Metal Gear: Before The Series Was Solid

I want to go straight into Metal Gear Solid. But it wouldn’t be a proper Metal Gear marathon if I didn’t play the first game. And no, MGS is not the first one. It’s the third. Question is: is the first game in the series worth remembering? Or should you just do what most people did and go straight into Metal Gear Solid?

Being brutally honest: not really. While Metal Gear still has plenty of charm on its own, it just isn’t worth playing in today’s landscape. It’s clunky, frustrating, and not all that fun to play.

FOXHOUND rookie Solid Snake has been tasked with a dangerous mission: to sneak into Outer Heaven and destroy Metal Gear, a bipedal tank capable of launching nukes. He must single-handedly complete the task, his only support being Big Boss, his mentor, on the radio. Can Snake do the impossible?

As you might expect for a game from the NES days, the plot really isn’t much. It tries to have a plot twist, with Big Boss being revealed to be the villain at the end of the game (uh, spoilers for a game from the 80s, I guess), but it isn’t especially shocking. It’s very simple stuff; you are the hero, go beat the bad guys and rescue hostages.

Though playing this after playing Metal Gear Solid V does actually add onto it. Remember that army you built? That home you developed? Time to tear it all down and kill them all!

Ignoring that, it’s a very basic early video game story. It really isn’t meant to be compelling or shocking, like later Metal Gear games. It’s just to give context for the things you do.

Visually speaking, this game looks pretty good on a technical front. All the old sprites are simple, but charming. The soundtrack has all that classic 8-bit video game goodness that I love. Unfortunately, the color pallet really holds this game back; hope you like gray and brown, cause that’s pretty much all you’re gonna look at.

Hey, at least the MSX version looks better than the NES version.

As for the game itself, it’s really simple. You sneak around, punching or shooting the guards to avoid getting caught. While you’re out and about, you need to collect items to further your progress and rescue hostages scattered around the map. Simple stuff.

Just a few problems. For one, finding your way around is a god damn nightmare. The game is just terrible at guiding the player. Finishing this game without a walkthrough is damn near impossible.

Secondly, there’s the keycard system. To open the doors, you’ll need various keycards. Unfortunately, these don’t stack. So you’ll need to open and close your inventory ad nauseum, trying each keycard on each door. It gets really frustrating, especially when the door requires a keycard you don’t even have yet.

Finally, there’s the difficulty. This game is littered with one-hit kill traps, some of which are really difficult to avoid. And given this was the early days of video games, where a death could mean restarting the whole thing… yeah. You can see the problem.

Luckily, enemies are dumb as bricks. So there’s no need to worry about them.

While Metal Gear has its charm, it sadly isn’t worth going back to today. Sure, it’s neat to see where one of the most legendary video game franchises ever began. But actually playing it is an exercise in annoyance.

Well, hopefully Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake will be a bit better.

Oh, who am I kidding, video game sequels back then were always terrible. Three was the magic number, not two.

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