Metal Gear Solid is the quintessential spy game, so for anyone who missed out on the MGS phenomenon, this is a great chance to catch up on some great video game history. The Metal Gear Solid series has the subtitle of “Tactical Espionage Action,” and it’s an apt description.
For those not in the know, the Metal Gear Solid series involves the player taking on the role of a special operations agent named Solid Snake, in the cases of MGS1 and 2, and the CIA agent Naked Snake in the case of MGS3. The games revolve around stealth and infiltration. MGS1 finds Snake making his way into a nuclear weapons facility on a fictional island off the coast of Alaska; MGS2 involves nuclear weaponry again, but throws in the twist of Russian terrorists trying to get hold of said weapon. MGS3 takes a step back to the series origins and introduces Naked Snake, who would later go on to become the infamous Big Boss.
The games involve sneaking from location to location while the player tries to avoid being spotted by an enemy. When spotted, enemies send the game into “Alert” mode, where Snake has to evade enemies as long as possible and send them into “Caution” mode, where patrols a bit tighter and in greater numbers, and then until the patrols revert back to normal status where it’s easier to sneak around again. Between bouts of sneaking through bases and the wilds are boss fights. The most notable boss fights from each game, in a matter of opinion, are Revolver Ocelot in MGS1, the Harrier in MGS2, and The Boss in MGS3.
Now, it’s possible to just gush over how great Metal Gear Solid is, because, well, it is, but the Essential Collection has some fundamental flaws. It works best to address the shortcomings of each game on its own, so here goes.
The version of MGS1 included in the collection is the PS1 version, so it’s lacking a bit in the graphics department. It’s not that big of a deal that the game shows its age, but it would have been a lot nicer had it been a port of the GameCube version, The Twin Snakes, which is the original remade using the MGS2 engine. A number of years ago, the game was released in a special package called Metal Gear Solid Integral that never made it to the US, with an extra included disc with all kinds of VR missions, which were great fun. MGS VR Missions was released later on down the road in the US, and it’s sadly absent from this collection. It was easy to waste hours on end trying to best scores for sneaking times and enemy elimination training. Also, since the game is its original PS1 version, if you don’t own a PS1 memory cards or a PS3 with backwards compatibility, then it’s an impossibility to save the game. Strike one.
The version of MGS2 is the re-release Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance. It includes a slew of VR missions with a total of six playable characters, as well as the Snake Tales side story, which allows the plot between the Tanker Chapter and the Big Shell Chapter to be filled in. Also included is the popular skateboarding minigame where either Snake or Raiden shred their way across Big Shell racking up points from stunts and collecting different items. The drawbacks to this version of Substance are the inability to post high scores from the VR missions online, as Konami’s old Substance site has been down for quite a number of years now. The game also lacks the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 which, while was not part of the original Substance, came out when MGS2‘s original installment Sons of Liberty was first available. It certainly would have added quite a bit to the collection. Strike two.
MGS3 consists of the first disc of its re-release Subsistence. The Subsistence disc includes a special mode with background information to better set up the plot of the game. It also includes a “Demo Theater” which allows access to any one of the game’s cutscenes at any time. The game entirely lacks the Persistence disc from the previous release of Subsistence, as well as the Existence disc from the Limited Edition. While the omission of the Existence disc can be overlooked due to the Subsistence disc’s Demo Theater, the lack of the Persistence disc is inexcusable. Persistence included the popular “Snake VS Monkey” minigame that crossed over with the Ape Escape franchise, the Duel mode which allowed the player to fight any of the bosses at any time, the ability to play the two original Metal Gear games, and other extras. The original Persistence disc granted access to Metal Gear Online. Last year in April, the MGO servers were taken down, rendering that game mode completely useless. Many fans believe the shutdown of MGO to be responsible for the Essential Collection‘s lack of the Persistence disc, which is no excuse at all. Strike three.
It’s hard to completely write off this collection because the games in it are so great, but it has so many shortcomings that just add up and make it difficult to say whether it’s worth owning. The Japanese version of the collection had some different extras such as the aforementioned lack of the original two Metal Gear games and the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2, as well as the very informative and interesting Metal Gear Saga DVD, and MGS Portable Ops for the PSP. With the exception of PSP games being an entirely different media, it’s hard to imagine that this collection would likely have worked better as a PS3 release on a single Blu-Ray disc.
So should you get this collection? A diehard fan would likely say no, as it exhibits a serious lack of time and effort on Konami’s part. For those who’ve not really experienced the Metal Gear franchise, this would be a great way to get into the series if you’re looking for a basic package.