Metal Gear box

Metal Gear
- Konami/Ultra, 1988 -


Snake Charmer Or Snake-Bitten?

A young Hideo Kojima changed the course of video gaming by founding a new genre—action-stealth—with Metal Gear. With his debut game for Konami being altered for release on the NES, does it stand out today or should it stay hidden away?

Created by Ultra Games (or Konami, ironically, working stealthily in plain sight to circumvent strict licensing policies of Nintendo at the time), Metal Gear, originally, appeared as little more than a blip on the radar screen. The landmark title may have been resigned to a more confidential status, had hardcore gamers not been drawn into its intrigue and fresh approach on gameplay.

Solid Snake rescues a P.O.W. in Outer Heaven.Will Solid Snake's heroic past prepare him for this one-man mission to save the world from the terrors of Metal Gear? Rescuing POW's will increase your rank, but beware — bringing harm to any of them, whether advertently or inadvertently, will demote you, rendering you basically powerless at game's end.

Who could have foreseen that this little gleam in the third eye of Hideo Kojima, would pioneer and push the emerging genres of stealth and exploration, and would help set down the touchstone for such future giants, as Assassin's Creed, Resident Evil, GoldenEye and its own franchise? Also, as an aside, who could have guessed how Metal Gear would make Cardboard (boxes) and a Silencer, staples in the trusty tool belt of any respectable special ops agent?

Hand-picked by the supreme commander of "Fox Hounder" — Big Boss (also referred to as Commander South in the game's manual), you perform your duty, as Solid Snake, a marine and war hero. Your mission? Operation Infiltrate N313. Snake is assigned to locate missing P.O.W., "Grey Fox," and to eventually put the fearsome "Metal Gear" ("a walking tank with nuclear capability" that "can traverse any kind of ground") out-of-commission.

Solid Snake sneaks past a sleeping guard.

Solid Snake wakes up a charging guard. Thus, the infamous exclamation-point-in-thought-cloud alert is born.
Snake has to learn how to slither in silence... or else he will be doomed to try, try again.

You begin by parachuting behind enemy lines into "Outer Heaven" (an area in South Africa), with even less on your person than your labelmate soldiers in Rush 'N' Attack (at least, they had their trusty knives for combat). That's where your instincts and game-playing survival skills kick in. No game before it, relied on such a potent combination of enemy evasion and item acquisition.

Soon after Solid Snake's descent into the great unknown, the player becomes enveloped in the storyline — he/she can almost feel the stinging mosquitos and almost feels a gasp as he/she breathes in the thick, choking humidity of the jungle that Snake is stalking through; he/she almost feels like holding his/her breath to stay perfectly still as he/she crouches under that Cardboard box, and hopefully out of detection of the A.I.-afflicted guards; and pure adrenaline spikes once that covered military truck in that enemy convoy rumbles to life and carries he/she away to the next stronghold in the compound ("Uh-Oh! The truck have started to move," indeed.).

In the beginning, Metal Gear's stealth element of gameplay feels counterintuitive because it is such a radical departure from any number of war-based titles on the NES that encouraged players to give into their baser instincts; that is to simply charge forward headlong, while mindlessly spraying bullets at enemy lines. Deciding to adopt an attitude of "camo," not "ammo," reveals the subtle nuances that make this game shine — the player learns very quickly to either adapt and alter his/her gung ho approach, or Metal Gear's trademark exclamation point-in-thought-bubble and punctuated, siren alert will very quickly condition him/her, like Pavlov and his dogs.

The sooner the player realizes this, the sooner the game reciprocates the effort by sharing the one coveted gift that finally breaks up the gridlock — Solid Snake's first firearm. Suddenly, all of the false starts and frustrating failures at the ends of the gun barrels of hired hands and mangy muzzles of guard dogs (reminiscent of Rush 'N Attack's) will soon unregrettably fade away. This is when and where the real sense of discovery and reward takes place.

Solid Snake makes an emergency call over the Transceiver Screen.
You are not alone — Snake is just a call away from help — if someone will just pick up.

And since Solid Snake is on a team (although it is very easy to forget at stressful times in your adventure), radio communication serves more of a purpose than just reminding you that you are not alone — the narrative-driven dialogue from friends (rescued hostages, like Dr. Pettrovich, developer of the Metal Gear, and his daughter, Ellen), advisors (like Jennifer, Schneider and Diane, back at Headquarters) and foes alike, propel the plot forward.

Snake's reconnaissance ties everything together — with each new item discovered, each bit of new intelligence obtained and each new prisoner of war freed, completion of the mission comes closer, and sharpens more into focus. Whether rifling through supplies tucked away within the enemy barracks' storage rooms or knocking off opponents to retrieve crucial items, Solid Snake begins to amass an invaluable inventory of tools (key cards, rations, a gas mask, an enemy uniform, oxygen tanks, to name a few), heavy metal artillery and stars to raise his rank.

Solid Snake collects a lot of items, as is seen in the EQUIPMENT SELECT screen.

Solid Snake can choose the right weapon for any occasion from the WEAPON SELECT screen.
Solid Snake will begin with nothing, but by game's end will have gathered so much equipment and so many weapons that you will be wondering where he keeps it all!

Of course, there is the minor detail of escaping the intricate trappings of Outer Heaven and a fortified tank of terror standing in the way of Solid Snake's safe return to freedom and success.

Buried mines, pit traps (where floors swallow up anything or anyone without warning) [Learn a special trick to avoid these... to an extent.], gas-filled chambers, electrified floor tiles, surveillance cameras (some of which fire off laser beams upon detection of motion – similar to Blaster Master), infrared sensors that can be tripped setting off alarms, metal rollers that can mercilessly crush Snake — all form a formidable line of defense against Snake's advances.

If this line of physical barriers isn't enough of an obstacle, a cool cast of minor bosses with designs on ending the resistance will do their best to halt Solid Snake's advances. These characters range from the NRA-approved Machine Gun Kid, Twin Shot and Shotgunner to the enigmatic Arnold (a set of strong-armed foes that block doors better than bouncers) and the very quizzical, Coward Duck (???), who lives up to his moniker by using three prisoners as human shields (perhaps his name is a nonsensical play on George Lucas' forgettable film of the '80s, Howard The Duck). Unfortunately, this enlistment of enemies would have been more impressive with sharper, more color-filled rendering, and some kind of discernable hit detection or sound effect.

Solid Snake battles the Shotgunner.
The Shotgunner and his brethren-in-arms will do their best to thwart Snake's mission.

Solid Snake's major undertaking would fall short and burn like a failed mission impossible, like so many other games in the NES era, had not Ultra/Konami created the ideal fail-safe — a perfectly-suited password system that saves your progress with pinpoint accuracy (a powerful tool that helped this title stand tall among other similar titles that just fall short in the era - Bionic Commando, especially). [Learn more about some special passwords here.] [And to learn how to create your own specific password for the game, click here.]

Having the ability to freeze the action, then re-engage at the player's leisure goes a long way. This thoughtful touch alone, would have separated Metal Gear, like a fully-decorated hero, whose merits and medals out-blazed Nintendo's glut of lackluster war games. But, Metal Gear's developers didn't stop there — their fingerprints blot the blueprint that is still carried on today — just on a grander scale, with the technical and interactive firepower of today's next, next-gen systems.

It cannot be overstated how many unique and clever displays of gameplay, the programmers left on the title — such innovative ideas as the use of false hostages in disguise, lying in wait; or misinformation and hints bent on misleading our isolated hero; or the sly inclusion of planting a special item that alerts guards of Snake's every move. Or what of the forced surrender of Snake – a very novel idea and masterful stroke, like a move in chess – in order to move forward in the game, the player actually has to give up ("Don't move. You're under arrest.")!

In closing, Metal Gear can be described as a kind of high-tech, stakes-are-high game of hide-n-seek; a game that made stealth a real commodity in the world of gaming. Thankfully, the game got noticed by true gamers and didn't stay hidden away on store shelves or in bargain bins. Although this first step in the series doesn't quite fall in line with the canon of Kojima's current vision, it is safe to state that Solid Snake and his compatriots struck with a swiftness, and those players who accepted the challenge of this early game and followed through, certainly avoided snake eyes.

b. jones © 2014, 2015


+'s vs. -'s

  • stealth gameplay
  • inventory collection
  • good sound fx (trucks, dogs, sirens)
  • good music
  • surprise ending (a la Mega Man 2, Mega Man 4, Strider, Bionic Commando, Code Name: Viper)
  • solid script and plot
  • great password system to save progress
  • cool and clever events in gameplay/plot
  • computer A.I., not the sharpest
  • controls - cumbersome and time-consuming subscreen to select items, weapons and transceiver detracts from flow of action
  • no diagonal movements for Snake, making some sections of the game very difficult to overcome
  • graphics dull and drab with muted, earth tones and building materials (however, vehicles are expertly detailed)
  • lack of discernment when attacking enemies [no visual or audio cues to let you know when an enemy is actually being hurt... however, Snake flashes shades of purple when he is attacked or hurt]
  • checkpoints/starting points are pretty far back after Snake perishes
  • Bomb Blast Suit seems nonsensical and hard to figure out in practical use
  • trained scorpions seem to be a bit of a stretch
  • NITPICKING - translation takes away from a solid overall script, certain grammatical errors detract ("I feel asleep." and "Uh - Oh! The truck have started to move.")


If you like Metal Gear, perhaps you would like these titles:

  • Bionic Commando [NES]
    (similar feel of a smarter, more in-depth approach to war in gaming; P.O.W.'s are saved)

  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest [NES]
    (similar feel of discovery and blind reliance on misinformation and clues)

  • Strider [NES]
    (similar feel in style of discovery and plot)

  • The Goonies II [NES]
    (Metal Gear seems to build on its skeletal framework in different ways)

  • Rush 'N' Attack [NES]
    (whose theme and elements of design are somewhat similar)

  • Snake's Revenge [NES] and other Metal Gear titles [GB, Playstation, etc.]
    (continuation and legacy-builders, loosely-related and built up)


Secrets & Tips for Metal Gear

SPECIAL PASSWORDS! Metal Gear Password Screen.

Begin in Jail Cell with countdown activated

End of game with countdown activated, final boss defeated and random selection of items

End of game with countdown activated, final boss waiting with great selection of items equipped (Grenade Launcher, Rocket Launcher, Missiles, Mines, assortment of useful equipment, including 10 Rations)

"F-word"M E1111 11111 11111 11111:
End of game unequipped with countdown activated and final boss waiting

End of game with countdown activated, final boss waiting with random equipment, Rocket Launcher and Missile

T1111 11611 11111 11111 11116:
End of game with 1-Star Rank, Binoculars and no weapons with countdown activated, but final boss missing

End of game with various items, Hand Gun, Machine Gun and Rocket Launcher with countdown activated, and final boss waiting

End of game with various items, Mine, Explosive and Rocket Launcher with countdown activated, and final boss waiting

Begin in Jail Cell with various items and weapons

51111 11111 11111 11111 1111F:
Near beginning of game with a 4-Star Rank and no items or weapons

21111 1Z111 11111 11111 111BI:
Start a new game with all 8 Cards

51222 22222 22222 22222 22222:
Near beginning of game with a 4-Star Rank and 1 shot of Hand Gun, 1 shot of Grenade Launcher, 1 Ration and a few items

End of game with 4-Star Rank, all weapons and items maxed out with countdown activated, but final boss missing

Near beginning of game with a 4-Star Rank, and all weapons and items maxed out



Dedicated gamer and mathematical wizard, Doug Babcock, combined two of his talents and likes to actually decipher the password system of Metal Gear... not a small task, by any means!

To learn more about his work and to generate custom passwords for the game:

Click here to visit,



There are two mazes to be found in Metal Gear. No hints are given, as to how to find your way through them. And if you become lost within them, you will soon notice that the screens will loop endlessly. To successfully find the right path through the mazes, you must choose 1 of 6 correct directions, 4 screens in a row. Below you can see the solutions — to see an animation of the correct routes, hold your cursor over the maps below:

Lower Maze in Jungle: Left, Left, Upper Left, Left

Go Left, Left, Upper-Left and Left to get through lower maze in Jungle.

Upper Maze in Jungle (after Desert): Lower Left, Lower Left, Up, Lower Left

Go Lower-Left, Lower-Left, Up and Lower-Left to get through upper maze in Jungle, just past the desert.

A special tune will confirm your success, upon taking the proper path.



Press SELECT, A to display the transceiver screen when a pit opens. Press SELECT again to resume game play. The pit will now be closed. Still take caution, however, because the actual area that you saw open before you paused the action will still cause Snake's death, if he walks over it — it is simply invisible.



To more quickly collect your maximum load of Rations or Ammunition, simply touch the item to collect it. Next, press SELECT, A to display the transceiver screen. Then, press SELECT again to resume game play. The item should reappear to be collected over again.



A boss' initial position will reset, if you press SELECT to summon either the transceiver or weapon screen. This can be used to your advantage during battle.



When you escape the Final Level, have your character use the cigarettes and the time will be reset.



When entering the Super Computer's room, stay in the door frame and push right on the control pad. You'll automatically warp to the final boss and won't have to worry about the base's self-destruction countdown that the computer's destruction usually starts. Now you have all the time you need to beat the last boss.


1UP Ratings Scale for
Metal Gear

Presentation: 7

The cover and box art were well-done (although heavily-derivative of a screenshot from The Terminator); the manual was thorough and had its information well-organized; equipment uses were covered, but there are some lapses; the instructional materials seemed to be proofread very well with good use of illustrations — however, some of the characters and background story did not match up with the in-game script. Konami's sly and humorous approach to character names and storylines shine, as usual, with its tongue-in-cheek references.

Originality: 10

It helped spur on a genre of stealth and exploration, and veered far from war games of the day.

Creativity: 8

Ultra/Konami delivered with a strong script and introduced newer concepts in gameplay — like the forced surrender of Solid Snake. Also, a multilayered approach of playing, using a combination of transceiver, equipment and weapons to push forward in the game and solve problems was sharp.

Programming/Debugging: 9

The most glaring fouls in gameplay came in the form of insignificant, grammatical errors in the script. Some sign of enemy damage could have improved enjoyability of boss battles. A very detail-oriented password system was a high point in the game, making for a much more player-friendly adventure.

Challenge/Fairness: 7

A few areas in the game were especially tough to pass (the starting jungle section and path to rescuing Dr. Pettrovich), but fair. A few areas were tough to pass because of obtuse or illogical puzzles, or simple lack of information (using BombBlast Suit on Rooftop to pass, obtaining Rocket Launcher from Jennifer and maze areas in jungle). Boss battles suffered because the player is unable to figure out if his attack is effective or not.

Replayability: 2

Once, the player accomplishes Operation Infiltrate N313, there's not a lot of incentive or unlockable surprises left for replay.

Controls: 4

Snake's directional movement is limited, due to no diagonals (harder to dodge and escape); fumbling through the three subscreens to select items, weapons and the transceiver slows down action and is confusing.

Graphics: 4

Ultra/Konami usually excels in this area, but the drab earthen and enemy base pool of colors is dull (although, it may have been intentional for this game centered around camouflage and jungle warfare). Enemy and character design was too small to add a lot of crisp detail and definition. Vehicles were the best images rendered.

Music/Sound FX: 7

The soundtrack is small, but the music stands out well. The Password screen has a gravelly-seriousness that conveys the task at hand. The music heard in the Jungle is a personal favorite that resonates a lonesome feeling that makes the listener note the no-nonsense mission before him/her. The riff off of the Lalo Schifrin "Mission Impossible" theme subtlely signifies to the player that this mission is more espionage and stealth than full-frontal attack. The ending injects urgency of escape. The sound effects of the guard dogs, trucks, sirens and calls ringing through Snake's transceiver, effectively, exploit the NES' audio limitations.

Ending: 6

The transceiver's messages to the player resolves the ending, and rolling credits acknowledge the staff responsible for the game.


64 Metal Gear (NES) earns a 64 out of 100 score in's 1UP Ratings's out of a possible 100

Despite its score, overall, Metal Gear is a decent play.

The game's historical value is significant - it shows the early genius of Hideo Kojima and the birth of the new genre of stealth in gaming. Although Metal Gear has its rough patches (obtuse puzzles to solve with mazes and item uses; poor hit detection), its story draws the gamer in with a fun sense of discovery, item acquisition and a twisting plot.

Because of its availability, low cost and the opportunity to get help online, it may not be a bad addition for a retro collection.


Metal Gear

© 2014, 2015 (mmxiv, v) b. jones


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Metal Gear - Uh-Oh! The Truck Have Started To Move Snake's famous Cardboard Box