To: Sean Gandert
From: Blake Foley
Subject: I’m Pretty Sure the Surgeon General Wouldn’t Approve
I have a stage to set, so bear with me…
Every now and then, we get a year where great games are bountiful and formative. 2011 was great. 2007 was better. 1998 was the best (I’m willing to hear an argument for 2007, but I’m not sure I’m ready to forgive Portal for the flood of puzzle-platformers that followed). 1998 gave us Resident Evil 2, Suikoden II, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Half-Life, Grim Fandango, Baldur’s Gate, Star Craft, Pokemon Red & Blue, Banjo Kazooie, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, and, of course, Metal Gear Solid. Whether you owned a Nintendo 64, PlayStation, PC, or Game Boy, there was something amazing to play. Me, I had a Nintendo 64. I’d made a huge fuss about getting one the year it came out and my parents got me one for Christmas. The day before, my brother had pulled me aside and told me that Mom and Dad weren’t going to get me one and I was just going to be disappointed and sad if I kept talking about it and got my hopes up. I took his talk to heart and went into the holiday expecting anything but a new Nintendo console. I was so happy, I literally cried.
I guess what I am trying to say is, I was invested. The moment I unwrapped that gift was the closest to being a fanboy that I have ever been. I didn’t need anything else.
One day, all of that changed. A friend who lived kind of far away was coming over and he was going to spend the weekend at my house. We didn’t see each other very often, so it was all a really big deal. He had a Nintendo 64 and we’d often show each other the new games we’d been playing. He showed up and we immediately went downstairs into the basement to play. I asked if he’d brought any of his Nintendo 64 games. As he pulled a new PlayStation out of his backpack, he told me he’d sold his Nintendo. I was both shocked and pretty damn disappointed. “What do you want to play, then?” I asked. He pulled out a copy of Metal Gear Solid.
Now, I’m being a little dramatic, but it was a big moment for me. We spent that weekend playing through the entire game, and I was in awe. I’d played “Mature” games like Mortal Kombat and Doom before, but Metal Gear Solid was the first game I’d played that felt like a video game for grown-ups. Everything, from its gameplay to its subject matter to its presentation, felt completely different from anything I’d ever played before.
At one point, my older brother came downstairs, looked at the screen, and asked what we were playing. “Metal Gear Solid!” I said.
“Like the NES game?” he asked.
Ignorant of the series’ history I replied “No, this is new. You’re a guy named Snake. It’s weird, you can smoke.” I left out the part where he’d had his cigarettes in his stomach. I had too many questions about that part. I still do…
“Yeah, like the NES game.”
“I don’t know…” I had no idea that the amazing game I was playing had roots in something older. He shook his head and left. My friend and I kept playing.
Now, I was blown away by the game at the age of 14, but that was 17 years ago. How does it hold up after all of this time? I’ve played through the game quite a few times over the years (eight?), but before now it had been 10 years since my last playthrough. A lot has changed in video games since I last played the game in 2005. Going back, I was genuinely surprised with how well it held up for me. It was also really cool to come directly off of the previous two games, giving things new context. Metal Gear Solid is a remake in a lot of ways. Kojima recycled a lot of ideas from his previous games when making it. The game was revolutionary to me, but I wonder how revolutionary it was to original fans of the series. Fans that played Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
Playing it again in 2015 gets me thinking about the series and how it influenced my favorite hobby. It’s bittersweet, in a way. I realize now that Metal Gear Solid isn’t necessarily the revolution I thought it was. It still is revolutionary, but in different ways. It managed to take a lot of the forward-thinking design from Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and repackage it with amazing results. In many ways, Metal Gear Solid seems to be a more complete realization of what Kojima was trying to do on the MSX2. The thing that makes me a little sad is how little of what makes Metal Gear Solid great has found its way into modern games. It is 2016 and there isn’t really anything quite like it. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d like to hear what you think.
But that’s all pretty birds-eye. I’m intentionally being a little vague on the details because I want to know what you think. You’re playing the game for the first time in 2016 and potentially bringing a very different perspective. There are a hundred details that I could use as a jumping-off point that could launch our talks in any direction, but I want to know what sits at the front of your mind. What is the most Metal Gear thing in Metal Gear Solid?