To: Sean Gandert
From: Blake Foley
Subject: RE: The Phantom Sequel
I’ll get to the the intro credits in a minute, but you touched on something that I suddenly can’t stop thinking about: the scene with Gustava in the sewer. You’re right, it isn’t necessarily cinematic. But as you so terribly put it, it isn’t very gamematic (you won’t be thrown off the site, but there will be some kind of punishment for that one…) either. Time stops for a moment down in the sewer. There is a quiet moment that I couldn’t help but feel on a strange emotional, maybe even physical level. Snake and Gustava slump against the walls as they wait for Madner and the whole scene feels tired and drained. The dialogue itself is fairly forgettable, but the delivery is unlike anything I’ve seen in a game before.
While the scene in the sewers touches on Kojima’s cinematic flare, Metal Gear 2‘s intro is really the part that nails the action movie vibe that he seems to be constantly shooting for. While I’m not sure if it takes any specific inspiration from contemporary film or anime, it would feel 100% at home at the start of an action flick starring Kurt Russel or Sylvester Stallone, MSX2 graphics and all. It is probably my favorite game intro of all time. A really neat thing about how Kojima presents the intro is the credits. Sure, he could have been aping a style from contemporary film, but the decision was also extremely progressive. The 80’s were full of controversy when it came to the acknowledging the people who worked on video games. Many publishers wouldn’t even allow developers to use their real names in post-game credits for fear of competitors poaching them. Some developers had to go so far as hiding their names in secret areas and code. Kojima, however, put himself and his team front and center. The first words you see after the initial “Konami Presents” are the names of the people that made the game. I am not enough of a game historian to know if this is the first instance of something like this, but it is a high profile example that’s pulled off with unmatched style.
Once the opening credits are done rolling and the title screen has passed, Kojima gives us a text dump that sets the stage for the game. While “text dump” has pretty negative connotations, I don’t mean it in a bad way here. In an era where your motivations in most games are relatively vague, Metal Gear 2 makes the state of the world and the stakes of your adventure clear. It’s actually very similar to how George Lucas used the text crawl at the beginning of the Star Wars films to set the time an place of each movie. I’ve found, as I get older, that I have less and less patience for modern attempts at world building, but Metal Gear 2 had my undivided attention through its opening seven minutes. In contrast, I booted up The Order 1886 yesterday and its five-minute intro had me begging for some gameplay. It’s difficult to nail down what exactly sets Kojima’s world building and writing apart from the rest of the industry, but he has an ability to approach even the most cliched story with flare and enthusiasm that makes it feel fresh. I guess it is in the details…
Speaking of details, lets talk about Big Boss. You asked about the orphans that are scattered around Zanzibar Land. Some are mortared into rooms Cask of Amontillado style and some are aimlessly roaming the swamp. While a fair amount of their weirdness can be chalked up to “It is a video game,” I prefer to think of it as another part of Big Boss’ lunacy. This is a man that imported squeaky sand from Japan just to park a couple trucks on top. I feel like that needs to be repeated… He imported truck loads of sand from JAPAN to AFRICA and then parked a couple trucks on top just because he could. Somewhere along the way he decided that he was going to provide a home for war orphans. It is a noble cause, but I’m not sure he ever really thought it through. One child says “The one-eyed man is like our daddy. He doesn’t like adults.” Another child mentions that they don’t like men with guns. Honestly, none of it makes much sense, but I think it works. We are watching a man’s last grasps at an ideal that has become muddy and murky over the years. He wants to shield the children from the horrors that governments create, but the only trade he knows is war. If Big Boss weren’t defeated, I suspect these children would end up becoming another part of his war machine as they grew into adulthood. If he doesn’t like adults, would he still like them? I know you’ve started Metal Gear Solid and I’m guessing you are beginning to figure out that even in death the series is as much about Big Boss as it is about anything else. As we continue, we’ll learn more about “The Man Behind the Legend”.
There will always be more to say about each game than we can get to in these letters, so I think it’s best to move on. We’ll have plenty of chances to revisit the events of Metal Gear 2 and Big Boss’ character as we go further into the series. Next up is 1998’s Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation. We’re making a multi-console generation leap here, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. Metal Gear Solid was my first Metal Gear game and it sits with Silent Hill 2 as a game that totally changed my understanding of what video games could be. See you in Alaska, you old musher.
Metal Gear (1987) – MSX2 Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990) – MSX2
- Metal Gear Solid (1998) – PlayStation
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) – PlayStation 2
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004) – PlayStation 2
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008) – PlayStation 3
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010) – PlayStation Portable
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013) – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014) – PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015) – PlayStation 4, Xbox One