Snake Like Never Before
As the Metal Gear franchise nears its twenty-fifth anniversary, fans have a lot to be stoked about. In addition to new console and handheld titles, they’ll get to relive Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the Nintendo 3DS. The game is due in Japan in November, but it won’t be coming stateside until next year.
As some of you may recall, Metal Gear Solid 3 was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, and was instantly recognized as a high point for the franchise. Gone were the tight spaces and urban environments, replaced by a dense Soviet jungle. The bizarre government conspiracies and science-fiction elements were as intriguing as ever, and the graphics were top-notch. Video games had never before given fans such a good reason to sneak around shooting people with tranquilizer darts.
What brings our hero, the oddly named Naked Snake (as opposed to a clothed snake, apparently), so far away from home? Well, the U.S. government didn’t tell us something about the Cuban missile crisis. Before the Soviets agreed to remove their missile bases from Cuba, the U.S. had to promise to return Nikolai Stepanovich Sokolov, a Soviet scientist who had defected to America. It turns out that Sokolov was so valuable to the Soviets because he was working on a terrifyingly powerful weapon, and when he returns, his home country immediately forces him to continue his work. The U.S. sends in a team of operatives to recapture Sokolov. That team, in turn, sends Naked Snake in with radio support to get the job done.
Early indications are that in the most important ways, this will be a pretty faithful port of the PS2 title. I’m expecting the missions to unfold in the same way, with no changes to the plot. Perhaps the only addition that could change the game on a fundamental level is the inclusion of an auto-aim mode, but because Metal Gear is always more about stealth than full-scale shootouts, I imagine even that won’t be too big of an adjustment. Ditto for a few features that could be brought over from Peace Walker, such as over-the-shoulder aiming and a co-op mode.
Of course, the 3DS has an extra dimension that the PS2 lacked, and that should make all the difference for the visuals. Whether you’re trying to pick enemies out of a dense jungle background or just watching the blades of grass swing by you as you crawl along the ground, the 3D “pop” should be an ever-present enhancement to the graphics.
The port will take advantage of the 3DS’s other hardware features, as well. Specifically, you can use the system’s camera to take a picture of anything you want, and then use it to make your in-game camouflage. This should encourage some creativity when it comes to blending in with your surroundings, and it will pave the way for some off-the-wall fun, too. In addition, several segments in the game, including walking along a swaying bridge, will require you to keep your balance by tilting the console.
Another big advantage to the 3DS’s hardware is that it has two screens, one of them a touch screen. Accessing one’s inventory can be time-consuming and boring in a Metal Gear game, but a touch screen makes navigating menus a breeze.
A more minor addition will be Yoshi. Yes, you read that right. Just as the Gamecube’s Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes briefly paid homage to Nintendo’s cultural icons, the franchise’s 3DS appearance will feature Yoshi in some capacity, if the game’s trailer is any indication. I’m wondering what Jurassic Park-style scientific conspiracy managed to create him.
One concern I have about Metal Gear on the 3DS is about the controls. The default setup has you controlling Snake with the joystick and the camera with the face buttons, which is an awkward solution for the problem of not having a second joystick. (Apparently, the 3DS version will feature the the fully controllable camera that was added for the game’s “Subsistence” edition.) Hopefully, the controls will be customizable so that you can control the camera with the touchscreen, so long as that doesn’t interfere with the aforementioned menu-navigation functions. Or maybe the game will be compatible with the recently leaked attachment that gives the 3DS a second joystick.
For 3DS owners who like stealth games, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D is looking incredibly promising. Not only does it stay faithful to the rich source material, but Konami and Kojima Productions are working to incorporate the 3DS’s hardware in ways that improve the game. As for the great many of us who haven’t taken the plunge on the 3DS yet, MGS3 can be added to the $80 price cut as a reason to invest in the console. And here’s another: Though no announcements have been made yet, it appears that more MGS games will be on their way to the 3DS in the future.