widely considered to be one of the best games released for the MSX home computer, and had several ideas and game proposals rejected by the Konami brass.
Metal Gear, conceived and designed by Kojima, was released by Konami on July 12th 1987 for the MSX2 to great critical acclaim. The game is generally credited wih being the first stealth based video game. At the time of Metal Gear’s release, video games were mainly confrontational in nature. You see the bad guys, you shoot the bad guys. Metal Gear changed this perception by putting the emphasis on evasion and stealth, leaving you to figure out when to sneak by an enemy and when to go in guns blazing. This added a new element of stradegy not previously seen in video games.
The success of Metal Gear led to several ports, including versions for the Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System, Commodore 64, and MS-DOS based PCs. The version that I will be discussing here is the version of the game you, and most every North American kid is used to, the NES/Famicom port.
Nintendo’s port of Metal Gear was done without Hideo Kojima’s involvement and as such several changes were made to the original game. Among them were a graphical downgrade to get the game to play on the Nintendo Entertainment Systems inferior hardware as well as the inclusion of additional story elements, the removal of key plot points and added levels. By altering the game’s mechanics, the difficulty was increased and plot altered to the degree that the true canonical first Metal Gear game is actually the MSX2 version, and not the NES version.
The most major change in level design occurs right at the beginning of the game. For some reason an opening scene was added to the NES version where Solid Snake parachutes into the jungle with three other soldiers whose identities and significance to the story are never revealed. As a consequence to this new scene, a new first level was added where you must work your way through the jungle and get in the back of the correct truck in order to end up at the first building.
Several of the bosses were altered, as well. The boss on the roof of the first building, which was originally a Hind D attack helicopter was instead replaced with a pair of
armed gunners. Perhaps the most shocking and baffling change made in the entire game is the final boss fight. The NES port completely removed the fight with the Metal Gear mech. You know, the mech for which the entire game is named. Yeah. In it’s place we instead have to fight four guards and the super computer terminal (!!?) they are protecting.
In the 8-bit days of old, more often than not much of a video game’s story had to be deciphered from a blurb (or blurbs) in the game’s instruction manual. The NES version served to alter the story even further by including many changes to the story in it’s manual. Changes include several character names, such as Snake’s commanding officer and the main villain, as well as Snakes back story.
These combined changes to the characters and story contributed directly to the creation of a North American / PAL only sequel entitled Snake’s Revenge, which is an entirely different game than the canonical Japan-only sequel Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake released for the MSX2.
In an interview on the Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence bonus preorder DVD Metal Gear Saga Vol.#1 Hideo Kojima expressed his disappointment in the NES version of Metal Gear, and referred to it a “complete garbage”.
Fear not, you don’t have to learn kanji and import an MSX2 in order to enjoy the original Metal Gear game as it was originally intended. You can track yourself down a copy of the double disc version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. There is a brand new translation of the original MSX2 Metal Gear available on the second disk. There are also fan translation ROMs floating around on the internet which can be easily acquired.
I highly recommend that you give the MSX2 version of both Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake a play through while you are waiting for the clock to strike 12:00 AM this Wednesday.