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Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake review
by Uneducated_Reviews

When thinking of a Hideo Kojima game it’s easy to go with his 3D installments, Snake Eater or Metal Gear Solid would probably be the first ones to come to mind, still, he has been pioneering and making excellent games from the 2D era, most notably on the MSX2 Home Computers. The only problem with these games is that they were released only in Japan and some parts of Europe. We people of other parts of the world were treated with an apparently bugged and poor port of the first Metal Gear on the NES, yet, the game sold well and Konami greenlit a sequel to that port called Snake’s Revenge, this sequel was specifically developed to the Western market and now is most notably known for the absence of Kojima’s involvement, to counter this, Kojima developed the “true sequel” to the original: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the issue yet again is that it was a Japan-only exclusive. In 2005 both Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake were bundled together on Metal Gear Solid 3 Subsistence and also were included in the 2011 HD edition of the same game, both games seem to have a few changes but at least we have more choices to play them now.


First Instruction

The original Metal Gear was a pretty good game that used the system’s shortcomings to its advantage and allegedly solidified the Stealth genre, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake goes beyond and it exploits what made great the first game and pushes the envelope even further, in a way it feels like the evolution from Star Wars: A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back.

The story takes place sometime after the events that transpire on Metal Gear, it’s the end of the 90s and the world isn’t looking any hotter as the world is currently having an oil crisis. A scientist, Dr. Kio Marv successfully developed a new artificial micro-organism called OILIX to serve as a new combustible, things don’t go well for the doctor as he is abducted and became a hostage in the military state Zanzibarland to take advantage of his invention and become a world controlling power. Snake’s mission is to rescue Dr. Marv and maybe destroy the terrorist plans from the Zanzibar military along the way.

As far as “upgrades” go, between this game and the original, the story may be the one with the most greater overhaul, it has a long and complex script that tackles a lot of topics that were not common in gaming or even movies of the time and are sadly still relevant by this time, themes like using military power as a deterrent for global control (a theme that will still be used on almost every installment after), war orphans and child soldiers, and even PTSD caused by war. The game doesn’t have answers for all these kinds of topics but it asks us to question ourselves and think about these themes as we unveil the story, it certainly has a Hollywood flavor as it is inspired by a lot of action American films but Solid Snake goes yonder and shows us some uncomfortable stuff rarely seen in this type of war media.

Like the last time, this is a solo mission but Snake will encounter some aid in the form of Codec calls with a colorful cast, some of them will be allies that he will find inside Zanzibar and will give you a good amount of twists and interesting turns. The game has a good amount of dialogue that I didn’t think it would have, as the original Metal Gear wasn’t that heavily scripted. It also contains a bunch of great moments that I do think rivals some of the best moments of the series from future games. I became particularly fond of a storyline of a certain double agent and their tragic love story. Not every scene is a winner, as some might be a little over melodramatic but it isn’t an issue at all.


The Front Line

The gameplay maintains more or less the same fluidity as the original but there is a new mechanic that adds a layer of complexity to the overall experience and that is: crawling. This mechanic lets you crawl into smaller holes and ducts to enter zones that will be inaccessible otherwise, most importantly it lets you pass through enemies if there are small structures like tanks, fences, or boxes to be out of their line of sight, it’s also useful to escape from foes when the alarm is triggered and get under a vehicle while the alarm state goes off. This crawling mechanic isn’t perfect though, Snake is a big hitbox in the shape of a vertical rectangle that shrinks to a different rectangular shape depending on the direction he’s facing while crawling, it’s hard to explain without showing it but if just a pixel on Snake’s body is down of any surface while crawling he simply won’t stand up, this can become an issue as some of these environments lacks a clear perspective and more than a few times you will be stuck with any clear indication, leaving you to the claws of the enemy or getting unfairly spotted.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake doesn’t have a fancy name for its melee combat like CQC but overall it does the job, to kill an enemy you have to get pretty close and land 3 tricky punches, and if is not handled with care it can easily lead you to get spotted, although the game itself stress out that is better to avoid combat so it’s fair. Similarly to the crawling mechanic, combat has some trouble with Snake’s hitbox, when you touch an enemy you will be undoubtedly get damaged but the main problem is that because of Snake vertical rectangle shape and the isometric view you will get hit by the enemy nearest pixel in the form of a head or foot, this is a thing of that gaming era but given Snake’s accented and big rectangle hitbox it is more pronounced than other games that said The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where enemies and Link have smaller and more squared shapes and hits doesn’t feel that unfair. Contrary to the crawling issue, at some point, you become more aware of your spacing and get used to it, so it is more a nitpick than a problem for the most part.

It takes time to get used to the game’s controls and mechanics, at first the environment might look always dangerous and the stress of getting caught and losing precious resources like rations or ammo can affect your gameplay. In a way, you’re more like a trapped animal, but once you understand the environment, its mechanics, and start to think more like a hunter and not like a prey, you start to use your perceived disadvantages to your benefit, things like doing noise on purpose to lure out enemies or triggering the alarm on specific instances. It is a thing that always happened to me on the Solid games but it amazed me that this can also be made years before.

Boss fights are for the most pretty good, the majority of them have a unique mechanic but also most of them are fairly easy, although the best ones make you think from a different angle, my favorite by far is one with a guy who runs away from you. The final showdown, however, it’s kind of underwhelming, it is divided into three fights and is among the easiest of the game, they still have some trickery and are fun but are easy nonetheless.

Backtracking is a huge deal in this game, you advance through areas and it always will be a door you can’t access with your current key cards until you find it in a different area or earn it in a boss fight. At first, is not that bad but when you open a huge portion of the map this backtracking can be tiresome, a shortcut exists but it has its caveats as it’s not as straightforward as it could be, still this is a 1990 game and this kind of quality of life things weren’t the standard back there so I’m not complaining that much. Speaking of complaints, throughout the campaign you need to get several cards to get around the base, my starting issue was that the doors are not coded in any way to know which card to use, so unless you memorize the doors you will be trying each card available each time you pass a locked door, this was an issue at first but there are several hazardous locations on which you have a sense of urgency to unlock it, this mechanic is more exalted with the fact that you need to find the correct card to open the door. Ultimately, I find these interactions brilliant as they got me more exhilarated, so in a way this allegedly cumbersome mechanic pays off, at some point you can merge your cards to transform them into a master card, making this mechanic more intentional.


Frequency 140.85

It’s hard to know what has been retconned or not but overall the upgrade seems to be towards character sprites on codec cutscenes, the new ones have a modern aesthetic hard to miss and are closer to Yoji Shinkawa’s concept art, overall they fit well with the art style of the game so I think is a good update. There is some dialogue from certain non-enemy NPCs that seems too convenient but it doesn’t feel out of place either. Overall the art direction is great, and from the very beginning, they present us with a terrific opening credits scene on which we can have a glimpse of the new Metal Gear model. Graphically it’s an improvement over the first game but this is also true for its music and sound design, they’re more complex and speak of the mastery the team got between the original game and this one.

On Kojima spirit, the game prompts you to solve a few puzzles using the manual to cipher them, overall it is a neat idea strangely used on its time and with the non-printing policy, it is surely not getting used in the present, although, games like Year Walk use this kind of mechanic with a digital manual and it was greatly performed. In MG2SS however, this mechanic is repeated a second time and not only wears off its magic but also falls as a gimmicky mechanic. If you want to have a better experience prepare yourself with a digital copy of the manual, without looking too much you can find one uploaded on the web so it’s not that hard to get one.


Farewell

For the most part Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake has aged pretty well, it certainly feels like a bigger and better version of the original Metal Gear with some new twists and tricks under its sleeve, some mechanics might not be perfect or they were bound by the limits of the hardware of its time, but in hindsight, they became staples not only for the series or the genre but also for the videogame world. Solid Snake even made me reconsider that altering a classic piece of media is not inherently bad, I never have strong negative feelings towards the retconned Star Wars movies but I now think that it is possible to superficially alter a piece of work for the better. The strong war themes tackled didn’t make me think that much about them, as they have been questioned in better ways into future entries, but they surely would impact me if I played this game years before, nevertheless, one can’t ignore the brilliance and how advanced for its time Kojima was in regards of storytelling and game mechanics.
«Time-tested»

Other reviews2

A classic Zelda-style action adventure masquerading as a military shooter. Both the graphics and the story are insanely complex and high-quality for an 8-bit game. The gameplay is fun and clever with some quirky, out there puzzles. The experience is unfortunately dragged down a bit by the sheer exhausting amount of backtracking one must do to complete it. Still, already one of my all time favorite games of the generation.
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»