- Konami/Ultra, 1988 -
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|SECRETS & TIPS
Snake Charmer Or Snake-Bitten?
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.
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.
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.
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 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), 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.
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).
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
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