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Metal Gear Solid (Gameboy Colour) Review.

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Metal Gear Solid (MGS) also known as Metal Gear: Ghost Babel in Japan was published by Konami and released 5th May 2000 in Europe, Japanese and North American release were released a month prior. This is a bit odd in my mind as apparently, it was the European branch of Konami that actually came up with the idea of having a portable Metal Gear Solid, yet they got the release a month later. That said though maybe it took time to add the additional language translations for the game's script. An interesting note for this is that the game itself is more of an actual direct sequel to the NES's Metal Gear and also sort of offshoots from the main Metal Gear Solid cannon into its own alternative timeline where Snake retired to Alaska. As for its genre, I'd call it a 2D stealth action game, the main mechanic been hiding and infiltrating over brute-forcing. In fact, brute force is probably only recommended for the boss fights.


Plot

Seven years after the Outer Heaven uprising. A new Metal Gear prototype, under construction in secret by the American military, gets stolen during transport by a separatist guerrilla group in the region of Gindra in Central Africa. The Gindra Liberation Front, known as the GLF, is led by one Augustine Eguabon a mercenary that's been making quite a name for himself in the region. Augustine plans on using Metal Gear as a means of forcing the Americans to cease their continued influence in the ongoing civil war and allowing him to achieve victory. Solid Snake, the operative responsible for the destruction of the original Metal Gear seven years before, is brought back from his retirement in Alaska with some reluctance, by his old friend Campbell. Snake's mission is to infiltrate the group's headquarters Galuade, a fortress that was formerly Outer Heaven. It seems this fact actually conveniences Snake to join the mission. During the game, Snake teams up with the last surviving Delta Force member Sgt. Christine Jenner who was tasked to retrieve the Metal Gear, code-named Gander. She informs you that her team was ambushed, seeding the possibility of a spy in the upper echelons of the American military. She also informs you that the defunct mercenary group known as the Black Chamber is assisting Augustine in his endeavours though their goals may be different from the GLF leaders. As the mission continues further Snake begins to uncover a deep conspiracy between the US government and the GLF


Pros There is no denying that MGS looks damn good on the Gameboy. The sprites are clear and other than some annoyance with the radar that I'll get back to in the Cons. Everything is clear and visible which is very important in a stealth game as the difference between a dead-end and an escape root or hiding spot means the difference between life and death. Snake is animated very well and is capable of quite a few movements: running, going prone, crawling, pressing up to cover and shuffling between small spaces. The cutscenes as well though lacking much in the way of animation are rendered very well even if I do question the colour scheme from time to time, why is Snake in pink/purple?

MGS has, quite gratefully, given the player infinite continues. This is actually a good choice by the developers as it allows you to re-assess the situation and try again rather than some games that would give you a limited life system. It also makes the "alert cascades" and "gang up strategy" of the enemies far less frustrating. Although I could do without the game scoring me at the end of each segment, I never got above terrible. Still, I suppose it gives MGS some replayability allowing the player to get a better score in mission sections.

MGS is nothing without its villains and boss battles and boy do you get four interesting boss characters. A duel boomerang wielding repatriated Australian aboriginal that is shunned by his own people called, Slasher Hawk. Marionette Owl a child serial killer come assassin that has exceptional night vision and uses two puppets in battle made from his victims. Pyro Bison a flamethrower wielding pyromaniac old-timer and finally Black Arts Viper a trap specialist and leader of the defunct mercenary group the Black Chamber. Each of them makes for a pretty memorable boss battle having their own unique way of dealing with them and each having a final cut scene.

This is a minor pro but MGS does provide 1 save state. Though do not confuse the save state for the continuation checkpoint. If you die in the game you will be sent back to the last checkpoint not your save state. This can result in you losing items like ammo or other objects like night vision goggles. So if you want to use your save state you need to go back to the title menu and click continue. It's a bit of a roundabout way to load a game but at least it does give you the option to drop a save.


Cons This might be one of those things about stealth games in general but you always end up with a situation where one mistake cascades into another mistake followed by another mistake until you end up alerting every soldier/enemy that's on the continent. Well in MGS imagine that happens every time you get spotted. Troops are alerted and hunt you down like you're wearing luminous pink combat gear, which you are in one cut scene. This alone isn't too bad when you're in an open space but if you've got to pass enemies through the only exit or through a bottleneck well then my friend you're in for a world of hurt. The reason for this is that Snake will always get ganged up on and he's about as effective as a wet paper towel when taking people out in close combat. Not only that but don't even bother trying to fire your gun. One I guarantee you'll miss 9 times out of 10 when there close up but also even if you manage to take out the guards pursuing you with the gun the alert status doesn't change and the soldiers will respawn. So don't waste your ammo just run and if you can manage that without being constantly smacked on your arse then you may just luck out and find a hiding spot or a particular room to hide in like the deadly gas rooms. I'm sure you'll be fine in there! In fact, you will, these rooms always kills the alert bar. There are also other areas in the game that have these instant alert removal rooms. I get the deadly gas rooms but the others seem arbitrary.

Okdoky this one annoys me quite a bit and it could easily have been improved. In the upper right of the screen, approximately one-twentieth of the screen possibly even smaller is your radar screen. It is useful for giving you a lay of the land and letting you see troop movements beyond the screen. Then the game starts asking you to watch out for cameras using it that's fine there similar to troops just smaller yellow dots. Then it tells you that if you've got the mine detector on you'll be able to see them on the minimap they show up as green dots like the rest of the obstacles. Ok, why can't they show up as a different colour? O and now watch out for artillery bombardments they'll show up as tiny yellow specs on the radar, what? Can you see where I'm coming from here there are parts of this game where you have nearly 90% of your focus dedicated to a tiny radar map one 20th of the screen? What's more annoying is it doesn't even have to be that small the radar literally has blank black space around it.

Okdoky finally just a minor point is the inventory management system. It's a bit, for want of a better word, pants. Now I know I've definitely played Gameboy games that have brought up a menu to see what's in your inventory. MGS though uses a scroll system, as in you press select then scroll through your items until you get to the items you need. Initially, this works well when your inventory starts off simple but becomes a pain when you start getting multiple box colours, the gas mask, key cards, goggles and multiple grenade types. It would just be simpler if I could just see the items and choose them when the inventory gets to this stage. I mean the game pauses anyway when you press select so it's not like your having to do this on the fly.


Nerd O Meter Rating


High 3 out of 5


So why have I given this game an awesome high 3 is what you're probably thinking. Well, first of all, I want to say that the game is quite enjoyable it definitely has me wanting to play more of it. It's possibly quite a unique game for the Gameboy as well but I do lack a bit of knowledge when it comes to the Gameboy and what's in its library of games. What I can say though is that the stealth system employed isn't unique not by the year 2000. In fact, I'd argue that it's just a more polished up version of the NES's Metal Gear mechanic. Which in itself isn't bad but hardly original by the time this game was released. Not to mention that the enemy AI isn't exactly nuanced when it comes to detecting you it either doesn't spot you or bum rushes you at the moment of detection. What I will say is that the game shines in its unique villains and characters as well as changing up the scenes just enough to keep you wanting to play it more. The only real other gripe I have about the game is having to use the radio to talk to your allies. It's not the talking to them but having to remember the frequency's needed to talk to them then manually adjust the radio frequency. Just seems to be needlessly complicated especially when you want to drop a save, frequency 140.96. So do I recommend MGS for the Gameboy Colour? Well yes, If nothing else it gives a parallel universe continuity outside the main cannon of the Metal Gear series so for MGS fans that's going to be worth looking into on its own. Not to mention it's a more polished version of the NES's Metal Gear stealth mechanic on a much younger console so easier to acquire and easier to play.

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