Tag Archives: Konami

Metal Gear!?

The wait is over, then. What has been heralded as one of the truly genre-defining games of the generation is out, and now we have nothing left to look forward to or something.

I love Metal Gear Solid 4. Yes, it’s indulgent (I made it 75 minutes for the ending); yes, Kojima needs someone to rein him in occasionally. But I enjoyed the hell out of MGS3 despite the same flaws and the few annoyances I’ve had over the gameplay, which hasn’t aged particularly well in all honesty. MGS4 overhauls the controls rather than trying to retrofit yet more features onto the setup, and as a result it’s a lot more accessible than previous games, no longer requiring great feats of polydactylism to perform simple tasks.

Metal Gear Solid 4

Take the CQC system, for example. A good idea introduced in MGS3, which turned Snake – who, until then, was supposed to be a martial arts expert despite only being able to throw and do a punch-punch-kick combo – into a suitably versatile fighter. It was clunky, though, and far too easy when halfway through a non-lethal playthrough to grab an enemy and slit his throat. Here, with CQC moved from circle to R1 and fatal attacks requiring an entirely separate button press, it’s much more manageable.

The gunplay has received a similar reboot. Kojima has been taking notes when he played the recent over-the-shoulder shooters like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War, because it’s just about possible to play the game’s battlefield scenarios entirely from this perspective. Even if you don’t want to run around like that, which you don’t, mapping this function to L1 and separating the draw and fire functions – admit it: having both holstering and firing the weapon on the same button was the worst idea ever – has turned the shooting into far less of a crapshoot.

That’s two of my biggest problems with Metal Gear down in one fell swoop. Continue reading Metal Gear!?

Feature-Length Cut-Scenes?

OK, so the Metal Gear Solid series is hardly known for its subtlety and brevity in storytelling, what with several 20-minute scenes in MGS3 and… well… the whole of MGS2, but the reviews of MGS4 are blowing my mind. Some of the reviews, notably Edge, are claiming that the game has two extremely long cut-scenes.

That’s a bit like saying that Metal Gear has a big robot in it, of course, but word is that these sequences are pushing the 90-minute mark. And Konami doesn’t want reviewers to mention it.

In the interest of fairness, GamePro is saying that it’s an exaggeration. We’ll find out for ourselves in less than a fortnight anyway, but I’ve always had respect for Edge and can’t imagine that such a prestigious magazine – possibly the only gaming publication that I’d use that word to describe – would make a claim like this about such an important game without there being some truth to it. And would Konami really care if reviews mentioned that the cinemas were no different to the other multimillion-selling games in the series?

True or not, it brings up an interesting question about storytelling in games. Would having 90-minute cut-scenes actually help games as a storytelling medium, or does it undermine it and defer the job to the conventions of film? Half-Life tells a story within a game and BioShock does it even better, and the irony is that the part of BioShock’s story that attracted the most criticism was the least game-like part: the ending. Continue reading Feature-Length Cut-Scenes?

Best of the GBA

Now that I’ve got Final Fantasy VI Advance, as far as I can tell there are no more big GBA games set for release. If it wasn’t before, it’s now going to be a home for nothing but budget pap. But let’s not mourn; let’s celebrate the life of Nintendo’s little handheld with ten of my favourites, in alphabetical order.

  • Advance Wars – While certain developers continue the vain struggle to make an RTS work on any console format (although the GBC has a little-known gem called Warlocked), Nintendo took a Japan-only series from 1988 and did strategy on the GBA. Not real-time, admittedly, but I need an analogy. Regardless, this was most people’s introduction to the Nintendo Wars series and proved to be an excellent fit for the handheld: deep, moreish, and just as easy to play in quick bursts. And that’s the hallmark of a well-made portable game.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – Choosing a GBA Castlevania is a bit like choosing your favourite child, but if I’m pressed this is my favourite. It doesn’t suffer the issues of Circle of the Moon (i.e. it was visible outside of direct sunlight). It’s also more of a challenge than Harmony of Dissonance, which was a cakewalk after COTM. Throw in the variety of weapons and the addictive soul-collecting system and the third time’s a charm for this series. Still buy them all, though.
  • Final Fantasy VI Advance – Ditto what I said about the Castlevanias. These translate amazingly well to the GBA, but FFVI gets my vote simply by being the best 2D Final Fantasy (don’t deny it). FFI/II haven’t aged too well, so they’re out. FFIV and V are both superb, though, especially V with the added customisation of the job system. The thing that this one has over them is just that little extra sheen that comes from being a later game developed on known hardware, and some real flourishes in the storytelling department that don’t come on the older, more linear games. You should still buy all of them.
  • Fire Emblem – Another perennial series that made its western debut on the GBA, think of it as Advance Wars goes to Middle-earth. Playing fundamentally the same as Wars, it brings characterisation and more story to the mix, with the unusual trick of permanently killing off characters should they fall in combat. I like it better than Advance Wars as you’re not controlling anonymous soldiers, but unique characters with enough of their own abilities to make that trick of restarting the mission from scratch if you get any of them killed difficult to resist.
  • Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap – There has to be a Zelda here, obviously. I picked this over the sterling port of Link to the Past (still a classic) just because of what a surprise it was, arriving with little fanfare and turning out to be a brilliant little Zelda game. Tons to do and featuring the charming animations from Four Swords, and presentationally let down only by the mildly annoying voice samples, it’s a slightly whimsical but no less essential take on the series. Plus it came to Europe first, showing that Nintendo only dislikes us rather than outright hating us.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga – Speaking of whimsy, this game almost defines the word. It wasn’t long ago that Nintendo kept such a tight grip on their flagship that something like this – to Super Mario RPG as Hot Shots is to Top Gun – would never have happened. It’s a great RPG in its own right, with some recognisable Mario hallmarks, but is also one of those rare games that manages to be funny. It has an Engrish-speaking boss, for God’s sake!
  • Metroid Fusion – Super Metroid is my favourite game ever, so I have to have this in here. While it tended to hand-hold – Samus now has an AI companion that tells her where to go – Fusion proved that it still works in 2D, even after the seemingly permanent shift into 3D first person. It also boasts some of the prettiest visuals on the system and brought to the table a truly threatening bad guy. Or girl. Castlevania has done it twice, so can we get a 2D Metroid on the DS, please?
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival – Street Fighter II shouldn’t work so well with two face buttons, but this has been one of my most consistently played GBA games since I got it in 2001. In fact, this summer, when I was tragically limited to my Micro and one game, this is the one I chose. Since the GBA lacks a puzzle game as perfect as Tetris DX, this is my next best thing.
  • WarioWare: Twisted! – How many of these games have there been now? However many, this is probably my favourite, even up against the original. The use of a twist sensor is ingenious and the team of course comes up with a couple of hundred inventive ways to use it. For a new twist (ba-dum tish!), play it by spinning yourself, rather than the GBA, in circles.
  • Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 – The 2D platformer to rule them all, even twelve years after its release this game still looks and plays wonderfully, and will continue to age better than the early attempts at 3D of its contemporaries. It’s testament to how much talent was poured into this game that even with essentially the same components and art assets, a less able team couldn’t make something nearly as good as the original. For more on the game, read my retrospective.

Unless you want it to die, don’t forget to lobby Nintendo for an English-language version of Rhythm Tengoku. It’s a top game that hardly anyone’s heard of, and the GBA deserves to go out on an original title rather than a SNES port. Even if said port is one of the finest RPGs ever made.

Best of 2006 #5: Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

In case I haven’t made this clear, I hated Snake Eater. But what a difference a little camera control can make.

After Sons of Liberty the MGS series lost a lot of goodwill, and so tried something new with MGS3. Now you play only as Snake (not Solid), and you’re not in the near future of infinite battery lives and soliton radar, but in a Soviet jungle at the height of the Cold War. You’re really on your own, with even the need to sustain yourself completely in your hands. It was just too bad that a bit too much digging in menus and a truly terrible camera let it down.

Luckily someone at Konami had played Splinter Cell. That second stick was put to good use and let you move the camera in full 3D (in a 3D game? Whatever next!?), and in doing so completely transformed it. What was game-ruining flaw suddenly become totally transparent to use and allowed the parts that the game does so well to shine through.

What it does well, it does very well. A slick and exciting stealth adventure with a wry sense of humour carries a superb story – all told through cinematics that can stand up with the best blockbusters – right through to an epic and emotional ending (around twenty minutes long) that gives the perfect finale to what had been a top class game. Bring on MGS4.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Ever since Subsistence revived my interest in the Metal Gear series, this one has been high up my wishlist. It fulfills both the need to continue the excellent Big Boss saga and the more pressing requirement for something to play on the PSP. I got my US copy this morning and, after a couple of hours spent trying to get the 3.02 firmware emulated so I wouldn’t have to upgrade, I gave it a crack.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

The immediate concern when playing this game is the control system. One of my criticisms of MGS3 was the convoluted controls and although they still take some getting used to here and are overall inferior, Kojima’s team has done some much-needed pruning. The lack of buttons eventually stops feeling limited, and I hope that the lessons learnt here are carried over to MGS4.

The 3D camera obviously doesn’t control as smoothly on a D-pad as on an analogue stick, but is still a welcome transplant from the last game. The frustration of unseen enemies is further alleviated by a permanent radar/sound sensor thingy (no worrying about battery levels) and a full map of each area on the pause menu. I still got spotted by an enemy that I missed in the first room but that was my fault for not realising how the radar worked.

The fundamental change to this game comes with the recruitment system, where each mission can be played out with a squad of four allies. Almost any enemy in the game can be recruited into your little rebellion and then their unique skills can be utilised – uniformed enemies are less conspicuous when infiltrating a base, for example – in your efforts to complete the game. It even uses the wi-fi function of the PSP to generate random recruits, meaning that just stopping in a coffee shop can yield an S-class supersoldier. I’ve taken my PSP out with me a couple of times with the sole intention of visiting a known access point to see what I can get. Continue reading Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

I Think I Get It Now

A few months back I complained that I didn’t get on with the “marmitey” gameplay (thanks for the excellent adjective, Martin) of the Metal Gear Solid series. I take it back.

You tend not to give games that you dismissed another chance but I stuck MGS3: Subsistence in again the other day. Maybe it was the nagging sense that I was missing something or maybe it was just that I’d bought the bloody thing twice and still hadn’t had my money’s worth, but whatever it was I’m actually enjoying it. Despite the silly story and tendency to drag in the cut scenes (almost twenty minutes at the end of Virtuous Mission!), the proper 3D camera really saves it.

I still maintain that, because of that camera, MGS3 can be classified as a bad game. It worked in the first two because they were (a) angular and (b) complete with radar. MGS3 was neither and might as well have been an FPS for all the time that I had to switch to first person to see a guard ahead of me. Subsistence’s camera is a significant addition that really should have been in there from the start.

Incidentally I’m now watching US copies of MGS and MGS2 on eBay. I’m such a completist whore.