By Video_Game_King 8 Comments
Fun fact: this is the first 3DS game I've beaten. Yes, I passed up Kid Icarus and Fire Emblem so I could play a nearly eight year old game. (In Fire Emblem's case, I at least have the excuse of it not being available when I first got my 3DS.) But was it worth it? Well, if you're in the market for a decent stealth game, hell yes, it's worth it. If you want that stealth game to have a decent story, on the other hand, I'd have to put a billion warning stickers and disclaimers on any recommendation I'd give said story. I'd still recommend it, though.
Just be prepared for tons of cutscenes. So many, in fact, that this is probably my first blog that's less long-winded than the game I'm reviewing. Hell, that's probably how I'd describe the game's opening: ridiculously long cutscenes that just seem to go on forever. It only gets marginally better when gameplay is introduced. I don't mean that the cutscenes become any shorter, but more that longer bouts of gameplay start to balance them out (which explains why the cutscenes are only about 20% of the game). And it's not like the cutscenes are intrinsically bad. You get a lot of well-choreographed slap fights, and did I mention that the game looks amazing? The character models are some of the most realistic I've seen in any game, and while the 3D effects can feel like the highest form of pandering imaginable (CIGAR! IN 3D!), there's no questioning how well it's pulled off (although I would have loved it if the 3D effect stopped working when Snake gets his eye shot out). Again, though, this is all packed into a series of cutscenes longer than many other video games. What I'm saying is that you have to know what you're getting yourself into before jumping into the world of Snake Eater.
But what good are cutscenes if the story they're telling isn't particularly good? Fortunately, Snake Eater just barely passes that threshold into good, oscillating wildly over the line. For instance, do you know why the cutscenes in this game feel so long? Ignoring the fact that they are long? It's because of all the exposition. Snake Eater's set in the middle of the Cold War, and by god, Kojima is going to make sure you know that. Snake's getting a history lesson on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and you're sitting around for the ride. It pays off in the end, though, since it goes a long way toward creating a believable, thoroughly researched world, along with a few amusing moments, such as Snake passing up titties so he can gawk over a gun like a child on Christmas day. Same goes for its themes; yea, Snake Eater's insistently preachy about how there are no absolute enemies and how a soldier has to put their feelings aside for the sake of the mission, but they're both decent messages worked well enough into everything else in the story. As long as that holds true, it can be insistent as it wants.
Fortunately, not all of the game is this utterly dry. Unfortunately, those other parts are just plain dumb. Remember how I said the game prides itself on realism in the last paragraph? Well, the first boss you fight wears bee armor to ward off your bullets. Does it make sense? No. Is it ever explained? Not really. Is it really stupid? Yes. That's what you get with Snake Eater: well thought out spy thrilling punctuated with the dumbest goddamn moments in the world. But to be fair to Snake Eater, it at least seems aware of how dumb it is. For instance, how do you bring attention to the fact that your espionage spy film has suddenly become a spaghetti western? Tumbleweed, of course! The ever-so-well-known Russian jungle tumbleweed. Also, Snake Ladder. But I'm not sure if that makes the stupidity tolerable. I can't even decide if it's the good kind of stupid. Some moments are just strange, while others are....this. Ugh.
Actually, that reminds me of something: how much Ocelot sucks. Ignoring his strange meowing fetish, he's a cocky brat who's always hiding around the corner, just waiting to annoy you. Normally, I'd follow that up with an example, but all I really need to say is that he's a bad character. So bad, in fact, that I'm certain the female characters would actually be kinda decent if not for his presence. OK, it's not all his fault, since the other main villain is Colonel "I'm Also a Rash Teen Brimming with Hormones" Volgin, but Ocelot still takes his share of the blame. Were it not for him, The Boss would probably be able to serve a greater role than "the team's mommy figure". I'm not even kidding on that; half of her interactions with the two (Ocelot specifically) are her telling them to cut the shit and focus on the mission. And while I'm aware that EVA literally introduces herself chest first, I can't imagine Ocelot feeling her up significantly helps matters. So in summation, the only two female characters with any presence in Snake Eater are a mom and a pair of tits. Great job. I am now convinced that Hideo Kojima can't write good female characters specifically because Ocelot's a meowing asshole. (And as long as I'm complaining about the characters, it's hard for Snake to elicit any pathos on his "I have to kill The Boss" feelings when the guy barely even emotes. That's right: I'm hating the Hayter.)
But did you know that there's more to Snake Eater than the story? According to what I have written down here, there is. Apparently, you're supposed to sneak your way through Russia, even though Snake's a supreme combat badass with barely any use for stealth in the cutscenes. Wait, wait, it's coming back to me....Yea, I remember now: the stealth is the best part of the game. True, it requires patience like the rest of the game, but this time, in a much better way. It's a delayed gratification effect: because you're spending so much time sitting in the shadows, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, actually getting through these environments without being caught makes you feel like the all-powerful god you are in the cutscenes. And the best part about it all? Everything I've just mentioned! The second best part? It's a completely fair challenge. The dart gun may seem like a cheap way out, but unless you're smart enough to aim straight for the heart or head, you're giving the enemy enough time to notice you. And no running off to another area entirely to get rid of them Metal Gear 1 style, either, because they're smart enough to follow you. Fortunately, this works to your benefit, too: if you left a room shortly after knocking everybody out and then remembered that you forgot your shades, nobody's going to be awake to help you look for your lucky shades.....That was meant to be a good thing, like everything else about the stealth.
Not even the game's overly forgiving nature can spoil the stealth! Wait, did I say it was a completely fair challenge before? Because what I meant was "it leans a bit too much in the player's favor". The core gameplay's still solid, but the difficulty surrounding it...not so much. Did you think that Snake's camouflage made him completely invisible at all times, despite there being an icon that tells you otherwise, thus leading to your discovery? No worry! Just high-tail it to a nearby alcove (there's always a nearby alcove) and hide out for a bit while the heat dies down. I think the enemy soldiers only looked into these alcoves once in my entire playthrough. (This may not apply on the higher difficulties, obviously.) I can't tell you how many times I bumbled through an area, getting the enemy's attention and then losing it just as quickly. I don't think I need to tell you what this does to that delayed gratification thing I mentioned so long ago. But since you have to screw up a lot to need that easy cover in the first place, I'm just barely willing to let it slide.
Really, the only lasting complaint I have against the gameplay is the menu navigation. I haven't played the original Snake Eater since around 2005, but from what I remember, the menus there were iffy, too. Something about a pseudo grid or whatever. So Konami used this opportunity to make the menus only marginally easier to navigate. This time, you just hold a button on the D-pad to access your items. Although it sounds innocuous, there are a few problems with this. First, it's really goddamn hard to figure this out on your own for a variety of reasons (the game doesn't tell you and the buttons are kind of interchangeable). Second, take note of how I said you use the D-pad for quick menu navigation. That's right under the 3DS' analog stick, making all this management fiddly as fuck. Third,......wait, that's pretty much it.
- I'm thoroughly convinced that Hideo Kojima was only half-aware of the annoying faults with this story.
- I'm also convinced that the stealth is going to win some type of award come GOTY season (if we are to ignore the difficulty issues, of course).
- Say it with me: ♫KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GETTING INTO!♫
As promised: wrestling SpongeBob.
Oh shit. Is the snake getting its revenge on me for eating it? Have snakes risen from the grave to exact their vengeance!? TIME IS RUNNING OUT! I MUST DE-Oh, the character Snake. What's he getting his revenge against? Metal Gear, presumably; the title doesn't say, and story isn't exactly this game's strong point. Instead, that honor goes to the gameplay, which, for the most part, does a good job of delivering quick stealth bouts. I'd call the game Metal Gear Mini if I could hope for better things from that moniker.
I will, however, call the story Metal Gear Mini, mainly because it's so minuscule that I couldn't muster the strength necessary to memorize it. Mmmmmmmm. It all begins with enemy troops making a weapon of some type. IT MUST BE METAL GEAR! And so Snake destroys Metal Gear...about halfway through the story. This leads to a lot of pointless meandering around until Snake gets another Metal Gear to destroy. You want some semblance of a story! Here you go: a couple of lines of transreceiver conversation, and you're on your merry way. OK, to be fair to Snake's Revenge, there is some semblance of a plot in between the Metal Gears: you gotta rescue your buddy who you let get captured at the beginning. I think. I can't remember who was captured too well. In fact, I can't remember any of the characters outside Snake. The only characterization they receive is through the aforementioned brief conversations, which is to say "they don't receive any characterization". This wouldn't be too much of a problem if the plot wasn't as "character-driven" as it is, so in the end, we're left with a drive-by narrative. (Then perhaps I should have used this as the blog's video instead.)
But does it really matter? The plot only needs to exist so it can justify the gameplay (even if barely), and it does a good job of that. Its only real failing in that regard is not explaining why Snake himself is bright orange. Now, if the gameplay was weak, then we'd be in real trouble. Unfortunately, this is the only non-canon Metal Gear game ever made, meaning the gameplay is...decent? What the crap? Yea, turns out the fanbase hates this for no reason except for the ones I'm going to list later. Other than that, nothing to hate. It's just like Metal Gear Solid 3 from before: a lot of the fun comes from waiting around, watching the enemies, and then surreptitiously making your move. Except here, it all takes place in the span of thirty seconds. Remember when I said "Metal Gear Mini"? This is what I meant: Metal Gear action compressed into a very tiny space. Hell, even the environments are relatively small for exactly this reason, leading to less delayed gratification and more instant gratificaiton.
Wait a minute. Why am I even comparing these two Metal Gears again? They're worlds apart! For instance, while Snake Eater will throw you into the Caution phase if you manage to get up behind an enemy and put your hands over their eyes, Snake's Revenge will have none of that shit. Were you spotted once? Prepare to deal with the unholy fury of a billion generic soldiers, unless the game lets you escape for some reason. And you're not gonna make it out of this without losing half your health, so the message is clear: don't fucking get caught. Now I wouldn't make too big a deal of this if not for how cheap it can feel at times. Ignoring how inconsistent enemy behavior is (not even counting the escape thing I mentioned), some areas require you to blow a hole in the wall to progress. Blow a hole in the wall with deafening explosives. Deafening to you; the enemies are just far away enough to hear it and swarm upon your position. Don't force me into failure like this, Konami.
This sounds like a good opportunity to discuss the boss battles for which you will be woefully underequipped, so I will take it upon myself to discuss the side-scrolling sections of this particular game, instead. After all, that's what people take issue with regarding this game, right? Even though it only half makes sense? It's not like these are a major departure from the stealth gameplay the rest of the game is known for. If anything, they're this game's essence distilled into even smaller moments. Trust me: I have math on my side. The only exceptions to this infallible math are the terrible, terrible water sections. You better have twelve oxygen tanks and thrice as many hours on hand, because Snake literally can't hold his breath to save his life. Fortunately, though, these don't come up as often as you think, making the entry barrier to this game that much smaller. See, you guys? Everything about this game is Metal Gear Mini!
- Who has time for a story when you're sneaking around a billion compounds very quickly?
- Or item puzzles?
- Or slow-ass water sections that were included for no discernible reason?