SONY PSP REVIEW: METAL GEAR SOLID: DIGITAL GRAPHIC NOVEL

It's like a comic book, except that it's 100% completely portable! Wait a sec...by Cole Smith

July 21, 2006 - Is Snake's story that good that it needs to be retold for the third time? Well, if you're a Solid Snake fan, you probably can't get enough of the Shadow Moses incident, and besides, the story has never been told like this before.

Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel is a combination of a comic book, videogame and interactive movie. The story is told through various renderings, both static and animated, in a text-based format. Yes, sadly you're going to have to read. Who says that videogames don't teach you anything? The presentation and the story are so engrossing that you won't mind all the reading, in fact, after a few minutes you won't even be aware of it. Well, maybe you will be but it won't seem as much of a burden as when you're reading the instructions for assembling a barbecue.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel screenshot

Obviously I'm not going to spoil any of the storyline for you so feel free to read on. You might as well get used to reading if you're going to get this title. If you're just interested in the story, you can sit back, relax and enjoy it as it automatically unfolds for you. You just set the pace and away you go. It will take about two hours. If this is all you want to get out of this title then I suggest you rent it. If you're looking for a little more action then there are a few extra modes which make things more interactive. The Mental Search mode lets you analyze scenes for special items and icons that you can collect. There are tons of them and they aren't always easy to find. Once you amass a sizeable collect you can put them to use in the Memory Building mode where you can connect these items to create new branches to the storyline.

In the main story mode you have the option of going through it automatically or manually. If you choose the manual method, you will be enticed to add items to your collection. You can do this by zooming in on the pages and examining the graphics in great detail. It can be a very time consuming activity, one that can take up to three or four times longer than just viewing the mode on autopilot. There are a couple of different ways to get hints as to where these collectibles are located. The cursor will begin to rotate at a more rapid pace the closer you get to an item, or a display called the sync rate graph will show you on what pages you can expect to find item relative to where you are in the digital novel. For instance the graph may indicate that there are items on the pages ahead, or on some that you passed. Just press the square button to enter into the Mental Search mode and you can begin collecting.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel screenshot

The PSP's nub is almost always responsible for some kind of control issue and it's no exception in this title. The nub is highly inaccurate when directing the cursor and makes things more difficult than they need be. It slips, slides, glides and flies around the screen like a drunken figure skater. There's really not much in the way of control in a game like this, and considering that it's not really a game, that makes it all the more annoying.

These collectibles are referred to as Memory Elements and are used in the Memory Building Simulation mode. By combining various Memory Elements you will open new paths that connect to the main storyline. These new paths are seen in the form of memories; situations in Snake's career that are responsible for shaping his character. Some of these items just don't relate and it's your responsibility to figure out exactly what can be connected. Eventually things do make sense but it's not easy combining over 100 different elements. The game will warn you when you have things wrong and it's in your best interest to disconnect them immediately. The game would have you make a mental note of the items that can't be connected so that you don't make the same mistake in the future. Good luck. If your memory is that good you're just wasting your time playing these crazy games when you could be out making a fortune of Jeopary or becoming a lawyer.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel screenshot

The art is handled by the same artist responsible for the official MGS comic book. The quality changes from page to page. It ranges from gritty outlines to superbly detailed, photo-realistic scenes. Most of the images are static but occasionally they break from the page and come to life, fully animated. The animation itself varies from crude storyboard sketches to fully rendered cutscenes complete with sound effects and music. It's a great way to punctuate the action scenes and make some scenes more memorable. And no, there is no recorded dialog. At all. So just deal with it, okay?

Aside from the relative lack of replay value, Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel is more than just rehash or a novelty. It's a new, fully-realized medium of entertainment that I predict we're going to see a lot of in the future, especially on handheld systems. Budget priced at under twenty bucks, you'd be hard pressed to find something comparable in a used book store.

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel screenshot

Features:

  • Story developed by franchise creator Hideo Kojima and producer Noriaki Okamura.
  • Digital Metal Gear Solid comics edited to music and sound to give an all new MGS experience and feel
  • MGS story adapted for comics by Kris Oprisko and artwork by acclaimed artist Ashley Wood
  • MGS Database Library- Highlight 300 different items during comic viewing to unlock a history and library of all things Metal Gear Solid
  • Bonus Content and Artwork unlock through multiple view throughs

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel (PSP)
4.5
Graphics
The artwork is very creative. It changes in tone and feel. Very refreshing and fully realized.
3.1
Control
The damn nub again. It's so imprecise that it's almost funny.
4.8
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects really add extra dimension to the game but there is no recorded dialog.
2.2
Play Value
You will have to play the game once through to be able to collect everything, but after that there's not much to look forward to.
4.0
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel box art
System: PSP
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Release: July 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best