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Metal Gear

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Metal Gear is the first game in the Metal Gear series of stealth games. It was released by Konami in 1987 for the MSX system and later ported to the NES in 1988. All the games star Solid Snake, a special agent who specializes in infiltration and espionage. Each game goes with the motto "Tactical Espionage Action", which basically describes the gameplay of Metal Gear.

Overview

Metal Gear (メタルギア Metaru Gia?) is an overhead military action-adventure video game originally released in 1987 by Konami for the MSX2 computer standard in Japan and parts of Europe. Considered to be the progenitor of the stealth game genre, it was also the first video game designed by Hideo Kojima, who also directed many of the later Metal Gear sequels.[1] A heavily altered port was produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System (without Kojima's involvement),[2] along with a remade version based on the original MSX2 game that was released for the PlayStation 2 as a bonus game in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and, as a result, is also included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.

The game revolves around a special forces operative codenamed Solid Snake who goes into a solo infiltration mission into the fortified state of Outer Heaven to destroy Metal Gear, a bipedal walking tank capable of launching nuclear missiles from anywhere in the world.

Plot

Characters

The player's character is Solid Snake, a rookie member of the fictional special forces group FOXHOUND sent on his first mission. He is assisted via radio by his commanding officer Big Boss, who offers information about mission objectives and items; as well as a local Resistance movement composed of Schneider, who provides the locations of important items; Diane, who provides information on how to defeat enemy bosses; and Jennifer, who assists Snake as an inside agent. Among the prisoners Snake rescues includes Grey Fox (Gray Fox in the later versions), a FOXHOUND agent who was captured during a previous mission; Dr. Pettrovich (Dr. Pettrovich Madnar in later releases), the scientist who designed the Metal Gear weapon; and his daughter Ellen, who was kidnapped along with him.

The bosses includes Shoot Gunner (renamed Shotmaker in later versions), a former Spetsnaz agent specializing in the riot gun; Machine Gun Kid, a former SAS operative armed with a machine gun; Fire Trooper, a former GSG 9 operative who uses a flamethrower; Coward Duck (Dirty Duck in later releases), a boomerang throwing terrorist who shields himself with hostages; Arnold (Bloody Brad in later releases), an android designed by Dr. Pettrovich; and the legendary mercenary who founded Outer Heaven, whose true identity is unknown until the end.

Story

The year was 1995. At that time, nuclear disarmament was only a pipe dream, and fears of nuclear attack ran rampant. Deep in South Africa, a mercenary group controlled a stronghold called Outer Heaven. According to leaked information, this group had access to a new kind of weapon that would change the scale of warfare irreversibly. The elite special forces team Fox Hound was called upon to gather further intelligence related to this supposed weapon of mass destruction. To this end they sent their best agent, Grey Fox, to go under cover, infiltrate Outer Heaven, and report back with new information. Grey Fox's report consisted of exactly two words: "Metal Gear." Then contact was broken. Deeply disturbed by the loss of communication with Grey Fox and the apparent urgency of his brief message, Fox Hound sent another agent, Solid Snake, into Outer Heaven to find Grey Fox and discover the secret of the mysterious Metal Gear. Snake found his way inside the fortress, enlisting the aid of various prisoners to continue his search for Grey Fox and Metal Gear. Eventually Snake located Fox and learned that Metal Gear was, in actuality, a walking, nuclear-capable tank. The implications of this new weapon were staggering; Metal Gear's mobility and its ability to launch a nuclear warhead from any position made it an imposing factor in the global tension between nuclear superpowers. Solid Snake went on to rescue the scientist behind Metal Gear's development and from him learned Metal Gear's weak point. Finally, Snake discovered Metal Gear itself, on the 100th basement floor of Outer Heaven, and using his knowledge of the behemoth, he destroyed it. After Metal Gear's destruction, Snake received a shock: The leader of the Outer Heaven mercenaries, and the man behind Metal Gear, was none other than Fox Hound's leader, Big Boss! Big Boss had been pulling the strings behind Snake's mission in Outer Heaven all along. Stunned by this betrayal, Snake went on to engage Big Boss in battle, emerging victorious. With Metal Gear destroyed and the traitor vanquished, Solid Snake flew off into the sunset. -GameSpot©'s History of Metal Gear

The story in Metal Gear was unlike anything ever seen in a video game before (at the time). It had a depth that no other game had created. This, along with its innovative gameplay, made it an instant classic to gamers patient enough to adjust to the new style of play (at this time, most games had involved destroying everything on screen; many players were frustrated from Metal Gear's stealthy and more realistic approach to action gaming and in turn, gave up quickly).

Gameplay

Metal Gear's gameplay is often centered around progressing through the area remaining unseen by cameras or guards.

Being spotted by guards meant that they would either attack Snake directly (indicated by one exclamation point over the guard's head) or call for reinforcements (indicated by two exclamation points). Snake could then either kill all of the guards in his way or, if the guard hasn't called for reinforcements, escape to another screen or floor. If he was spotted by a camera, it could attack him.

The player must navigate the main character, a military operative codenamed Solid Snake, through various locations, while avoiding visual contact and direct confrontation with patrolling guards. If the player is seen, the game enters the "Alert Mode." In this situation, Snake must escape from enemy's sight in order to resume infiltration. The method of escaping varies depending on the circumstances behind discovery:

  • If Snake is seen and only a single exclamation mark (!) appears over an enemy's head, only the enemies in the player's present screen will attack and Snake can escape by simply moving to an adjacent screen.
  • However, if two exclamation marks (!!) appear over the enemy (or the player triggers an alarm by being spotted by a camera, infrared sensor or by using an unsilenced weapon), reinforcements from outside the screen will appear as well. Snake can only escape by eliminating all incoming enemies, going outdoors, or by moving to a different floor.

The player starts the game unarmed, but eventually gains access to a variety of firearms and explosives, starting with the Beretta 92F and working their way up to guided missiles and the RPG-7 rocket launcher. Ammo and supplies for each weapon are limited, but are easily replenished. Weapons can not only be used to kill enemies, but also to clear obstacles such as hollow walls or electrified floors. Snake can also use his fists to punch and defeat patrolling enemies. Occasionally if the player defeats a guard with punches without alerting anyone, the defeated guard will yield a single unit of rations or an ammo box that can be picked up. In addition to enemy guards, the player will also be confronted by mercenaries who will challenge the player to combat, serving as the boss characters.

The enemy base consists of three different buildings, with multiple floors (including basement levels) within them. The player uses key cards and other items to unlock doors or explore new areas. Each door will only open to its corresponding key cards. Information can be obtained by rescuing hostages being held captive within the buildings. After rescuing five hostages, the player's rank will increase by one star (with the maximum rank being four stars), allowing for carrying capacity and maximum health. However, if a hostage is killed, the player is demoted to the previous rank.

A transceiver is available for the player to communicate with their commanding officer (Big Boss) or one of the resistance members operating covertly near Outer Heaven (Schneider, Diane, and Jennifer). Each of Snake's allies specializes in a specific subject (i.e.: Big Boss provides information on weapons and items, Schneider knows the layout of the fortress, and Diane knows the weaknesses of most of the bosses). The player must keep track of their allies' frequency numbers in order to contact them. All of the radio messages are dependent on the rooms where the player is located.

Development and release

Kojima was asked to take over a project from a senior associate. Metal Gear was intended to be an action game that featured modern military combat. However, the MSX2's hardware limited the number of on-screen bullets and enemies, which Kojima felt impeded the combat aspect. Inspired by The Great Escape, he altered the gameplay to focus on a prisoner escaping.[3]

MSX2

Metal Gear was originally released on the MSX2 home computer in Japan on July 12, 1987, with an official English version released for the European market on September 1987. Most of the radio messages were edited or removed in the English version, including Big Boss' comments on every item and weapon found by the player. According to a fan-translation project, only 56% of the original Japanese text was translated in the English version. The translation contains many examples of Engrish, such as consistently misspelling "destroy" as "destoroy". The Japanese version's manual contains exclusive content not found in the English manual, such as character profiles with illustrations, brief descriptions of the game's bosses, and the complete specifications of the Metal Gear tank. The MSX2 version of Metal Gear was released for the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on December 8, 2009.

Nintendo Entertainment System

A reprogrammed version for the Family Computer (Famicom) was released in Japan on December 22, 1987. While the MSX2 version of this game was never released in the U.S., the Nintendo Entertainment System version came to North America in June 1988 (published by Konami's Ultra Games division), followed by PAL version in Europe and Australia in the same year the North American version was released. According to Kojima's account, the NES port was developed by another Konami team at Tokyo without his involvement, who were given the source code from the MSX2 version without the consent of Kojima or anyone who had worked on the original MSX2 version. While the NES version was intended to be a port of the MSX2 game, many changes were also made to the game during the porting process.[4][5] Hideo Kojima has been vocal about his disappointment at the changes made to the game in its NES port.[2][6] Masahiro Ueno, who worked as a sub-programmer for the NES version, has stated that the staff who worked on the port were told to complete the game's development in three months. Some of the differences between the MSX2 and NES version, such as the jungle area at the beginning, were enforced by the company's management who wanted to differentiate the NES version from the already-released MSX2 game, while other changes, such as the removal of the Metal Gear boss, were done due to hardware limitations.[7]

The biggest change to the game was in the overall level design. Instead of the underwater infiltration from the MSX2 game, the NES version features a different opening sequence showing Solid Snake and three other soldiers (who are never seen nor mentioned in any other part of the game) skydiving into the middle of a jungle, where the player begins (instead of starting directly at the entrance of the first building). The player must reach a transport truck at the end of the first jungle area that takes Snake to the front entrance of Building 1. The player can also use other transport trucks that serve as shortcuts to the entrances of the other buildings, although the player cannot do much in those areas without the required equipment. The basement floor that connected Building 1 and 2 in the MSX2 version is turned into two separate (but still connected) buildings, Building 4 and 5 respectively, that are only reachable by going through two different jungle mazes located at the outdoor areas between Building 1 & 2 and Building 2 & 3 respectively. The Metal Gear robot at the end of the game is missing; instead the player destroys an immobile Super Computer guarded by four soldiers. The Hind D boss on the roof of Building 1 was also replaced by two armed turret gunners called "Twin Shot". Other changes includes the lack of the second alert phase, different background music, the removal of the Flying Army's ability to hover and the removal of Big Boss' message after the end credits. Like the English localization of the MSX2 version, the English localization of the NES game contains numerous examples of grammatically-incorrect phrases, such as "Contact missing our Grey Fox", "The truck have started to move!", and "I feel asleep!!" The English localization of the NES version's manual swayed from the game's actual storyline. The game's main villain (whose identity is not revealed until the end of the game) is mentioned to be "Colonel Vermon CaTaffy", while Snake's commanding officer is renamed "Commander South". Additionally, Solid Snake's back-story is embellished, with the manual claiming that he participated in the Grenada invasion prior to joining FOXHOUND. It should be noted that these alterations to the game's plot only appear in the game's manual, but never in the game itself; moreover, the plot summary in the Japanese Famicom version's manual, along with Solid Snake's character profile, is identical to the MSX2 version's Japanese manual. A bonus game disc featuring the Famicom version of Metal Gear was included in the Premium Package edition of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes released only in Japan.

PC MS-DOS and Commodore 64

The NES version of Metal Gear was the basis of two computer ports that were released in 1990 for PC MS-DOS and the Commodore 64 in North America and Europe. The PC MS-DOS conversion was programmed by Charles Ernst, while the Commodore 64 conversion was handled by Unlimited Software Inc. The PC MS-DOS version contains many minor changes, such as a faster-depleting health bar. However, the Commodore 64 version is closer to the NES version, with only small musical and visual changes. A third computer conversion for the Amiga is listed on the rear packaging of both computer versions, but was never released.

Mobile phones and PlayStation 2

A version of Metal Gear was released for mobile phones in Japan on August 18, 2004. It could be downloaded on the i-Mode, EZweb and Vodafone services. Although based on the MSX2 version, it includes several new features and changes. This same version of the game was included as a component of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for the PlayStation 2. The North American version included a retranslated English script, as well as an optional Spanish script. In 2008, Konami began offering the mobile phone version of Metal Gear to North American players via their Konami Mobile service. The re-released versions were programmed by Aspect Co., Ltd. under Konami's supervision. It is also available for Nokia N-gage gaming platform. New features include two difficulty settings ("Original" and "Easy"), an unlockable Boss Survival mode and an infinite bandana which provides the player with unlimited ammo when equipped (similar to the one featured in Metal Gear Solid). Some of the boss characters were renamed as well. In the Japanese version, the script was changed to include kanji and hiragana, in addition to katakana and romaji. The English version uses a completely new translation different from the early MSX2 and NES localizations.

PS3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita releases

A version of Metal Gear was rereleased within the Metal Gear Solid HD collection, and is available on the menu screen of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  This version is unchanged from the previous itineration release on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for Playstation 2.

Reception

 Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
The Games Machine [1] 79% (MSX)
70% (NES)

The NES version of Metal Gear was rated the 104th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.[8]

Its success led to the creation of two separately produced sequels; the first one, Snake's Revenge, was produced specifically for the NES in North America and Europe in 1990 and the other, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, was the sequel developed by the original game's designer and released in Japan for the MSX2 during the same year as a response to the former's creation. The latter was followed by Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation in 1998, which was in turn followed by numerous sequels and spinoffs (see Metal Gear series).

The intro theme ("Operation Intrude N313"), main theme ("Theme of Tara") and game over theme ("Just Another Dead Soldier") from the MSX2 version were reused for the VR Training theme in Metal Gear Solid, which in turn was reused in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel and Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. "Theme of Tara" is one of the tunes that can be heard in the "Shadow Moses Island" stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, the music for the beginning section of the Battleship Halberd Interior stage of the game's Adventure mode, where Snake officially enters the storyline, and can also be selected as music with an iPod item in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

References

  1. Jeremy Parish, "Metal Gear," Electronic Gaming Monthly 225 (January 2008): 93.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Steven Kent. Hideo Kojima: Game Guru, Movie Maniac.. “HK: I really don't like saying this, but it really wasn't up to my standards. The care that I put in the original wasn't there. It [the Famicom version] was a more difficult game. In the very beginning, when you go from the entrance into the fortress, for example, there are dogs there. In the Famicom version, the dogs just come after you and you get killed. It was too difficult to get into the fortress. The fun stealth element was not there, and the actual Metal Gear, the robot, doesn't appear in the game.”
  3. Szczepaniak, John. "Before They Were Famouos". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (35): 74. 
  4. Konami Computer Entertainment Japan website staff. Editorial about the Famicom version of Metal Gear (Japanese)..
  5. Buchanan, Levi (2008-06-13). Have You Really Played Metal Gear?. IGN. Retrieved on March 31, 2009.
  6. Metal Gear Saga Vol. 1. Konami. 2005. 
  7. Interview with Masahiro Ueno, by John Szczepaniak..
  8. "NP Top 200", Nintendo Power 200: 58–66, February 2006 .

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