The Phantom Pain Countdown | Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Peace Walker

Our Metal Gear countdown ticks on with the second sleuthing title in the series up next and offering some interesting looks into the legend of Big Boss and rise of Solid Snake.

After looking at the origins of two of the series’ biggest names, Solid Snake gives us another, more fleshed-out chapter that revolves around Big Boss’ talents and those of his main son. Again, beware of spoilers and speculation out the wazoo. Let’s put on our O2 tanks and dive into…

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX, 1990)

Metal Gear

For the technological upgrades three years afforded this title in graphics and gameplay systems, there seems to be some downgrades in a few areas with music and sound being chief among those voids. The music isn’t a deal-breaking matter but it just replaces what was already fitting in the first Gear with grating tunes, including a straight-up Rambo rip-off, and plenty of dinky sounds. Compare the two alert phase tunes below as an example and form your own opinion.

Game design issues surround that very alert phase, which is impressively implemented in nearly its full series form in only this second entry. The problem is escaping the waves of guards peacefully seems to be needlessly difficult; when a guard spots you, Snake has to leave the screen and hide alá the norm, but almost all the screens are designed a bit too long or wide to allow for any real escape. Some of the solutions to problems, even just opening a gate, seem to border on old adventure games levels of randomness to boot.

Then again, Hideo Kojima’s penchant for all things weird has just as much upside, especially when speaking of this entry’s story. Throughout the Zanzibar Land base are wandering children – call them Ness and Young Fat Princess – that just seem out of place until you hear about Big Boss through them. You hear about how the one-eyed man loves these children and protects them, shunning most other adults that come to this base to save them. Couple that with allies from the first game having been turned by Big Boss, showing his nearly limitless charisma, and you have a story that puts the first Metal Gear to shame.

Another aspect that is part weird, part improvement deals with the reshuffled puzzles throughout the game. Whether it’s locating a hostage based on sounds or learning how to read Vietnamese Tap Code, this is another Metal Gear that you’re not allowed to breeze through without paying attention. That adventure game-like solution mentioned earlier, for instance, is one of the oddest puzzles in the entire franchise that involves hatching eggs in your inventory. While its concept seems out there, its execution is simple enough to where players can get the gist without fully understanding the rhyme or reason. Unfortunately, a lot of necessary information is with the instruction manual, sending people to the internet more than likely unless you have yourself that kind of classic access.

Metal Gear
Look at that mini map! Up yours Zelda!

Possibly the most interesting part that could (please!) come out of the lore between here and The Phantom Pain deals with the final boss fight between Big Boss and Solid Snake. This is a multi-step battle that places attrition against glutton, the former taking a machine gun and quick steps against the stealth and ingenuity of the latter, and there is so much potential here by simply flipping the perspective of the player from one soldier to the other.

Solid Snake is likely The Patriots‘ latest puppet to attack Big Boss during this encounter, perhaps forcing the charismatic leader to feel the walls closing in. Perhaps he’s stuck without any viable options except to fight his own son, not unlike he and The Boss did decades before. Make this a player-controlled sequence during the credits of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, since Big Boss is destined to lose this fight, in a dark warehouse with acid on the floor and plenty of hiding spots for Solid Snake. Provide players that metaphor of Big Boss – the solider of soldiers – being incapable of hitting his moving, apparition-like target that is moving closer and closer for the kill. Illustrate what it’s like to have this lifetime of work and legacy passing from one generation to the next: one of the major running themes throughout the entire Metal Gear franchise.

That probably won’t happen given the bitter feeling some players would be left with as a result of such a conclusion, but that would be pretty darn awesome to experience. Meanwhile, this Gear does seem to rise above the original thanks to its story and gameplay refinements. There feels like plenty of room for improvement by this point in the series, but the classic status of these games seems well in hand. Come back next week to see how the start of the cinematic video game craze, Metal Gear Solid, stands up to time itself and the series’ own timeline.

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