Hey there random human or perhaps alien if you've infiltrated our world and society and you're currently masquerading as a human and decided to blend in online on video game websites in which case tell me why the fuck that Engineer from Prometheus ripped off Michael Fassbender's head, cheers!
Anyway my name is Josh and I'm part of that gross icky male type, yuck.
My dream is to become a video games journalist blogger dude guy so here's where I'll put all my writing work as often as I can to shine and polish my skills to their peak condition.
Full time Ken Levine lover and Part Time Jonathan Holmes obsessive.
Watch my awful Let's Plays if you so desire! Go on have a cheeky peek, it won't hurt you, probably http://www.youtube.com/user/BodaciousRayTube
And hey follow me on twitter if you really want, I'll try not to be too shitty
The past month or so has really been one of the most interesting periods of my life when it comes to gaming, all down to me deciding to finally check out what this Metal Gear fuss was all about. I've talked about relatively in-depth about MGS1 which I showered with praise and respect but I also talked about MGS2 which sadly failed to resonate with me as the first game did and failed to spark any passionate love from me.
So going I was somewhat cautious and worried as I went into Snake Eater, honestly I found myself in the same place as I did with the first game, I did not think I would enjoy this game. It's set mainly in a jungle area? The little map showing the guards is gone? It's a prequel so I won't be seeing any Solid Snake or Otacon? Those points and more put me off it but I was also equally eager to like it considering how disappointed I was by not enjoying MGS2.
So I'm more than happy to say Snake Eater did more than just please me and make up for MGS2, it went up above and beyond exceeding multiple games I've played in my short time and has now earned its self a place in one of my favourite games of all time. This is a game I hated to put down for even a second and every waking hour spent way from it felt shockingly torturous. I can't hold myself back any more either, opening and introductions be damned I need to talk about why Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater is one of my favourite games of all time.
Nothing makes me happier than a video game having a powerful opening section that manages to leave an impact which pumps you up for what's ahead and assures you that you're in for a thrilling roller coaster of a ride. Snake Eater manages to do this in a rather spectacular humorous way.
After being introduced to an all new set of gameplay rules and environment we're then hit with a god damn James Bond inspired opening theme, Kojima you delightful bastard. I must confess a lot of my surprise and love to the opening song is partly thanks to Jim Sterling as he repeatedly sung specific lyrics from the song "What a Thrill" on an episode of Podtoid episode which was delightfully named "Twilight Dragonpussy.". Somehow I just assumed he was singing lyrics from some obscure classic song that I had no clue about due to my somewhat young age but him singing it in the episode amused nonetheless. When the opening theme kicked in I assumed I was just in for another lengthy series of cutscenes until I heard... "What a Thrill."
"Surely not" I thought as my brain began ringing bells of recognition. "Surely this can't be the song Jim was singing on the Podtoid episode EVEN though he was talking about Snake Eater in the episode." and then the wonderful powerfully voiced female singer sung out from my puny PS Vita speakers "YOU'RE SO SUPREME" just as Jim once bellowed out. I was left in absolute hysterics, my own cluelessness of the matter was brilliant, remembering Jim singing the various lyrics amused me and just the entire opening theme had me giggling like a school girl.
I absolutely adored the song and have been listening to it non-stop ever since I heard it, the lyrics are so supremely silly yet I still find myself getting emotionally engrossed in the song even when she's singing about eating a tree frog. This is a series that deals with serious ethical and philosophical issues regarding war and other personal human subjects and yet here we are watching Naked Snake take a bite out of a dead Snake exactly at the same moment the singer shouts out "SNAKE EATER!". That's just fucking stupid yet so insanely brilliant! I can't get enough of it, the song encapsulates everything I've loved about the MGS series so far, a series that will deal with serious issues whilst the next minute having incredibly silly campy moments with a voice actor who says "BROTHER" in the most amusing of ways. Thank god for Jim Sterling.
One of my biggest problems with MGS2 was that it felt incredibly sterile and empty to me compared to the first one which meant it failed to light any kind of flame of love within me. I'm totally fine with the serious issues in the MGS games, they're what helps keep me interested in the series this far. But I also love that in the other hand it has a jar full of silly, stupid, campy and joyful ideas ready to mix with the serious.
MGS1 has people running around in gas masks, robot suits, covered in crows, spinning around revolvers and walking around shirtless on top of a big ass robot machine giving dramatic campy speeches. These extreme designs and personality's though didn't just express themselves through the narrative but also through the gameplay. Each boss fight felt like very unique individual experiences that although share the common thread of chipping away their health the way you get around to doing that was pretty much different every time. This was something that I felt wasn't really carried over all that much to MGS2 in both regards to narrative and gameplay which is a shame since MGS is now one of the few series where I actively look forward to each Boss fight!
Thankfully Snake Eater manages to remedy this and welcomes back what I was searching for so desperately in the previous game. This is a game that will one minute have a guy sending swarms and waves of hornets at you and then the next minute you'll be running away from guy in an astronaut suit with a jet pack raining down torrents of fire upon you.
However this game introduced what might be my most favourite and unique boss battles that I've played so far. The End is somewhat hyped up by the characters in the game as someone who will take Snake down without a doubt and yet we're met with the image of a comatose 104 year old man in a wheelchair. This is what we're suppose to be afraid of? The twist of expectations leaves you somewhat unsure of what to expect but what we receive is a rather special treat. I'll admit at first I did not enjoy this boss battle, screw this I thought, I don't want to be wasting 30 minutes just trying to sneak up on this old guy to snipe him down! It's a boss battle that I find one has to gain a certain appreciation and taste for, something I was able to do in the end.
Most boss battles are hectic requiring you to constantly be on the move along with blaring music blasting all around you but this one breaks all those conventions. Running around in clear open sight will only result in you getting quickly found and shot down, patience must be sought and in return you'll be sneaking upon the old bastard in no time. We're also met with a largely silent soundtrack to this section, we're merely left with the ambient noises of the forest and its wildlife inhabitants. However it also has what sounds like someone breathing very faintly at times, at first I worried this was him closing in on me but soon brushed it off as the soundtrack, then he popped up behind me and shot me. Needless to say this made me jump and goes to show that even slower paced less dramatic battles can in some cases be dramatically more tension filled than what most games try to achieve today.
In some ways this was a risky boss battle to include, it breaks away from a lot of the conventions of the previous and following boss battles within the game and requires a certain level of patience that some may not be able to immediately appreciate. Or you could just snipe him off early in the game avoiding the boss battle altogether, brilliant!
The only complaint I have of these bosses is that I didn't get to see more of them but even then I'm not upset, it's more of a complaint that these characters were so vibrant and interesting to me that I call for more screen time. However the one Boss who gets the most screen time arguably deserves it the most, Snake's former mentor, The Boss.
Snake Eater does a lot of things right for me but for me what truly makes it shine is the relationship between The Boss and Snake. Right from the outset of her introduction we're given a feeling of warmth and respect off her. We can sense a deep history between her and Snake, one that's roots has led to a rather intriguing unique relationship between the two. They aren't just friends, comrades, family or even lovers, it stretches beyond that, to something that I feel I could never hope to describe with a single language on this planet and I absolutely love that.
For a relationship that's so difficult to define and one that is betrayed relatively early into the game we can still see the powerful connection the two share even though we cannot comprehend it. Because it's a once in a lifetime connection with someone, as Snake says a part of him belongs to her due to the training he was provided from her. This is something that is shared among her other disciples from the Cobra unit, such fierce loyalty is devoted towards her so that for Snake her betrayal is incomprehensibly personal. These are two people who have poured their souls and hearts to one another and know each other inside and out, so when the Boss betrays Snake and her country it leaves an impact that usually would take much longer to build up in any lesser story. Even more impressively this devastates Snake in a way that is never expressed in an irritating moping fashion *COUGH* Raiden *COUGH*.
It's a burden that he carries throughout the entire game, a burden that is really expressed but always felt weighing down on him and us as the player. He can't possibly fathom why she would abandon him and her country, it becomes so central to the emotional core of the story that it takes the entirety of the centre stage easily outshining grander schemes. In lesser hands it could have been a repetitive story of a generic man on a mission to save the world and in some ways that's what the story is when you grind down to it. But Kojima manages to make the stakes in stopping a nuclear threat appear petty and tedious in the face and potential outcome of what will happen between these two characters. That right there is exactly what makes this game resonate with me and what I think with many others so much, world ending threats are all very nice and well in the framework of the story but having a strong deep emotional core that we can easily dive into and become invested in guarantee's a spark of passion from fans and new-comers alike.
We're also made wary of our eventual final clash with her, in every clash she has with someone we see her easily subdue them, that is to anyone who dares to step up to her. She's a leader of a team who all hold supernatural powers yet she holds none herself making it all the more impressive when she can make people like Volgin who can emit god damn electricity from himself back away. Her presence always demands attention without the single utterance of a word from her, she's someone who's always in control no matter who's in the room with her. So while it's all very well that Snake admires and respects her it's aspects like this that help foster the same feeling towards the character which again leads to further investment.
She stands together with a group that doesn't hold much of an admirable cause and certain members we're led to hate yet we never find ourselves hating her. Despite her frequently subduing Snake we never see her using the power she holds in an oppressive manner and we can tell she holds no joy in hurting her former disciple.
This makes the final battle with her all the more tragic, despite at this point we're not fully aware of the fact her betrayal was a ruse we're given enough subtle hints to know by the time they meet for the final battle we can tell they don't want to kill each other. It pains them to do such an act, whoever wins we'll lose a part of themselves and will then have to carry on the title of 'Boss'. Yet despite their hesitations they are tools and pawns of war in the end so they will come at each other with everything they have, both holding no intention of holding back.
Their undefinable yet touching relationship alone manages to carry a good portion of the game and becomes one of the most endearing aspects of the game and any other game I've ever played.
For a character to invoke so many feelings from me is already impressive enough to please me but Kojima this time round goes the extra mile to bring me a villain who's gut I absolutely despise. This is something new I felt to to the MGS series. Sure I absolutely hated Raiden but I never really hated the main villains of the games. Liquid Snake is a glorious, campy and extravagant masterpiece of a character, Solidus Snake didn't really have an evil agenda but simply went about it in a less than appreciated way and with where I am right now in the series Ocelot still hasn't really done anything to inspire hatred from me for him, he's certainly an interesting character but definitely not one that I hate.
With Volgin though he's the first character that I've been pleased to put down not because of relief of the battle finally being over but because I wanted to punish the guy as much as possible.
I can often find a character who holds a sadistic personality interesting, characters such as the Joker, in reality he's really a piece of scum but that isn't why people like him so much, to me it's because he gives off a sense of freedom and liberation. Someone who has no interest in rules or the social norms of life, he's simply out to what he wants and we find that endearing in a sick perverted way despite the fact he's driven by insanity. But maybe that's it, in many ways Joker isn't all there in the head so he doesn't always feel in full control of his own actions much like many other fictional psychopaths.
Volgin however isn't someone who's insane, he never seems a bit lost in the head despite his twisted actions and that's what makes me hate him. There's no root cause as to why he's like the way he is, there's no sympathy to be gained from his actions, he's just rotten down to the bone.
What cemented my hatred for him though was his treatment of EVA/Tatyana. She's first introduced to us as someone's wife in which she's then tortured right in front of her supposed husband by Volgin. He resorts to this with absolutely no hesitation and almost seems eager to do so. It then quickly begins to rain in which Volgin then tells her she will have to 'entertain' until the rain clears up. We never see what he does but just that small line alone is disgusting, slimy and dark enough to sicken me. Whatever he does though we see the results of it which leaves EVA with a disturbing amount of cuts upon her back, a result of which she describes as his 'hobby', a sadist.
This is made even more apparent in the torture scene of the game which I honestly had trouble watching. Snake of course shares a lot of similarities with Solid Snake who I was so familiar with and liked so much from the first two games so naturally I quickly warmed up to the original here. To me it's impressive that a game was able to get such a disgusted response out of me, not that I feel it shouldn't have been included in the game but that the game was able to make me care so much for the character that I didn't want to see him undergo such torture. He's left shirtless, tied up by the wrists and a blacked out bag over his head, he's in a humiliating position here. Volgins subsequent beatings and firings of bolts of electricity often made it very difficult for me to not turn away, it was disturbing to witness it happening. Snake is broken down to almost nothing through this yet he doesn't have the luxury option to lose himself and completely break down though, he's been trained to withstand such horrors, all he can do is take it.
Then it happens, the moment I had been wondering throughout the entire game of when it would happen, Snake loses his right eye thanks to a gunshot from Ocelot. Despite the fact I knew it would happen sometime in the game it still devastated me to watch it happen. One of the most vital tools of warrior is lost and Snake barely escapes the place with his life. The depths Volgin falls to in this scene is something else that also raises the stakes, he's someone who's beaten Snake onto the brink of death and left him utterly humiliated and shamed. Yet this only inspired greater hatred anger from me upon Volgin, he's someone who holds little regard for anyone and merely seems them as toys to play with and do as he pleases.
Unlike the Boss he uses his power to oppress just about everyone around him, inflicting pain not simply for the sake of it but for his own sheer joy and sick tendencies. We're left unsure of how we would beat such a foe but a certain moment I mentioned before assures us he isn't all powerful. The moment he steps away from the Boss in fear is an unforgettable moment, a character who's oppressed and stood up tall against every person around him is left rendered into a small little child in the face of the Boss. This moment alone gives us a flicker of hope and again helps foster respect for the Boss.
Volgin may be my most hated villain in a game I've met to date and for once not due to being an irritating character but more down to who the character genuinely is and their actions. Watching some of the things he did to various characters throughout the game made me feel a little sick to behold yet I'm over-joyed Kojima put him in the game, that Kojima was able to provoke such a strong reaction out of me deserves only the highest praise.
There's oh so much more I have to say about this game but to do so would result in me having to Kickstart a novel for my full thoughts on the game along with a free CD in which I sob myself to sleep over how much I love Snake Eater.
This game brought back a feeling and sensation that I sometimes forget about, yet it's a feeling that ultimately dictates and lets you know you're playing something special. The feeling of when you glance across your room to see the time is 2am and even though you have to get up early the next day the very idea of not playing any further is too horrendous to comprehend. The feeling of despair as you save your game and select 'Quit', the feeling of descending doom of depression as you turn the console off and climb into bed still itching to play more, and finally the depraved feeling of twisting and turning in the night as you struggle to find sleep as your thoughts always wonder back to the game that has ever so wonderfully seduced you.
Very few games work their way into my mind and heart as powerfully as Snake Eater has done. I've played plenty of new games this year that I've enjoyed but the true evidence of a game that has become special to you is where it pains you to leave it. As if you've entered some sort of dark, taboo affair with the game and every sweet second spent together is like sugar upon your lips yet every second spent away from it is like needles to the groin.
The only downside to how much I loved this game is that I'm now terrified of playing any more Metal Gear games. Next on my list is MGS4 yet I'm frightened of not enjoying it, I don't want to be back at the place I was with MGS2 where I felt no connection, passion or love. Not that I think MGS4 will be a bad game but because I struggle to see my experience with this game could be topped any further in the franchise, despite the advancements of technology and the fact Snake Eater is an 8 year old game I feel like my mind has been forever tainted and any other Metal Gear game will pail heavily in the eyes of Snake Eater.
This doesn't mean I'm stopping here though, I shall do my best to detach myself from my expectations and appreciate MGS4 for what it is, perhaps it will offer something as equally new and wonderful to me just as Snake Eater did. Above all I'm happy that I was able to enjoy a Metal Gear game once more but even more happy that I took a chance on the franchise because as a result I was met with what is definitely one of my favourite games of all time.
This is a game that will one moment hit you with the pains of betrayal and then the next moment have your British General on the radio turning into a fan girl over James Bond and spending 10 minutes explaining to you why he's so brilliant. The game has the ability to appeal to almost every sense of emotion all without somehow feeling messy, muddled or schizophrenic. It perfectly camouflages to the situation at hand to fully immerse when most necessary, a truly brilliant timeless game.
You know how when you like someone and they have this cute little trait or habit that might bring a little smile to your face now and then every time you witness it? Then after they go out with someone else or turn out to be a douche-bag you then HATE that fucking trait of there's, screw that little habit of there's, they can go shove that habit up their traitorous ass!
That mangled metaphor almost perfectly describes my strained abusive relationship with game over screens. They were once a cute little past time I was use to being met with upon death in a game but now I'm older and somehow even less impatient with a shorter temper for such fickle matters I now loathe game over screens.
So make yourselves comfortable in my theatre of ridiculous complaints as I cry and shout how awful game over screens are and why it's time we abandon, retire and abolish the nuisances.
Hey you know the phrase "Don't knock somebody when they're already down?" or at least something to that effect since my brain is farting out on me in which case I'm incredibly embarrassed. To put it another way it's sort of like "Rubbing salt into the wound", what I'm trying to get at is these two phrases perfectly sum up my feelings towards game over screens.
I can get incredibly childish and juvenile when playing games and will shout at them like the man-baby I am when I start messing up and keep on dying. It's already frustrating enough when a game is facing me with a difficult challenge so you know what sure as hell doesn't help to calm my mood in these situations? Giving me a patronising drawn out game over screen which feels the need to spell out to me that I died and that the game is over but I have the option to continue or quit. Now I understand this had its use in the arcade days, get someone worked up so they want to play even more to spite the game and then they put more coins into the machine.
But I'm not playing games on arcade machines, I don't need to slip a coin into my PS3's quivering eager disc tray to start a game, I've already bought the game, why use an out-dated concept for something I've paid so much for?! Also I already know that I failed when I died in the game, never before have I been left confused when I've been killed and the game has mysteriously put me back to a checkpoint. You aren't informing me of anything I didn't already know, it just feels like the game is assuming I'm an idiot who can't hold onto a single thought or concept for longer than a minute without having to be reminded about it!
But if it's not intended to inform then what else is it there for? Why do so many have to execute themselves in such a way that's en-ragingly patronizing and aggravating? This can be done through the means of simple irritating music, mockingly annoying characters calling you out for what a failure you are or the simple bit of text telling you that you failed because we somehow missed that in the first place.
I get needlessly angry when I die in Resident Evil 4 where I'm met with a blood red screen saying "Mission Failed" and then I have to wait a few irritating seconds for the option to finally continue pops up. In Sonic 2 when you run out of lives you'll have the words Game Over fly onto screen and then a horrible ear bleeding agonising tune plays in a way that says "Awwh sorry lil guy you screwed up, guess you'll have to try all over again, have fun replaying all those levels" SCREW YOU, my young self would shout as he angrily punched the Mega Drive then begun crying as the game froze due to the abuse it received.
Thankfully I was able to at least grow out of punching and smashing the consoles I'm using. So as the sort of grown man that I am I can step up and admit I do like one game over screen in a game. I can be the better man here.
I like that in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater you can fake your own death which starts up a Game Over screen only to then use the revival pill which then completely rewinds the Game Over screen and gets it out of my face. Yeah I liked that one a lot.
Now that I'm done being the better man though I'll strike my point deeper into your souls and minds. There are two games that speak to the extreme benefits of not having a game over screen and provided they did have one they may have not been as positively received. Super Meat Boy and Rayman Origins are my two cute little ducklings to talk about here.
Meat Boy is notorious for its insane difficulty whilst being highly addictive thanks to keeping just about every level bite sized ensuring one doesn't lose too much progress. But the lack of a game over screen propels the game into higher heights of wonderful perfection and joy. When you die in Meat Boy you are INSTANTLY thrown back into the level you are on ready to try again. Now wait, no delay, no slow build up game over screen, no horrible patronising music, just simple cutting back to the game at hand. Imagine if this game introduced long as game over screens that did all those horrible things? I can almost scientifically with evidence I definitely did not just make up that the game would be nowhere near as successful or popular had they included a game over screen.
Rayman Origins also benefits for similar reasons however it contains much longer levels but it fully utilises checkpoints exceedingly well. But when you're knee deep into the game the difficulty really starts ramping up to Megadrive bashingly hard levels. But I didn't mind this at all because again this is a game that INSTANTLY threw me right back into the action, it held no interest in wasting my time, death would be over in the blink of an eye and I'd be right back into the swing of things which gave the game a uniquely delicious sense of enjoyable flow.
Now you may argue these games NEEDED to not have a game over screen due to their difficulty levels, but I argue even the easiest of games shouldn't have them.
We live in a fast moving world where we've given up on hopes for hover boards, flying cars or toasters that can do your bills. We're in a refining age where technology is constantly being refined and improved upon to become quicker and more efficient for us impatient bastards. Which means it's all the more important that the media content that we consume does its best to not waste our not very precious time.
Game Over screens can often break up the pacing and flow of a play-through and can even be drawn out to what hysterically feels like an eternity. This is a huge waste of my time one that no developer should be inflicting upon me or its audience. I also don't get why it asks me whether I want to Continue or Quit. I'm pretty sure every single device on the market has a Home Screen I can return to with the simple press of the button, why in fuckity would I want to go through the games long convoluted system of quitting when all it does is take me to the title screen. I can also easily and instantly turn off my device if I've had enough of using it for that day!
So with that knowledge in mind why is the game asking me whether I want to continue or not? Well of course I do, the device is still on isn't it, you're still running, why ask me something I can choose for myself within mere seconds. Why are you wasting my time?
Yes I do realize the amount of our time that is being wasted is incredibly small but when a game also has long ass loading screens it begins to feel like you're in a Master and Slave relationship with the game, just when you think its granted you pleasure it then proceeds to whip you into submission with a god damn loading screen. At least if they abolished the game over screen I'd be waiting a little less time since loading sections of the game is actually necessary so that's forgiveable.
With all that said and done I realize this is an incredibly stupid topic to talk about, I sound like a huge cry baby who's banging his spoon against the table as he launches his plate into the air which proceeds to cover the kitchen in baked beans.
But its something I've never been able to get over all the way back since I was a kid, it made me angry then and it continues to make me angry now. Granted I should probably be more mindful it's just a game, cool down and not take things so seriously but in the mean time I can't help but feel these game over screens are largely useless. Games with arcade sensibilities or atheistic I can understand but little modern games dig deep into convincing me these are a necessary concept.
I guess until then I shall return to my crib and suck on my thumb till I descend into the land of lullabies and dreams...
So last month I played Metal Gear Solid for the first time and much to my genuine surprise I loved it! I've tried to get into multiple somewhat old games that many perceive as classics yet due to the technological gap I often struggle to fully enjoy or appreciate them which is an incredibly frustrating feeling. So this made it all the better when I found myself loving and appreciating MGS, it's a game I would heavily regret passing on if I had known the effect it ended up having on me.
But the other great thing about it for me was that I knew there was a good number of sequels to jump into and further explore this new series that so far I had dearly enjoyed so much. So seeking more reasons to use my Vita I got the MGS HD collection for it and eagerly awaited its arrival to my house. It was going to be more of what I loved but even better thanks to the advancements of the PS2 back in the day, I was ready to love the hell out of Metal Gear Solid 2 and then I finally played it... the results were disappointing.
To go from loving something quite dearly and excitedly diving into more of the content it has to offer only to leave you disappointed is an incredibly devastating feeling. So sit yourself down my dear beautiful viewer and join me in my sorrow filled tears as I layout the fundamental failings of MGS2.
It's important for me to note that the start of the game I absolutely loved, it was the start and teasing of everything I was hoping for. I'm once again back in the role of Solid Snake along with our old pal Otacon on the transmission radio. Not only is it fun to see how they've tweaked, refined and evolved the gameplay but the story instantly raises multiple questions for myself.
Why is Snake back in the field of tactical espionage action? Wasn't he suppose to continue riding off in the sunset with Meryl and live happily ever after? Come to think of it what happened to Meryl? Is she still alive? Hey Otacon is also here that's cool! He was a pretty fun interesting guy in the previous game so I'm happy to see him back again once more. Wait why is he helping Snake in missions now? What are these two out to do?!
All these questions were firing through my head probably exactly at the speed of light and I was absolutely loving it. Starting off the story with multiple aspects of mystery and a healthy dose of intriguing questions guarantee's the players full attention. I was gripped from the start and was grinning heartily to be back in the swing of things.
But then it happens, I didn't know it at the time but it was the most horrible of things to happen. After a decent size lengthy section of playing as Solid Snake which ends in him attempting to escape a sinking ship we then cut to two years ahead in which we're introduced to someone new who's being referred to as 'Snake' by a familiar face from the old game, Roy Campbell. Once again questions begin firing off in my mind, Snake is working with Roy once again? How is that possible? What happened during the past two years? But it doesn't look like 'Snake' really...not the one that I know. We're then quickly introduced to our real protagonist of the game, Raiden.
This is where the game begins to drop severely in quality. It isn't a huge dramatic quick drop though, it's one that slowly begins to slip steadily down the hill of mediocrity and ear bleedingly horrible dialogue. I admit at the start I was a little disappointed to not be playing as Solid Snake still but I was of course willing to give Raiden a go and stayed open equally loving this character as well. There was also the small problem of that I assumed I would be going back to playing as Snake once more down the line which sadly never came to pass.
But for a time I was ok with Raiden, he wasn't a problem for me and I was still getting the same gameplay that I knew and loved so it wasn't like the entire game had been re-worked for him. However I eventually came to a point where he began to grate on me a little for two very irritating repetitive reasons.
Number 1 - It seems that just about every damn order Raiden is given by the Colonel he immediately questions whether he can succeed in the task and goes into a long streak of self deprecating bullshit that I have to sit and suffer through till I can get back to the game and make the asshole do his job.
I don't remember having this problem in the previous game with Solid Snake, sure he would sometimes question the Colonels orders but only in the most dramatic of situations and would quickly cool himself down and compose himself for the upcoming task. Also when he self deprecates it's to do with his legendary icon status and the myths that surround him which actually serves to making him a much more endearing character. He could have been someone who let it go to his head and come across as a major arrogant prick from it but no it's a status that he holds no interest in and doesn't arrogantly perceive himself as some almighty hero.
With Raiden it's just like listening to a god damn teenager who's in the most strongest years of puberty where it's at full force and they're moping around to everyone constantly saying they hate themselves and that they suck which in the end makes people hate them and think that they suck.
Number 2 - Carrying on the bullshit teenager theme we have Raiden's girlfriend Rose to talk about. She takes the role of helping save the game for you the radio transmission in which after saving you lucky devils get to listen to some of the most painfully awkwardly written dialogue ever.
Look Rose I don't give a shit about "what day it is tomorrow" for you two, stop going on about it I beg of you! Because it's just going turn out to be some clichéd romance bullshi- IT WAS THE DAY YOU MET? OH SCREW YOU REALLY?! I HAD TO SUFFER THROUGH YOU ASKING THAT GOD DAMN QUESTION THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GAME ONLY TO FIND OUT IT WAS SOMETHING AS GENERIC AND BLAND AS THAT?!
Don't get me wrong I'm not expecting perfect Hollywood romance, I get that real life romance is usually awkward and full of painful small talk but I'm playing a piece of media that has been designed ultimately to entertain me. Adjust the small details so that these two don't get on my nerves so that I end up not giving a single damn about their petty relationship. Give them some god damn chemistry so I can be invested in these two and hey maybe then I wouldn't have minded what their special day was.
Hey you know why Snake and Meryl worked? Because she was an important factor in not only the story but for the character of Snake. We saw and felt an impact of change upon Snake with her around, they didn't have mind splitting horrible conversations with one another, they had a level of cute banter which resulted in some strong chemistry between the two which then made me invested in their blossoming relationship.
To put it another way when Meryl's life was in danger I actually cared and worried. With Rose I'd be happy to see the end of her.
Phew feels good to let that rage out, but back to Raiden and his awfulness. Because really he's what makes a lot of this games emotional framework fall apart and burn, he spends the majority of the game with little personality or any traits and those that he does hold are those of an immature, whiny child who only to irritate rather than capture the imagination and hearts of the audience. You could argue this has a lot do with the fact he's a rookie agent so he's hasn't fully learned the ropes with what he's doing so he's wary of the situations he finds himself in.
But this only makes me more irritated at how much of a missed opportunity that was. Rookie stories can be vastly enjoyable when decent writing is applied. It can help provide a unique sense of tension that not even the character of Solid Snake could provide due to his experience in the field. Raidens inexperience means he can mess up at any time and is more likely to which in turn would raise the stakes within the story but also ultimately make him an interesting character to watch develop as he goes from rookie to pro.
But he approach's situations like that of a self concious child, he's afraid to mess up so he'll consistently voice his agonizing concerns along with many doses of self deprecation. By this point I don't care that he's a rookie, he has now irritated me to the point that any mistake made will not be forgiven because he's not a character I care for or even like. He makes me reach a point where I actively want him to fail and get killed off so I can go back to playing as Snake a character who I actually like, has a personality and doesn't have twilight levels of horrible romance over the radio.
Another argument can be brought up that he's MEANT to be a character with little personality to show due to the fact it's revealed near the end of the game that he's been manipulated and used for most of his life. He's someone who's made little to no choices or decisions regarding his own life but...that makes no sense. Whether you're being controlled or not you're going to develop a personality one way or another, even if it's one that's crafted from being manipulated.
What's even more frustrating that if he did have a strong likeable persona going on with him it would be all the more tragic and devastating when we discover that his entire life has never been in his hands. Once more an opportunity for me and the audience to connect to this character is wasted and this just builds upon the piles of irritating dullness that we have to suffer through.
Sadly the dullness of Raiden can also be found in some of the new characters we're introduced to. Most disappointingly those of the unit named 'Dead Cell'. One of my favourite things about MGS was the FOXHOUND group and its members. Each one were equally vibrant and unique in they're own individual ways which gave us a truly endearing cast villains and bosses but also made sure that each boss battle with them left a mark on you in both terms of gameplay and story. Sadly the members of Dead Cell barely hold a flame to them.
Vamp can be fun to watch with his very campy and ridiculous ways but the amount of times he gets shot to shreds or hell even right in the head only to once again come back again to mess things up for you just ends up being boring. He's not an interesting enough character for me to want to see him running around so much getting in my god damn way and ruining my missions, there's barely any substance to him other than "I vant to suck you blood". The boss fight with him is also upsettingly dull to play and takes place in a rather sterile room. For a guy that's is essentially a vampire and can literally run on water it's really depressing how little he impresses or entertains.
Fatman also does little to impress, other than the fact he moves around on roller-skates his design is pretty dull to the eye and has most of his obscured by his jacket. I'm also fairly certain the only time we really see him is when we have to fight against him which admittedly was probably the most interesting boss fight out of the entire game. Sadly though he just comes across some generic crazy man who just likes to blow things up, there's no substance there, just a mad man let loose with little else to offer or contribute to the story.
Fortune was the one I was most excited to see more of. Not only does she have a delightful jazz soundtrack theme that seems to follow her wherever she goes but she also has a god damn rail gun that she carries around which in turn leads up to tearing places apart. But even more interestingly she has the making bullets, missiles and grenades to miss her completely, anything that can harm and kill her is quickly diverted thanks to this fascinating ability. This in turn led to me being extremely impatient for the wait for finally fighting her...which we never really get to do. Oh we do get cornered by her in which we can do nothing to harm her and have to run around avoiding her attacks until a time triggered event happens to move on the story, that's it.
I was looking forward to figuring out a strategy to bypass her ability and take her down whilst also avoiding her rail gun taking down everything in its path. Possibly the most fascinating member of the unit ends up being the only member we never have a true battle with, a sorely missed opportunity.
Finally there's the big bad himself, Solidus Snake. After the amusing antics of Liquid Snake from the previous game I was enthusiastically eager to meet the new big bad of the sequel. For me he ends up being a hugely disappointing villain and character. Granted his goals were arguably more admirable than those of Liquid Snake's but his personality and performance feels vastly flat in contrast.
Liquid Snake was a character full of gravitas and great hammy dramatic delivery, he was someone who always demanded your attention when he was on screen to the point that hearing him utter "Brother" was a unique joy to behold. He was loud and full of energy which ended up becoming the perfect recipes for entertainment. However I don't want to compare them too much as I feel Solidus Snake was barely given any room or chance to truly shine. We see him fairly late into the game (roughly halfway I believe.) and we aren't given much time to learn about him as a character and truly understand him.
He's a character who's backed full of ideas of which sadly don't ever rise to the occasion to transform him into an unforgettable character. He left little impact upon me and that's just disappointing really, I WANTED to get to know this character more, I WANTED to see more of him. I never really got this and instead just had brief glimpses of who he was as he paraded around in his weird Dr Octopus like outfit. Since I was barely invested or interested in his character this led to the final boss battle with him feeling incredibly flat, empty, boring and a sorely missed aspect of tension and emotion. Solidus Snake is a character I wanted to get to know, I sadly never got the chance.
I feel like I've made it clear by now why the emotional framework of the game struggles to hold its self together so now I'll move more onto the visual side of things and how it left me even more apathetic towards the game.
Although Metal Gear Solid isn't presently the most visually appealing game due to the ugly limitations of the PS1 I still never felt bored when looking at it. Shadow Moses was a place brought vividly to life and became an environment that rang true to me whilst also offering up plenty of side dish areas that have an extra hint of vibrancy to them but felt natural in the game. Places like the underground section of the base which is chuck full of lava ensures that the games environment just doesn't all blend together for me so that select moments can really stick out to me.
The environments can be most strongly praised to with the areas in which we fought the games bosses. We fight Revolver Ocelot in a dark, claustrophobic and rusted room, we fight Psycho Mantis in a one off classically designed office, we fight Liquid Snake on top of a vertigo inducing tower, we fight Sniper Wolf in a vast serene peaceful snow field. The environments work together with the characters/bosses so that it doesn't just feel like 'another' boss fight to push yourself through. Each one feels unique to play through with a comfy blend of gameplay and visuals, the same cannot be said for MGS2.
The majority of the game takes place in Big Shell which is does very little to shake things up in terms of its own level design. It's all steel and iron crafted hallways and bridges with bright silver doors smoothly opening all around you. When you're outside you can grow bored with wonder at the blandly coloured orange sections of the Big Shell stand before you. When you're inside you can die from a severe dose of extremely dull hallways and rooms with little to mix it up with.
This could have been somewhat forgiven if they had made the areas in which we fight the bosses visually interesting but again its just the same metallic designed places we end up coming to expect. Also as I said before the bosses in this game are far from impressive as the previous ones so that we end up with dull visuals and gameplay. Arguably the two major components of a video game have been let down here, the two things every developer should ultimately nail down and then wove together. This is even more upsetting I look back on my time with MGS and how I never had this problem!
After all this Raiden levels of whining and moaning you'd be forgiven for thinking that I hate Metal Gear Solid 2 but that's not the case here. When I finished the game I let out an audible sigh of disappointment and then a breath of "Ehhhhh....that was...ok...I guess?". That is not how I want to be feeling about a Metal Gear game at all, the first one thrilled me so much, it resonated with me, it managed to produce so much emotion out of me. With Metal Gear Solid 2 it only manages to produce emotion out of me due to my extreme frustration out of how mediocre the experience was.
It's not a badly crafted game at all despite a few missteps here and there, it doesn't spit in the face of what I loved about the first game either. The problem is that it failed to connect to me in any meaningful way and also failed to get a powerful reaction out of me through genuine means. To me that's a tragic failing of any piece of artwork from any group of media. It's not even so bad that I can hate it and be thoroughly mad with Kojima, you may say that's a good thing and ask why I would want to be mad at him and the game.
Well I don't want to be at all and I certainly currently am not mad with but if I was at least it would have provoked a strong feeling from me, at least it would have been crafted in a way that got a genuine feeling out of me. It would be proof it got through to me in some way or manner. Heck the only way it got to me was through awfully written characters but even that was down to a lack of any genuinely interesting features.
To put it into weird metaphorical terms Metal Gear Solid on PS1 was like having a weirdly named meal off a chinese menu for the first time as a risk and laugh then being pleasantly surprised by the flavour. Metal Gear Solid 2 is like seeking out more meals like the one you discovered only to receive what tastes like shredded up cardboard. I'm sad that I was unable to enjoy MGS2 and I hope I never have to feel such a non-emotional response from a Metal Gear game ever again.
But recent new experiences tell me I'm certainly in for a thrill...
Childhood is a part of life everyone often fondly looks back upon along as well as wishing to re-live those years. It's easy to see why, when you're a kid the world is still big, shiny, mysterious, fresh and unpredictable, it's an age where it's entirely plausible there's a secret portal to a parallel world under your floorboards or that a blue boxed spaceship could crash into your garden at any moment. As a child I was firmly sure that Dragons existed despite there not being a wealth of evidence to suggest so, the fact that they look bad ass and breathe fire was enough evidence for me. Just seeing what I thought to be a glimmer of a Dragon's tail once managed to set me off into extreme amounts of joy and excitement, looking back now it was probably just the tail end of a Kite that I saw but the point still remains!
So growing up is sort of like a really boring, dull and melodramatic tragic event, the world loses a bit of its colour and charm and you begin to stop enjoying the things you once enjoyed no matter how hard you try to continue or replicate certain joys and experiences. For me one of the great tragic losses was my love for the Pokemon series, to this day I still vividly remember the very moment of my introduction to Pokemon. There I was in school during show and tell in which one of my classmates showed off his Pokemon cards. This began some huge chain reaction within the classroom as everyone was immediately amazed by them, bits of card with a cool looking creatures on it? SIGN ME UP! Before I knew it Pokemon was everywhere much to the horror of my poor mum's suffering wallet.
I even have a strikingly fond memory of my young self sitting on the sofa in the early hours of Christmas day, the sun had yet to rise but the room was filled with a faint warm glow from the Christmas lights illuminating my much anticipated presents underneath, it was an incredibly peaceful serene moment. A near perfect moment only made all the better by the fact I held in my hands a Gameboy Colour with a copy of Pokemon Yellow in it which like many other children in the 90's I was entirely engrossed in.
This is a memory so powerful that I still remember running around in the patches of grass just at the entrance of Pewter City where I was levelling up my Pikachu excessively as I had not quite grasped the concept of the games mechanics fully. So instead of gaining a water type Pokemon to defeat the Gym Leader and Rock type user Brock I instead spent many hours running around slowly levelling up my Pikachu, to the point where simple normal attacks like 'Tackle' would easily take down the grandest of foe's.
I poured countless hours into the game and would eventually do very much the same with its sequels Pokemon Silver/Gold and Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire. But then something happened between the years of 2003 and 2007, I mutated grew into a teenager and that's when it all went wrong.
Now normally one would assume that the reason for the ending of my love for Pokemon was down to growing up and naturally detaching away from it all. This could be true but the thing is we see people all over the internet from all types of ages still massively enjoying the series, I even see people locally around me, the same age as me continuing to buy and enjoy these games, somehow building up insane amounts of excitement for every new release. Besides I'm not immune to the charms of things that aren't necessarily aimed at my age group. I love Adventure Time to the point where I sometimes struggle to go a day without humming the intro tune to myself. I'm also currently completely in romantic, passionate, erotic and lustful love with the cartoon Gravity Falls and will cut anyone who says a word against it.
Sadly though with each new Pokemon game release I become increasingly baffled, it's important that I don't come across as some snobby dick looking down on people because for me this is a genuine source of confusion, I struggle to understand how so many people can still get this worked up over the release of a new Pokemon game. Sure the franchise may not be as big as it once was but it still does pretty damn well for its self, hell the anime is still running!
So if it isn't a matter of age could it be a matter of opinion on the progressing quality of each game? Even that I struggle to agree with, despite my withering enjoyment for every iteration I've also bought every iteration. (except for any spin-offs and the recent B/W2 release.) In 2007 I was eager to buy something new to play on my DS and after a few hesitant considerations I decided to once more delve into the world of Pokemon with Pokemon Diamond. I wasn't sure what to expect or wherever I'd enjoy it but I was hopeful and ready to love the series once again. Sadly the spark I was hoping for never came, the game wasn't badly made in the slightest and did have enjoyable moments but it never held any unforgettable precious moments. Perhaps I was expecting too much? After all it's a fruitless effort to recapture the emotional essence that one can only experience as a child but also my memories have a heavy cloud of joyful nostalgia, maybe I hyped this up too much?
Sadly again however I have reasons to doubt this notion as well as it only went downhill from there...
I told a small lie before, there was actually one Pokemon release I understood the excitement for, Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver. Remakes of which were from my absolute favourite generation of Pokemon games, it advanced on the first ones in the best ways imaginable at the time. Back then the simple prospect of all new Pokemon and an all new place to explore was vastly powerful. With the addition of Kanto from the first game it truly had an insane amount of content to bite into and never failed eat away at my every waking hour. So surely I would gain great glee from playing these remakes? Obviously this ended up not being the case, I found myself re-living classic be-loved moments, none of which managed to light up my fire, once more I was crushed by the fact I was unable to love a Pokemon game.
I moved on and tried my best to come to terms with my moving on in life however like many people in the year of 2011 I found myself with a 3DS in the early stages of its life with nothing at all to play on the damn thing. With money to spare and desperate to play at least something on my 3DS I went ahead and bought myself Pokemon Black...only to be even more disappointed. At this point I'm not even sure what's going wrong to stop me from enjoying these games. Again I must stress the fact I didn't find this entry to be a bad game either, none of them feel like failures of game making, they're all perfectly well made products, but maybe that's it, that's the key word!
These games stopped being something truly special to me, they ceased to be genuine creative experiences for me, now they feel like pale almost hollow products of a far off treasure I once adored. They all follow the continuing formula of add all new Pokemon to collect and have an all new land to explore. There's nothing overly wrong with that and it's not like they don't add changes and refinements to the games but it just feels so by the numbers now, so average, so dull! These aren't factors that have the power to wow me any more as its been done around 5 times already! I feel like there's no passion behind these games any more, which is a weird thing to say since this was a series that was plastered everywhere during its early days, you could argue its had elements of a soulless product from the outset.
Maybe the current me wouldn't have fallen in love with the Pokemon games if they had just been released now, maybe I would have found them to be soulless products at this age. Due to first experiencing them as a child I was shielded against perceiving them as hollow products thanks to a naive fresh mind. Because in the end every game is a product, no matter how much passionate love is poured into any game there will naturally and justifiably be an element of intent to make money. However the best made games are the ones that make you forget you're playing a product and let you believe in fairy tales once more.
So then what can Nintendo do to once more make me fall in love again?
Honestly I'm not even sure, maybe I should just make peace with the fact that the franchise no longer appeals to me like it does for so many other people, and hey all in all that's ok, I'm not mad at Nintendo about this, I'm mad at myself! Maybe I should stop expecting that same spark I once felt as a kid and just go into these games expecting a decent time. It's no longer going to be that special experience I wish it to be and there's not really anything I can do about that but I shouldn't let that get in the way of any potential enjoyment I can still get out of the series, right?
I do kind of hope that Nintendo do something crazy new with the inevitable 3DS Pokemon game, perhaps even propelling the series into full 3D graphics? I'd just love to see them go all out nuts with the next one, maybe even have the next entry on the Wii-U? For now though I'm going to fully distance myself from the series and give myself some time away from it, I won't be picking up Black/White 2 and I'll hopefully also put off future releases for a while. Then maybe one day I can come back to the series and fall in love once again, either that or I can wait for Nintendo to get off its ass and put the god damn original Gameboy colour and advanced games on the 3DS E-Shop, HURRY UP GOD DAMN IT! IWATA YOU PRICK STOP SCRATCHING YOUR FUCKING ASS AND PUT POKEMON RED, BLUE, SILVER, GOLD, RUBY AND SAPPHIRE ON THE E-SHOP YOU BURPING NIPPLE NIBBLING IDIOT!
...Ahh that's the passion I'm talking about!
(edit apologies for the accidental self fapping, bleh.)
I'll be honest here my interest level in Assassins Creed 3 was incredibly low when it was announced, the only thing that really sparked any personal interest for me was the setting as I have an interest in American history but it wasn't enough to sell me on it. You know what did sell me on it? Oh just a little gameplay clip they showed at Sony's E3...GOD DAMN BOATS, I GET TO NAVIGATE AN ENTIRE SHIP WITH A CREW?! I ALSO GET TO HAVE GOD DAMN NIPPLE PLEASING SEA BATTLES FIRING MY CANNONS AT OTHER SHIPS?! SOLD!
Ahem...but yes really, that mere clip of gameplay alone sold me on the entire game, I mean look at this, how awesome do this look? Also unlike many people I absolutely adore the sailing sections in Zelda: Wind Waker, the only times it threatened to be tedious was the infamous tri-force hunting section but even then I still loved it to pieces. But all this intense revealing ramblings of a ship fetish made me realize the ocean is woefully under-used in video games and when it is used to full effect it's always awesome.
Don't believe me? Well sit down assuming you were standing up before and let me explain to you the past sweet delights of which contain the ocean and what more video games could do with it in future!
Oceans are big. Really big. You probably would believe it's incredibly big due to the futuristic technology of photos and living on a planet with lots and lots of water. The point is that the ocean is sort of like having outer-space condensed, liquefied and then pumping it through a hose all over a big floating rock. Also just like outer-space at a glance it seems kind of empty but then you look closer, deeper and then you start seeing some really cool weird shit like the guy above me. We still don't know a lot about the ocean since going too far down would mean immediate death but when we do manage to get a peek at it we always seem to across some new weird cool looking creature. To put it in another horrible mangled metaphor the Ocean is like a big bowl of creative soup ready for the slurping.
So it's sort of like having an entire planet full of aliens in your backyard except these ones won't latch onto your face and rape your throat and then burst out of your chest, probably. What I'm trying to get at is the Ocean holds this rather fascinating ability of being incredibly familiar to us whilst also being inherently alien and foreign to us, it can be an eye-poppingly beautiful place and it can also be a cruel, harsh and solitude filled environment.
For a writer it's full of multiple opportunities to let their creative wild side off the leash, it's an absolute creative gold mine once put in the right hands.
One of my favourite games of all time demonstrated this, in Bioshock they discover some weird red glowing sea slugs that through various science trickery leads to giving people powers, that's all just from a little sea slug! Ok so the people became addicted on the sea slug substance and ended up becoming druggie like monsters but the point is that a sea slug allowed humans to shoot bolts of lightning out of their hands.
An even more appropriate example would be during the presentation speech given by Andrew Ryan at the start of the game, you're introduced to one of the main themes of the game, the philosophy of Objectivism. We take this all in as the music builds up to which we are then exquisitely revealed the city of Rapture its self, the music plays to our childish like delight and curiosity as a neon lit city stands proudly before us. An octopus will swim by and in the distance we can see a Whale gliding gracefully around the city, then if you look closely you might just see a rather odd huge metal like creature inside the city, whatever could it be?
Few games are able to leave such an impact on me these days and I simply never grow tired of playing through the opening moments of Bioshock. Here the Ocean helped make a truly special and unique atmosphere and narrative, but I think it's time I look at a much more light-hearted game and the effects the Ocean can have on the world and gameplay of a game.
Yes that's right, Pokemon! Sapphire Version to be exact since the legendary Pokemon for this one, Kyogre is a water type so he's all about the ocean. Besides look at that title screen, it doesn't get any more bad ass than that. The 3rd generation of Pokemon also holds a special yet somewhat sad place in my heart since it's really the last set of Pokemon games that I've ever been blindly in love with, don't get me wrong Diamond/Pearl and Black/White were good games but the spark of love I once had with the franchise had vaporised. Perhaps it was a consequence of growing up?
But that can't be, I know people of my age (19) who still seem to get every bit of love and fun out the series so why can't I? Yet again the answer is the ocean, you can't dive into the ocean and explore in the later games and this is (probably) exactly why I've lost my once passionate love for the franchise.
One of my favourite aspects of the Pokemon games was the exploration element and having a new region each time meant endless possibilities, especially when they were jumping to an all new handheld to toy and experiment with. With the arrival of Ruby/Sapphire we were given the ability to explore the depths of the ocean and of course encounter all new Pokemon. It's not only pretty rad to be exploring the underwater depths of the Pokemon world but it also serves to make that world feel even bigger than before, we get to witness an all new environment that we've never laid eyes upon before in the series. Moments like exploring the deeper flooded parts of an abandoned ship and coming across the 'Sealed Chamber' are little things that further tickled my love and wild interest in the region of Hoenn.
What could easily be seen as a throwaway feature managed to make one of the most vivid worlds in Pokemon history, it feels like a living and breathing world one that isn't frozen in time but constantly changing with the tides.
The ability to dive in Pokemon R/S not only helped cement the game in my mind for years to come but it also became a defining feature that I continue to miss within the games. Sorta how like when you found out as a kid you couldn't visit Kanto or Johto in R/S actually.
The level titled "Swimming with the Stars" features an incredible stark contrast to the rest of the games tone, before this level all that I received was injected with a large dose of charm, fun, happiness and warmth which is easily the huge appeal of the game. This is a level that's played almost entirely underwater, in the Ocean no less. The level manages to conjure up feelings of intense claustrophobia and serene beauty, yes this from the game with the un-named limbless creature as its mascot. The level somewhat tricks your expectations right from the start as it features one of the games most cheer-filled and relaxed of tracks in the background.
However the music quickly dissolves into quite the opposite of musical moods, we're then introduced to a spine chillingly dark oppressive tune which is only further enforced by the incredibly well made level design which keeps environments tight and small filled to the teeth with various hazards and enemies just a hairs touch away from killing you. You'll then find the level to be entirely swallowed into darkness with light being your only area of safety. Now the level is filled with grim tentacle like arms reaching out to you with razor sharp nails protruding out ready to snap away at you. After managing to get past through all these life-threatening dangers the music will then change once more, a song that will entirely transform the frightening presence and atmosphere of the Ocean.
The level barely changes in its structure yet somehow Ubisoft were able to change my mood and feelings of the game within a second, the feelings that were built up from this level I can barely put it into words here as it truly was a surreal timeless moment. It's a very small part of what's overall a very large game yet it manages to proudly shine through it all and become an unforgeable piece of level perfection. It plays to the conflicting natures of the Ocean where it can be both a tranquil place of beauty whilst also being a place of claustrophobic suffocating malice.
You probably knew this was coming but I just have to talk about it, if I don't I may end up becoming yet another victim of Ocean madness. Yes I'm of course talking about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Again I have chosen a game that is dear to my heart, it's not only my favourite Zelda game out of the entire franchise but it's also the first Zelda game I ever played. My memory is vague on the details but I borrowed it off an old friend and was hooked from start to finish, this was one of those games I couldn't put down and also one that yet again had an experience unlike any other.
As I stated before I love the sailing in the game, I'm sure games before had tried it but I'm equally sure none other have mastered it as wonderfully. This is no small thanks to the delicious crisp looking cel-shaded graphics of the game which not only adds an infinite amount of charm and warmth to the game but also somehow makes the outlook of a big body of blueness always appealing to the eye. Naturally the game is at its best when your map is blank and you have no knowledge on any of the islands resulting in a constantly delightful adventure.
Just the simple act of sailing away in silence where you can hear nothing but the soft whispers of wind, the authentic cries of the seagulls and the oddly relaxing noise of your boat gliding and crashing upon the waves of the ocean somehow never ceases to bring a smile to my face. It's one of those moments that I won't ever forget and always look forward to when replaying the game.
Exploration is often my favourite aspect of any video game that offers it, games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim I've poured endless amount of hours into, however they don't even come close to giving the same level of excitement I had when coming across a new island in Wind Waker. When you first notice that gray blob in the distance and its shape slowly begins to take form and then its majesty is revealed. And oh boy we're nearly always in for a treat, this is a game where you can come across a small island with lava spewing out from it to a massive dragons head surrounded by ice.
You can even come across god damn tornado's with a random angry god in it which will then hurl you across the map into the middle of nowhere. This can be easily annoying but when it lands you right next to an entirely new island then your irritation quickly disappears as you head on to unwrap the latest wonders before you.
Again it's little things like this that add to making the world feeling larger than it actually is. There's probably more water than land and you will spend a lot of time sailing around, but thanks to that every single location you set foot upon feels like something special and unique. It's not just another patch of desert or field to cross to get to the next dungeon but an island full so many possibilities, puzzles, enemies and ever so sweet rewards.
All this thanks to the fact we no longer ride a horse but we now sail around an ocean with a talking lion boat. What's that? Phantom Hourglass? Yeah let's move on quickly shall we.
Surely by now I've opened all of your eyes to the incredibly sexy wonders of Life, the Ocean and Everything. (Ok I'll stop the Hitch-Hikers jokes now.) You're now a better person for it though, clearly the ocean is all kinds of bad ass and beauty, one minute it can be the most stunning things you've seen and the next it can be the ugliest and most depraved things you'll be subjected to. With a creative mind it can be a place full of endless possibilities, you could even find that naked portrait of Kate Winslet if you looked hard enough.
The ocean even has the power to make Assassins Creed exciting for me again, a series that's already starting to feel horribly milked to death but I get to navigate an entire ship, just thinking about it now as I filter those thoughts from my brain, to my fingers, to my keyboard, to this screen, to your eyes and to your brain has made me madly excited and confused.
So I ask that video game developers all around the world drop what they're doing and just think for a second and really appreciate the ocean and the maybe, just maybe, you'll pick up your keyboard, your mouse and start programming a game with an ocean in it! Simply put I just want to explore more open free oceans, it feels like an idea criminally under-used and deserves to be given more thought, time and money.
And if all that still didn't manage to convince you just think, the sooner we fully master sailing around in video games the sooner we can have a game where we sail into space and become space pirates. Point Proven!
A few weeks ago Sony finally launched PSone compatibility to the Vita much to everyone's delight, despite the somewhat botched job of it all it still meant I was able to finally give Metal Gear Solid a go, a series that I have barely touched throughout my gaming history. Hell the most contact I had with the series was the MGS4 demo which left me running away confused by it all, from then on I'd continue to see it here and there in the gaming news and it always intrigued me. With the somewhat recent PSN summer sale I decided to finally give the series a go especially since I wouldn't have to play it blown up all ugly on my TV.
I'll be honest in that I somewhat expected myself to never finish it, I've started many classic games in the past to see what all the fuss is about only to stop playing half-way through but this time was different, I was loving the game despite my doubts and reservations and was able to see it to completion. However I wondered how I enjoyed it so much, don't get me wrong I'm happy that I was able to get into it but stealth games have rarely delivered any enjoyment for me and I have very short tolerance and attention span for cutscenes, how is it this 14 year old game was able to worm its way into my heart? The answer has a lot to do with this generation.
Let's face it games aren't exactly known for their subtly, many tend to focus on mass amounts of violence and explosions, it's all guns blazing with heroic manly action heroes usually pumping bullets into whatever opposing army of the week is on stand. But there's nothing wrong with that, despite its overuse and over-saturation there's still games like that I can easily enjoy such as Gears of War.
But it's precisely because of its prevalent over-use in the gaming world that makes MGS all the more appealing to me in this current day.
Which is amusing considering what the game is all about, playing as the legendary, iconic Solid Snake who not only looks bad ass but is also highly trained in the fields of combat. You're out to stop a terrorist group which features a colorful rogue of characters with the threat nuclear war and the feature of a huge fucking robot war machine ready to devastate the world and only you as Solid Snake can save the day! But as we know the story isn't executed as some grand heroic adventure, quite the opposite in fact, this is no celebration of violence.
Due to the prime genre use of stealth you'll quickly find violence to be discouraged and only as a last resort act. Here you have to avoid what all look like everyday soldiers, the everyday soldiers that we frequently shed to pieces with ease in current games. In fact alert to your presence means a wealth of soldiers will rush in to kill you which can quickly get over-whelming. One grievance I had with the game was precisely how difficult it could be at times to shake all the soldiers off and get out of alert mode.
You can stand your ground and shoot them down but this will only save you a few pixels worth of health and time, you're reduced to running away and hiding as best you can, which could be viewed as a cowardly act in the face of today's manly tough heroes, especially for a man with such a legendary status. This creates a strong contrast to what I'm use to, a strong contrast to what I tend to expect from games. The gameplay is perfectly made so that the idea of running in with the biggest and strongest gun you have to tear everything up is actually a bad idea and not all that satisfying, the most you can do is take soldiers out silently with your pistol but hesitate or take too long and you'll be met with a group of soldiers once more.
There are no heroic brave battles here, only survival.
Another thing that we commonly see in games today are heroes who run around shooting people bigged up to be great inspiring people that we can either idolize or worship. Characters such as Nathan Drake are actively encouraged to be built up as likeable, relatable, legendary and heroic figures. The actions of these heroes are rarely questioned. With Snake however you have a different story, I'll admit from the start I was expecting a character living up to his legendary status yet straight away we have him dis-crediting his status.
Almost every character in the game is aware of him and he's sometimes met with enthusiasm and excitement just to his very presence, yet we always have him down-playing that fact, he actively separates himself from his legend, that the reality is not as pretty as the myth. Despite his expertise in what he does he holds no pride in it, he carries with a slight burden of guilt whilst never getting too mopey about it that we get tired of him. He isn't someone who doesn't care about killing people but has distanced himself from having the emotional capacity for such a thing.
Simply put killing is all he really knows in life, it's his only purpose, the only identity that matters. He has no family to love or lose, he claims to have never been interested in love or anyone else's life, as Meryl said he's a lonely man. Isolated from being able to connect to anyone on any deep level. The only people he can have some frail form of similar connection to are those he has to gun down, characters like Psycho Mantis and Sniper Wolf have also known only death and murder in their lives, all of which who themselves are also incredibly lonely.
Snake is no hero and is rarely built up as one, he's a walking example of that the legend rarely matches up with the truth. There is no glory in murder.
But that brings me onto my next point, the villains of the story, the big bad's and the bosses. Again taking the stereotype of heroes in games today the defeat of a boss is often met with pride, glee and a level of happiness to be rid of them. Again take Lazarevic from Uncharted 2 for example, Drake and us the player aren't exactly sad to see him die. A more recent example would be the bosses of Lollipop Chainsaw, obviously a tone of being sad when bosses die would be entirely out of place within the game but again it's all about the victory.
However with Snake there isn't much victory or pride to be had when he puts one of the members of FOXHOUND to their grave. Victory isn't full of honor here, when we first start fighting Psycho Mantis he comes across as nothing more than an insane, freaky mad man who's here to vibrate your controller and throw chairs at you. Yet in his final moments we discover that he just like Snake carries his own burdens, a tragic past that never ceases to haunt him, one that has clearly pulverized any potential faith for humanity.
He's been subjected to the darkest and most deprived corners of the human mind throughout his life, the only thing saving him from that being his mask, however both options lead him down a lonely life.
We see him as a pitiful figure who also has existed for nothing else besides murder, yet his final moments involve him helping Snake, his first time helping someone, he expresses it as being "kind of nice", an inkling of change within him appears ever so briefly as he quickly descends into death. The result left me feeling sorry for the character, although I felt relief that the fight was over I didn't hold all to much enthusiasm for my victory, something that Snake himself shares as he holds no joy in his win.
Sniper Wolf I also felt pity for and was quite upset to see leave. Despite the fact she shoots down Meryl into a temporary crippled state would argue that we as the player and Snake should hold a level of hatred against her but it becomes evident she isn't some blank evil character out for blood. Otacon reveals a softer side to her. She has a kind affection wolves and dogs leading to her refusal of letting them be put down, she also displays some kindness towards Otacon (which leads to him falling in love with her.)
We see these main members of the terrorist group aren't just extreme shades of black and white, again like Snake all she may know is killing but she carries this with zero joy or enthusiasm. When she shot down Meryl she intentionally didn't end her, she refuses to kill for sport. In the end these are people who are victims of war and murder, it has plagued them from their early lives and now they themselves continue the bloodshed however they've ended up incredibly sad and lonely people, waiting to be put out of their misery.
As Sniper Wolf put it "I wasn't waiting to kill people... I was waiting for someone to kill me."
These characters end have a somewhat sombre tragic yet bitterly sweet end, even the two other boss characters Raven and Liquid I share a sense of sadness for. Despite them being Snake's enemies I'm not happy to see them go and almost wish they had the chance to live and turn over a new leaf, but war is shown to be unkind, such is the reality.
The only boss character I felt victory for defeating was Ocelot, perhaps it's a testament to the voice acting or the writing or maybe even both but right from the get go it's made evident he's a man who has no qualms with killing, he clearly takes joy in a what he calls a 'good fight'. In fact we never even truly defeat him as the Ninja quickly appears to slice off his hand which ends in Ocelot scurrying off with it. This ties up nicely at the end as it's made clear this is a character to hate and be positioned as the true villain.
In the end the point I'm trying to get across is that this isn't a game that takes luxury in violence and murder in both its gameplay and storyline, something which we rarely see today and for me personally made it all the more compelling. Despite Snake's slowly tarnished image throughout the game we never come to dislike him since we see a change in him that is able to bloom before his death. Meryl isn't just the "get the girl" character, she of all people manages to get past Snake's armour, to get past his defences and walls and see the real man behind the legend.
She's one of the few characters in the game who although is trained in combat she will hesitate before she pulls the trigger, she will shake with terror and glimpse of disgust at the very action of murder which leads to her not loving the idolized legendary idea of Snake but instead loving the man behind the legend. He connects to her on a deeper level than we see with anyone else in the entire game, he's blunt and honest yet confused by what he feels however by the end of the game he's bloomed enough to even tell Meryl his true name and finally diverts off the path of killing, because it's no longer the only thing he knows, he no longer needs to live for himself, now he has someone to live for.
Metal Gear Solid is a game that took me 14 years to finally play I loved every moment of it, it not only brought up interesting topics and characters but also never took its self too seriously with plenty of intentional and unintentional humour to help lighten the mood. I can only hope that I love it even more as I go onto play the various sequels.
Hopefully I didn't come across too preachy or pretentious here but I'll never forget my time with this game and to me it's truly impressive and remarkable that even today a game from the PSone era can still live an effective mark. You could even say "IT TOOK A WHILE BROTHER" I'll leave now...