March 4th, 1999.
This was the day I got a big silver box handed to me on my birthday. Emblazoned on the front? METAL GEAR SOLID - Collector's Edition.
It was the first special edition of anything that I ever got... unless you count the copies of Super Metroid and Yoshi's Island that came with big, glossy guides in jumbo-sized SNES boxes.
It started a sixteen year love affair with the Metal Gear series. A love affair, like all love affairs, filled with ups and downs. This is the story of that love affair. Warning - this article contains SPOILERS!
Metal Gear Solid saw you as the ultimate soldier - a soldier who is somehow called Solid Snake (let's call him "Dave") . In that game the player was surrounded by a complex cast of characters all with their own agendas, and stuck in the middle of their own conflicts - all while dealing with your mission, and just trying to do your damned job. Much like life.
I took an initial dislike to MGS2 and it's pretty boy protagonist Raiden... but it gradually gave way to an appreciation of its commentary on the coming century. A commentary, let's not forget, that was surprisingly spot on.
MGS3, the prequel set in the '60s, turned out to be the very best of its genre, come the Subsistence edition. Though we didn't know it at the time, it also managed to answer the questions posed by the ending of MGS2.
This is where my first major problem came in. All mystical or supernatural aspects of MGS 1 & 2 was explained away as the result of technological advances.
How was Liquid able to possess Ocelot? NANOMACHINES and self-hypnosis. How was Vamp able to come back from the dead time and time again, run up walls, drink blood, show superhuman strength and agility and take several Stinger missiles to the face? NANOMACHINES.
How is every soldier you meet in a PMC able to go toe to toe with Snake? His age slowing him down? Excellent training? Nah, son: NANOMACHINES!
What about FoxDIE, how did it spread? NANO-GOD-DAMNED-MACHINES. Oh, Big Boss is still alive? NANOMACHINES (and clone body parts)!
After getting over this, which took a degree of soul-searching, I realised it wasn't so awful. In fact, it changed my outlook on MGS3 somewhat.
My theory was that it's a tall tale told as a form of propaganda by The Patriots. They were trying to build up the legend of their figurehead, showing how Naked Snake became the greatest soldier of the century - Big Boss - by taking on THE WW2 unit that turned the war for the Allies.
As the story was passed down it was embellished, becoming a modern legend, hence the powers of those he was up against. Also, it was how he ended up facing those he had killed, blowing up a nuclear tank piloted by a man with control of lightning by riding on a Triumph, and the sobering romanticism of that incredible final face-off with his mentor The Boss.
Alternatively, it turned the world of MGS into one where technology replaced mysticism. Where the likes of The End and The Sorrow were truly ubiquitous and unexplainable, and the likes of Zero and his Patriots used the dreaded nanomachines to create new superhuman individuals artificially.
Now we have MGS V. A story that reveals all those powers from Snake Eater were caused by "parasites". In essence, used by the writers as nature's nanomachines. We also find out that Big Boss's legend does not come from the very Operation that earned him his moniker, but from his actions over the following decades. And not even just HIS actions, but the actions of his doppleganger, too!
Disappointing is not the word. I feel Metal Gear lost something with these revelations, something that made it stand out from all the po-faced war games we have an overabundance of. Sure, it still has it's weird sense of humour, and a somewhat outdated way of treating some of it's characters (lingering camera on Quiet & the female Skulls' assets, for example) - and it's mechas - but to me, it's lost a little bit of magic. The spark that made it stand outhas been extinguished.
I know Metal Gear is all about contradictions. Indeed, many feature heavily in the overall plot; the contradiction in Zero and Big Boss's interpretations of The Boss's will, which drives the events of the 20th Century in the Metal gear timeline. How The Boss looked upon Big Boss as a son, and how he misinterpreted what she wanted for him, yet Big Boss never looked upon Solid Dave as a son, and it was Dave who fulfilled The Boss's vision.
That's not to mention the mess that is currently going on with the story of MGSV being clearly unfinished. Personally, I think KojiPro were trying to make it like a TV show; Part One's conclusion felt like the end of the first season of a tv series. It resolved a few major plot points but showed what the next season's "big bad" was going to be. There was even a preview of what to look forward to.
We all know how Part Two has turned out, as well as some of what's missing, like the return to Camp Omega, and maps set in the USA and Russia - according to GameStop's original product description
of the game when they were taking pre-orders.
Between you and me? I think it's done, other than what will most likely be a half-hearted Metal Gear Online 3, and probably a lot of DLC costumes and FOB stuff.
As for Kojima and KojiPro, they are apparently with Konami until December, then they'll be gone. It's a shame that Kojima's time in charge of his creation ends with a whimper rather than a bang. It almost feels like it was an inevitability. I also realise a lot of folk said they are done with a Kojima-less MGS series.
We know what has happened to Konami's other big franchises when their guiding lights have left. Silent Hill hasn't been the same since Team Silent disbanded and Akira Yamoaka left. Koji Igarashi - aka IGA - was essentially on gardening leave until he saw the cultish popularity of the genre he has played a big part in creating. Now he's making a Castlevania knock-off that is far more true to that name than the actual games branded with it!
This past month has me wondering, though: What if Kojima leaving is not the worst thing for Metal Gear Solid's future? Martin McHendry