This probably counts as the first proper request I’ve had to play a game since starting the blog so you all have Szczep to thank on the Rllmuk forums for this one. After the success of MG1 Konami wanted to make a suitable action sequel quickly for the US market and for some reason decided not to bother informing its creator Hideo Kojima. With no Japan release planned for the game I can only assume they didn’t see the need to let him no and it wasn’t until he bumped into one of the people working on Snake’s Revenge that he even knew it existed. The result being that Hideo went on to create a proper sequel to Metal Gear but that’s another story entirely.
I approached this game with low expectations as it’s generally seen as a rather poor offshoot for the Metal Gear franchise and I’m sure I will pick up a copy of the first game in future but for now let’s concentrate on the sequel. My first grumble has to be the password system mainly because I’ve been spoilt recently with the ability to save often on my Twin Famicom and even on the many NES carts with battery backup so it always makes me groan when I have to type in a huge password just to continue a game. Here’s an example of a password the game actually uses:
MBGQ R9Q7 H4H7 4JPV
8#W3 DP7X 4KT? 35
Just look at the size and complexity of it. I have to wonder why the programmers couldn’t have come up with something much smaller and I can only imagine how crazy it must have driven some kid’s having to copy down a long string of characters like that then re-input it just to continue. The game was released in 1990, way past the NES’s early days so it’s not as if installing a battery backup was a new concept so shame on you Konami.
On starting the game a few codec (Snakes portable radio) conversations explain the story with Snake being part of a 3 man team to infiltrate and steal back the plans for a Metal Gear (a walking tank with nuclear weapons). As the game begins your team mates run off into the jungle leaving you to find an enemy complex to infiltrate, all standard stuff for an action game. The main draw of the Metal Gear games is stealth and while it’s a bit basic on the NES you can still sneak around the game world avoiding all enemies and not setting off alarms. Being spotted by an enemy result in the alarm sounding and up to 3 enemy guards appearing to hunt you down which usually involves a mad dash to escape or frantic fight.
For someone sent behind enemy lines by the US government you would think they would provide more than a handgun and knife for poor Snake to defend himself. Thankfully the controls are relatively simple with a weapon assigned to either the A or B button by the menu and a few hits with your own fist or stab of a knife enough to take out most enemies I encountered. The difficulty does seem a bit overboard though and setting off an alarm can happen just by being in the wrong place when you enter a screen. A few sections of the jungle are shrouded in darkness with spotlights scrolling over the ground.
Stepping in one alerts the guards and even though they keep to the same pattern it can be frustrating to walk into one by accident just by entering the area. You might think this would add to the realism but it becomes a frustrating game mechanic that sometimes can’t be avoided. I must have spent a good 40 minutes wandering around the opening jungle as I couldn’t really gain any sense of where to go and asking for help of the codec didn’t offer much. Eventually through sheer luck I managed to free 2 tied Marines and one of them helped me into the complex.
Once inside the game takes on a whole new feel, looking like an industrial complex you really need to work your way past the numerous guards, cameras etc all the while trying to avoid the dreaded alarm going off. The game has been a top down perspective for all of this but changes briefly for a few sections of the compound. Every so often the game flicks to a 2D side on perspective (such as crawling through the sewers) where you can run, crawl, jump and use your weapons. I’m sure it was meant to come across as being more diverse but the side on sections just feel tacked on and simplistic which is a shame considering the top down view is so well done.
An action game wouldn’t be an action game without bosses and this doesn’t hold back. The first boss consisted of 5 guards that move in synch all of them rush towards you and chase you to a limited extent before backing away. Even using a machine gun and several grenades I’d picked up on my travels didn’t help much and I had to try several times to beat this boss, I have the control pad with teeth marks in to prove it! After what seemed a ridiculous amount of shots one of the guards fell then another and so on until I could walk proudly out of the room into an area filled with even more normal guards. Difficult seems to light a word.
Which brings me round to my overall opinion and besides the difficulty I actually enjoyed sneaking through the complex, taking out guards. It does seem to have received a lot of flak over the years mostly from loyal Hideo fans but I can honestly say it isn’t justified. Konami went out to make a suitable sequel for the US market and by that account they succeeded. Yes the game could have been easier but then it would lose a lot of the challenge and the 2D sections could do with being scrapped altogether thankfully they are few and far between.
The game is one of the higher priced NES titles and the cart alone often goes for close to £10, luckily I managed to win this in a last minute auction for £8, eBay to the rescue. If you are a fan of the older Metal Gear titles and have held off trying this because of all the bad comments then I simply say to ignore them. There’s a lot of challenge to be found here and even if it isn’t in line with the rest of the series it’s still effectively a decent attempt to carry on what the first did so well just be prepared for some incredibly long passwords!