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Metal Gear: Coming Full Circle

Posted by Steven Collier on Aug. 28th, 2015

With September first just around the corner, the entire internet is buzzing about the imminent release of “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” a game that is supposed to act as director Hideo Kojima’s closing chapter to his legendary franchise by finally bringing the Metal Gear narrative full-circle. Now, it would take a doctoral level treatise to even begin to explain the rich and convoluted lore which have lead up to the events of “The Phantom Pain.” However I think that this excerpt from a 1989 issue of Nintendo Power does a beautiful job of summing the entire plot up in a single sentence.

“’Outer Heaven’s’ leader is waiting but who is he?” 

In the wake of the unrelenting hype-train that’s surrounded Konami’s latest AAA title, it is easy to forget that at its core “The Phantom Pain” is more than a melodramatic character study of Metal Gear’s greatest antagonist. It is still meant to act as a prequel setting up the events of the original “Metal Gear,” a game that was released over 28 years ago. Which kinda’ makes your head spin, when you think about it.

So rather than jump on the bandwagon, and talk about how revolutionary MGS V is going to be, or speculate about what surprises Kojima has prepared for his final entry in the series, we at DKOldies thought it only fitting to take a moment and reflect back on the brilliant game that started this landmark series:  Metal Gear for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now, I can already hear the purists screaming that the NES version was merely a port of the vastly superior original designed for the MSX home computer. So, let me get a few things straight right off the bat: unless you lived in Japan or a select few European territories, you didn’t own an MSX computer in 1987. It wasn’t exactly something you could pick up at your local K-Mart .But, for the sake of argument, let’s say you did own an MSX. The system sold only a little over 9 million units worldwide. Compare that to the 61.91 million consoles that Nintendo moved globally, and it becomes pretty clear which platform did more to make Metal Gear a household name and secure its legacy. Love it or hate it, all of Solid Snake’s tactical espionage action would have almost certainly ended in 1987 if it weren’t for the NES port. 

More importantly, if one places all comparisons aside, Metal Gear for the NES is a pretty incredible game by its own right. Despite hardware limitations, it manages to squeeze in pretty much every gameplay feature that made its source material such a revolutionary title. From stealth mechanics that actually rewarded the player for avoiding direct conflicts, to interactive transceiver frequencies that let you call up a host of NPC’s for in-game advice, to the veritable armory of weapons and gadgets at your disposal, Metal Gear for the NES had it all.

As for the game’s plot: it’s shockingly straight-forward, compared to the series’ later titles. The year is 19XX and you play rookie special ops member Solid Snake on his inaugural mission: to travel deep into the heart of the rogue military compound “Outer Heaven” and terminate the mysterious mercenary leader who runs it. Who is this mad despot? What devious traps and terrible foes stand between our hero and victory? Is there any use for those Cigarettes in your inventory? There’s only one way to find out: fight, sneak, and survive to the very end of this pulse-pounding adventure.

This is more than just the game that launched one of the industry’s most iconic franchises. Metal Gear is one of the great grand-daddies of the entire stealth genre and a landmark title in the history of gaming. Maybe that doesn’t mean much to you. But if you’re at all excited to find out how Kojima is going to end the story of Metal Gear, then I think you owe it to yourself to at least experience how it began. 

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