The Metal Gear franchise may be closing one of the lengthiest loops in gaming history, so let’s go back to the beginning and see it all together.
The Phantom Pain owes pretty much all of its current hype and glamour to various entries in the Solid series as well as the MSX originals. It’s also billed to be the furthest possible stage in this series’ evolution as far as mechanics and scope, but we thought it might be interesting to take a look back and see where certain mechanics and bits of lore first arrived on the Solid Snake scene. Plus, we can all start building a frame of mind for what will lead Big Boss over that edge when September rolls around, which is probably going to have several ties to past series entries and six references to Psycho Mantis.
Be warned: spoilers will happen and happen often. Still on board, soldier? Then let’s take a look at the entry that started it all.
Metal Gear (MSX, 1987)
The original entry in this long-standing series had so many staples from the get go: stealth, action, double-crosses in the story, interesting design decisions and even creator Hideo Kojima’s penchant for screwing with players’ heads all started here. This entry, coming pretty deep into the life cycle of the MSX, came to that computer system only a year after the original Legend of Zelda, starting both of these legendary series on their famous roads.
Solid Snake served as the protagonist here from within the stealth-infiltration unit FOXHOUND which is lead, for the majority of the game, by Big Boss himself. Solid is sent to Outer Heaven to take out the titular device itself with a majority of the in-game story being devoted to Big Boss’ turn with nuclear war basically the endgame to avert.
As with a lot of the series, what’s on screen may not be the only elements to consider. Infrared goggles can reveal hidden alerting lasers, a mine detector can save Snake’s life and rations, progress almost exclusively relies on rescuing hostages that may or may not actually need saving; this is the kind of game that could give kids fits. Especially with designs such as more than one truck taking you back to the beginning area of the game, from a few hours worth of progress ahead, simply by stepping inside. Big Boss does his best to make you throw your controller as well, often sending you into one of these loveable traps, then into a frantic plea that the game’s checkpoints are kind to your whimpering.
The music and graphics, given the year, are actually lovable in spots, one particular highlight being the alert stage music and the actual depiction of Metal Gear (even if it does nothing to defend itself). Gameplay is simple with shooting and item collecting, but you’ve got to be paying attention to corridors and patterns or the game will let you go in unforgiving circles, or throw you down a hole, until you throw in the towel.
What doesn’t seem fair is the stumbling upon the answer that gamers back them were forced to do to make progress. An example: there are one or two doors throughout the game that cannot be opened by any key card, but you’re supposed to guess that a Codec contact is capable of opening these doors. That guesswork feels cheap when Metal Gear gives you so many other hints to potential traps and makes you guess with this, and other, “puzzles.” Still, the boss fights have their charm and bring on some interesting challenges for the time with the Big Boss turn seeming to come with a lot of attached respect and reverence.
In relation to the lore, this is basically where The Phantom Pain should be leading up to, if not overlap slightly in its telling, but that brings up a lot of questions. How is Big Boss going to get back in league with FOXHOUND? How involved is Cypher in all of this? Does FOXHOUND not stand for the betterment of the world as Solid Snake thought it did?
Kojima has openly stated that some facts won’t quite congeal with what’s been told in the past, but he’s also shown a commitment to keeping the continuity seem as smooth as possible. Even not expecting the details to line up precisely, there still seems to be a lot of questions Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will have to address.
Overall, this isn’t the top of the series, and may very well receive a popularity revival of sorts after this September rolls around, but has plenty of moments worth taking in for vets that began with the Solid games on PlayStation. Come back next week to see out thoughts on the next entry in this famous timeline.