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Metal Gear (NES) artwork

Metal Gear (NES) review


"Back in 1987, a creative young man named Hideo Kojima was assigned the task of heading the development of an action game by the top dogs at Konami. The then-unknown Kojima wanted to cook up an original concept that he would get recognition for, and yet another generic army blaster wouldn’t make the grade. Therefore, he needed a twist. This twist would make him famous, and basically involved an essential element of stealth. If the player didn’t hide from the enemy and sneak from A to B, th..."



Back in 1987, a creative young man named Hideo Kojima was assigned the task of heading the development of an action game by the top dogs at Konami. The then-unknown Kojima wanted to cook up an original concept that he would get recognition for, and yet another generic army blaster wouldn’t make the grade. Therefore, he needed a twist. This twist would make him famous, and basically involved an essential element of stealth. If the player didn’t hide from the enemy and sneak from A to B, there was no chance of them completing their objectives.

Kojima’s game was to be called Metal Gear. After an MSX release was well-received in Japan and Europe, Konami wished to distribute Metal Gear on a more mainstream system and for it to be available to the hot U.S. market. A company called Ultra ended up tweaking Metal Gear for the flourishing Nintendo NES, but the end product can only be described as “questionable”.

The game sees rookie FOX-HOUND covert operative Solid Snake infiltrating the African military fortress Outer Heaven to rescue Grey Fox, a captured comrade, and stop the threat posed by Metal Gear, a nuclear-equipped walking battle tank. If Outer Heaven and Metal Gear itself are not neutralised, the all-powerful and nameless Leader could hold the world to ransom with Metal Gear’s strike capabilities.

It was fine until there. So why did Ultra have to make a hash of a perfectly straightforward storyline by adding useless material? For one, there’s the laughable concept of Colonel Vermon CaTaffy, a formerly harmless Mongolian shepherd boy gone bananas, whom players are supposed to treat seriously as the Leader of Outer Heaven. Umm, wouldn’t it be a bit more mystic to simply leave the Leader with no name? You’ve also got Big Boss referred to as “Commander South”, which makes no sense at all. Why not just Big Boss?

And most hideously of all, a pedestrian Supercomputer substitutes Metal Gear as one of the prime boss encounters of the game. The PC with a mind of its own! One’s sense of pride is going to be lost towards the end of any game when, in order to save the world, not a small feat, you have to stick bombs to an inanimate lump.

It’s no wonder Hideo Kojima refuses to accept the NES Metal Gear as an official part of his franchise. If I were him I’d be insulted by these alterations.

Once you start playing, it becomes apparent that minimal effort went into making the NES Metal Gear attractive to play. A jungle was chosen as Snake’s starting point on NES, instead of the MSX Outer Heaven building exterior. It’s dumb, really. Because this environment is so shoddily designed it gives any normal happy bunny a bad impression right off the bat, which is not what developers want to be doing for themselves, ever; the graphics may look repugnant next to the comparatively excellent MSX ones, but as a developer, wouldn’t it be best to avoid highlighting this if you personally knew it?

As Snake starts to take out the zero-AI blurred enemy sprites, they have the ability to magically respawn if you go to the item menu, and even then they’ll walk into bullets or fists. On MSX, the guards were fearsome, darting in all directions and squeezing the trigger to lethal effect; on NES they’re target practice. This is all done to a grainy, “re-imagined” soundtrack and ear-piercing alarms.

Furthermore, over the first number of screens and beyond Metal Gear is instantly plagued by ridiculous mistranslations. A guard “feels asleep” and the truck “have started to move” before we’ve even reached the outskirts of Outer Heaven. Although plenty of dialogue from the MSX version was sadly cut for NES, a lot of what did make it seems to be horrendous. One can defend this with the common “comic relief” argument, but it’s a weak one and excessive silly humour should work against the credibility of a serious game with something to say about the futility of war, not for it. I see Kojima as an artist, in the same way as a film director, a writer or a painter is an artist, and any artist should be offended when their work is spoilt by unintelligent morons on the other side of the world.

A lot of people have fuzzy feelings about the nostalgia of the NES Metal Gear – frequent waffling about how “this was the original stealth game” and “it was the first time anything like this had been seen in America, I loved it as a kid...”

Whatever.

Neutrally speaking, this version is terrible. The supplementary attempts at plotting are awful, the engine is full of bugs, the production values are very poor and the challenge has been coated in sugar. I generally failed to find anything to get excited about.

Forget this abomination, even for its historical stature; the purchase or emulation of its MSX counterpart is bound to give you more joy. Then you can play what was intended. As a matter of fact, those that continue to ignorantly whack the buttons on their NES pads chasing Vermon CaTaffy may “feel asleep” themselves soon enough. Next!

Rating: 1/10

eddy555's avatar
Community review by eddy555 (October 05, 2004)

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