A Question for the Readers #17: No Fair Taking Shortcuts!

Whenever a series gains notoriety, you will inevitably hear about it talked about quite a lot whether it’s on the internet or amongst your peers. However, sometimes you just don’t want to get into it. It’s not necessarily because the series is bad; perhaps you’re just too busy with other stuff to check it out. When you finally end up taking the plunge, it may even be after the series has concluded. You’ve effectively done in the span of a month or so what fans had to wait years to see unfold. I myself have done this a few times, and the results have been interesting.

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A Question for the Readers #8: A True Journey of Discovery

Consuming media should be a simple process, right? You hear about the video game/film/music album/television show/ what have you, do what you can to experience it and that’s the end of that. However, things aren’t always that straightforward. Maybe the video game is on a dead platform. Perhaps the film isn’t readily available through legal channels. It could be that the lauded album fell into obscurity and is now out of print. There’s even the possibility that the distribution company never bothered selling box sets of that show you want to watch. Even without considering those factors, sometimes the method of discovering the existence of these works in the first place can get downright bizarre when you begin summing it up on paper. It goes to show how seemingly unrelated actions taken by random people influence other people in ways they couldn’t possibly know.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain


Peace Walker breathed new life into Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series of stealth-action titles. In an ironic twist, it ended up with a greater level of adoration than its direct predecessor, Metal Gear Solid 4, despite having significantly less hype surrounding its release and a downgrade in visuals owing to the PlayStation Portable’s inferior hardware. The game reached an even larger audience once it became a cross-platform title packaged with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 on the HD Collection. Feeling rejuvenated from the ill will he bore towards the development process of Metal Gear Solid 4, Mr. Kojima expressed interest in releasing the next installment, titled Ground Zeroes, as an immediate follow-up to Peace Walker on either the PlayStation Portable or the PlayStation 3. However, due to a combination of numerous delays surround Metal Gear Rising, a spinoff sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4, and AAA gaming being a few years away from starting a new console generation, it was decided that Ground Zeroes would bridge the gap.

In March of 2012, Mr. Kojima spoke at a Q&A to mark the inclusion of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 in the Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” exhibit. He stated that he and his staff were working on a project he believed would become the shining moment for both his career and the Metal Gear series. This new game was to deal with taboo issues while still being fun to play. In August of the same year, a new Metal Gear installment dubbed Ground Zeroes made an appearance at an event that celebrated the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Mr. Kojima referred to Ground Zeroes as a prologue to a bigger title, and that it would involve open-world gameplay. In December, a new trailer for a game titled The Phantom Pain surfaced at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards. This game was apparently being developed by a Swedish company named Moby Dick Studio, but astute fans took notes of various hints and deduced that Kojima Productions made the trailer. Although Mr. Kojima equivocated when asked about this, he eventually confirmed the theory in March of 2013 when he revealed the full name of the project: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This led to a fair bit of confusion, as many people thought that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain had been combined into a single game before Mr. Kojima stated that they were still intended to be separate experiences. The reason behind this was to gain feedback about the quality of the game’s engine.

After a lengthy development cycle, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released in 2014 to a mixed reception. Although many critics praised the gameplay, fans weren’t thrilled about the prospect of paying forty dollars for what was essentially a tech demo whose main campaign could be completed in less than two hours. Mr. Kojima assured the public that The Phantom Pain would be two-hundred times larger than Ground Zeroes, and that the best was yet to come. One year after the release of Ground Zeroes, Konami announced that they were undergoing a corporate restructuring. As a majority of their income came from their line of pachinko machines, their game development divisions became less lucrative for them as the 2010s progressed. This infamously resulted in Silent Hills, the ninth installment of their famous survival horror franchise, being abruptly canceled and them parting ways with Mr. Kojima and his personal studio. Despite all of this turmoil, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain saw the light of day in September of 2015. Just like its two predecessors, it managed to amass universal critical acclaim from countless gaming publications such as Famitsu, GameSpot, and IGN. Was it truly able to escape Konami’s tumultuous atmosphere unscathed and shine as one of the decade’s highlights?

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Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Metal Gear Solid - Peace Walker

The year 1989 marked the release of Nintendo’s first handheld gaming console to feature changeable cartridges: the Game Boy. It quickly became synonymous with the flourishing handheld industry, and although competing systems sought to capture at least some of the Game Boy’s market share such as the Atari Lynx, the Sega Game Gear, and the Neo Geo Pocket, every single one of them faded away, becoming a little more than curious footnotes in the medium’s history. In 1994, Sony entered the world of console gaming with their first PlayStation console. As it offered superior hardware to any of the 16-bit cartridge systems, strong third-party support, and a significantly less draconian censorship policy than that of Nintendo of America at the time, the PlayStation became a hit, ultimately becoming the first console to sell more than 100 million units.

By the 2000s, Sony put an end to Nintendo’s dominance in the console market, succeeding where Sega had failed years before. This is a trend that continued into the next gaming generation with the PlayStation 2, which is often considered to be one of the greatest 3D consoles of all time due to its impressive library. Despite this, Nintendo still had a market that even their fiercest competitors couldn’t touch: the very one carved by the Game Boy. Following the success of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo released the DS, revolutionizing handheld gaming once more with its dual screen format, one of which famously functions as a touch pad.

Electing to compete with Nintendo on both fronts, Sony released the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Though it didn’t move as many units as the DS, the PSP became the first handheld console to hold its own against Nintendo’s. Several franchises that saw their debut or spike in popularity on the PlayStation and its two successors had an entry on this new system – one of which was Metal Gear. The first Metal Gear game to see its debut on the PSP was Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, a sequel to the immensely popular Snake Eater. Reception to this 2006 title was positive, though some fans expressed disappointment that it was not directed by series creator, Hideo Kojima. Two years later, the main series continued on the PlayStation 3 with Metal Gear Solid 4. It was touted as the series’ definite conclusion, and it systematically provided closure to the entire cast. Naturally, owing to the series’ popularity, this didn’t last, and during the E3 conference of 2009, Mr. Kojima announced that a new Metal Gear game was in development: Peace Walker. To the surprise of some fans, not only was the game to be released on the PSP, but Mr. Kojima, who had previously expressed disillusionment with his famous franchise while developing Metal Gear Solid 4, was going to direct, write, and design it himself. He assured skeptics that this would be a canonical installment and not a spinoff or side story, and even boast hundreds of hours of content. The game was completed and subsequently released in 2010, continuing Mr. Kojima’s winning streak by receiving rave reviews. It’s certainly an impressive feat, but does it really prove itself a worthy chapter in the Metal Gear saga despite a downgrade in visuals?

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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns of the Patriots

Though Metal Gear Solid 3 didn’t sell as many copies as its two direct predecessors, it would go on to become one of the most critically acclaimed games of the 2000s. Many fans have since declared it the best game in the series for striking a good balance between the relatively grounded feel of Metal Gear Solid and the unbridled ambition displayed in its sequel. As good as it was, and still is, some were decidedly unsatisfied with the decision to make Metal Gear Solid 3 a prequel, as Metal Gear Solid 2 left many plot threads unresolved, and they felt that retreating into the past was an easy way to avoid having to address any of them. Coupled with the success this franchise enjoyed, many began clamoring for the series to continue.

The pleas did not fall on deaf ears, for in 2005, Metal Gear Solid 4 was unveiled at a Sony press conference just before E3. Hideo Kojima, the series’ creator, was initially uninterested in directing this game, and intended to pass the torch to another. As a joke, the director was announced as “Alan Smithee,” an official pseudonym used by those in the film industry who wish to disown a project. This development was deemed unacceptable by a select group of fans who subsequently made their disapproval known by sending death threats to Mr. Kojima himself. Likely as a response to this, it was during E3 proper that Mr. Kojima revealed that he would be writing, producing, and directing the game himself.

A year later, Sony released their third PlayStation console. Considering how successful the previous two iterations of their signature console were, it came as some surprise that it originally received a lukewarm reception. This failure can be attributed to a combination of the success of Nintendo’s Wii console along with having few noteworthy titles upon launch. Whatever the case may have been, it was decided that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be released on the PlayStation 3 as a console exclusive title. Using the new console’s capabilities to their greatest effect, Mr. Kojima set forth to create what was intended to be the concluding chapter of the Metal Gear saga. To this end, the staff went as far as undergoing military training and traveling the world to help develop the environments that would be implemented in the final product. After three long years of development, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots saw a worldwide release in 2008. The response to this game was overwhelmingly positive, receiving perfect scores in various publications such as Famitsu, Game Informer, and IGN. Indeed, many people who had reservations about the PlayStation 3 were convinced to buy one just to play this game. The question now is: what exactly what about Metal Gear Solid 4 was so good that it achieved all these accolades?

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Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3 - Snake Eater

Hideo Kojima intended for Metal Gear Solid 2 to be the concluding chapter of his series. It is commonly believed that, in an attempt to sabotage his work so he could move on to other projects, he deliberately made the plot as confusing as possible with no intent on answering any of the questions it raised, insulting his audience all the while. This plan failed miserably when it became one of the best-selling, critically acclaimed games of 2001.

Whatever the case may have been, a new installment was announced at the E3 in 2004. It was originally planned for the up-and-coming PlayStation 3, but the idea was scrapped when it became apparent just how far the console was from completion. Instead, Mr. Kojima and his staff focused their efforts back on the PlayStation 2. This game marked a dramatic change in setting from any entry in the series thus far. Gone are the sterile, manmade structures and in their stead are lush rainforests. Many problems plagued the development process; older entries were primarily set indoors because consoles at the time were incapable of portraying a true jungle environment. Even the simple fact that the outdoors lack flat surfaces meant an entirely new collision engine had to be built in addition to changing how they set up the motion capture technology. Despite all these setbacks, this new game, dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, was released in 2004 in Japan and North America (the following year in Europe and Australia).

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 2 - Sons of Liberty

Throughout most of the nineties, the only exposure Western video game fans had to the Metal Gear franchise was the NES port of the original MSX title. Metal Gear Solid changed this in 1998 when it demonstrated its relevance in the 3D era by selling nearly six million copies, and proving to the public that the medium is capable of plots more complex than “kill all the bad guys.” Although the plot left few lingering threads, players naturally clamored for a sequel. They weren’t alone; after all, this is an industry in which the higher-ups to pressure creators into encore performances in the wake of a great triumph. Though the man behind the series, Hideo Kojima, was initially uninterested in making a follow-up to his blockbuster hit, he ultimately yielded, and development of this new installment began in 1999.

A year later, Sony released the PlayStation 2, inspiring Mr. Kojima to set his sights higher. To this end, he recruited Harry Gregson-Williams, a prolific British film composer from Hans Zimmer’s studio, to orchestrate and arrange the main theme and took advantage of the machine’s superior hardware specifications to add unprecedented levels of detail in an effort to bring the environments he created to life. The game was originally going to be called “Metal Gear Solid III,” with the Roman numeral purposely hinting at a nonexistent installment to serve as a plot point while representing what were the three tallest buildings in New York City at the time. This plan was ultimately dropped and the game was retitled Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The year 2001 saw the completion of this project, blazing the trail for the series in a new era of gaming.

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Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid -

The year 1993 marked the debut of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. The console featured graphical and audio capabilities far beyond anything that was available at the time. Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear and its sequel, expressed interest in continuing his series on this new console, believing the project would be completed in 1994. His plans were delayed once it became apparent that, for all of its remarkable advancements, the 3DO wasn’t a viable platform due to a combination of factors such as little third-party support and an exorbitant suggested retail price of $699 USD.

Development then later truly began in 1995, shifting to the PlayStation, the console that gave Sony their foothold in the market. Mr. Kojima’s ambition was to create the “best PlayStation game ever.” Originally conceived with the working title of Metal Gear 3, it was changed to Metal Gear Solid. The reason behind this decision was due to the original MSX installments being relatively obscure, especially outside of Japan. The “Solid” part of the title was a threefold reference to the protagonist’s codename, the leap to 3D graphics, and Konami’s rivalry with Squaresoft, the company famously behind the Final Fantasy franchise. Mr. Kojima and his team aimed for realism, even going so far as to hire a SWAT team to demonstrate their use of weapons, vehicles, and explosives. Metal Gear Solid was finally released in 1998, whereupon it sold more than six million copies and became a beloved classic of its generation.

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Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Metal Gear 2 - Solid Snake

The year 1987 marked the birth of one of gaming’s most well-known franchises: Metal Gear. Originally released for the MSX, it was soon ported to the Famicom and its North American counterpart, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). Though its localization was a tad spotty, it nonetheless became a surprise hit in the West, selling close to one million copies. Konami would go on to commission a sequel eventually titled Snake’s Revenge with the goal of specifically aiming towards their unexpected, newfound market.

Owing to the MSX version of Metal Gear having sold relatively fewer copies, Hideo Kojima, the creator of the series, wasn’t interested in making a sequel. In fact, until he ran into a member of the development staff behind Snake’s Revenge on a train headed for Tokyo, he was completely unaware of its existence. During this conversation, he was asked to create a true sequel to his original game. When the train reached its destination, Mr. Kojima already had the basic storyline in mind and approached his boss the following day with his new plan. He was quickly approved and in 1990, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released for the MSX. Ironically, despite the NES port of his original game being such a success in the West, it wouldn’t be until sixteen years later that Metal Gear 2 would see the light of day outside of Japan as a bonus feature on an updated version of a future installment.

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Snake’s Revenge

Snake's Revenge

In 1987, Konami released the first installment of what would later become one of their most well-known franchises: Metal Gear. The game was created for the MSX, a home computer popular in Japan and South Korea at the time. The executives decided in the same year to develop a port for the Famicom, the Japanese equivalent of the NES. It was created by a different development team than the one responsible for creating the original MSX version after having been given its source code and saw its debut on consoles nearing the end of the year – even receiving a full English localization in 1988…

Metal Gear NES - Uh Oh! The Truck Have Started to Move

…sort of.

Though the NES version was of a decidedly dubious quality, featuring many landscape alterations from the original, the omission of the titular bipedal tank, a botched English translation, and a treasure trove of bugs, it was nonetheless the first exposure the West had to the series, and proved to be a sleeper hit, selling nearly a million copies in North America. Konami naturally wanted to capitalize on this success by making a sequel marketed directly to their newfound American audience. Although Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear, was not involved, many of the same people who worked with him helped create this sequel. The result of this project was completed and released in 1990 under the name, “Snake’s Revenge.”

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