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The Memory Card .44: Solid vs. Liquid

4:00 PM on 11.13.2008 // Chad Concelmo

As readers of this feature may have noticed, I try not to focus too much on recent games. Not that there aren’t some unbelievably incredible moments found in this current generation, I just do what I can to not ruin things for people who haven’t played the game I may be talking about.

But, man, the last couple years in particular have played host to almost too many classic moments to count. While I am not the spoiling type, this wouldn’t be a series on the most memorable videogame moments of all time if I didn’t make a point to mention everything, new or old.

With that being said, this week I am focusing on an incredible boss battle from one of my favorite games of last year, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PlayStation 3. Without sounding too dramatic, I must say that this battle affected me in ways no other boss fight ever has. And because of this I hastily crowned it my favorite final boss fight of all time.

Even though many months have passed and I have had a long time to let the experience sink in, I still haven’t changed my mind. In fact, I will make the dramatic claim again -- this time in all caps just so you know I am serious: THIS IS MY FAVORITE FINAL BOSS BATTLE OF ALL TIME!

Find out why after the jump.

The Set-Up

After the undisputed classic that was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, creator Hideo Kojima had a lot riding on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Before the highly anticipated PlayStation 3 game’s release, hardcore fans of the series like myself looked at MGS3 as a masterpiece that was impossible to top in terms of pure, creative storytelling genius.

It goes without saying that, with Metal Gear Solid 4, Hideo Kojima achieved the impossible.

The best way to setup this week’s Memory Card moment is to go back through all three games in the Metal Gear Solid series and establish the ridiculously complicated relationship between hero Solid Snake and super villains Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake.

However, this being a Metal Gear Solid plot, I am hoping all of this just doesn’t come across as confusing.

I will try my best.

In the original Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation, Solid Snake’s main adversary was his twin brother, the ruthless (and classic dialogue spewing) Liquid Snake. Liquid and Solid Snake were both cloned using the DNA of their “father,” Big Boss (the antagonist of the original Metal Gear).

At the end of Metal Gear Solid, Snake defeats Liquid in an epic showdown that truly is a Memory Card moment unto itself.

Years later, at the start of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Snake finds out that Liquid lives on ... only this time in the arm of Revolver Ocelot, another of Snake’s enemies. You see (bear with me on this), when Ocelot lost his arm to the Cyborg Ninja in the first Metal Gear Solid, he removed Liquid’s right arm from his dead body and attached it to his own body. Because of this, Liquid’s essence runs throughout Ocelot, forming a strange hybrid of the two.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a prequel to all of the Metal Gear games and, among many other things, focuses on the relationship between a young Revolver Ocelot and Big Boss, referred to in the game as Naked Snake.

Big Boss and Ocelot have more of a love/hate relationship in the game when compared to Solid Snake’s bitter dealings with Revolver in later games, but, nonetheless, they obviously hold animosity with each other.

Needless to say, Snake’s relationship with Liquid Snake and Liquid Ocelot builds and build throughout all three games.

In the very recent Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PlayStation 3 this dysfunctional relationship hits the breaking point.

In the game, you once again play as Solid Snake -- this time called Old Snake based on the accelerated aging process he is experiencing because of something called FOXDIE (it’s a long story). While Liquid Ocelot performs some evil things in previous games, his actions take on new meaning in MGS4.

For starters -- using a complicated process of nanomachine implantation -- Ocelot extracts all of the essence from Liquid Snake’s dead body. In doing so, he becomes fully Liquid and no longer holds the man’s dark intentions in just his right arm.

Throughout Metal Gear Solid 4’s entirety, Old Snake seeks to bring down Liquid Ocelot and bring peace to himself and the seriously screwed up world around him.

After a slew of memorable moments and crazy plot twists, the epic battle between Liquid Ocelot and Solid Snake finally takes place in the final act of Metal Gear Solid 4.

It is on the metal sail of Liquid’s massive floating facility Outer Haven where the next Memory Card moment occurs: Solid vs. Liquid.

The Moment

The scene opens with Snake waking up hundreds of feet above the raging waves of the ocean. While he was unconscious (the result of a previous battle), Liquid found Snake on the top of his fortress to explain to him what has been going on and to destroy him once and for all.

At this point Liquid Ocelot explains to Old Snake that he is actually using Liquid’s essence to work for him. In a way it is like the two souls are having an internal struggle within Ocelot’s body to determine whose plan will be carried out.

On the one hand, Ocelot wants to free the still alive Big Boss from captivity and, on the other hand (or, um, arm), Liquid wants to destroy an all-powerful group called the Patriots. This inner battle causes Liquid Ocelot to be, for lack of a better term, super evil, as no man or group is safe from a villain with two such distinct malevolent intentions.

With this reveal, the battle begins.

Set against a gorgeous rising sun, the two fighters begin punching the living daylights out of each other.

The scene involves no weapons whatsoever. All the player has to do is time Snake’s punches and dodges perfectly to land as many blows on Liquid as possible.

While this seems almost too simple -- especially for the final battle of such an epic series -- little touches help make the confrontation one of the most beautiful, affecting moments in videogame history.

As the controllable battle starts, the main theme from the original Metal Gear Solid starts to play. Looking closer, the player will notice that the character names listed under the HUD energy bars read Solid Snake and Liquid.

After depleting enough of Liquid’s energy, a cutscene takes over showing Solid Snake landing an extra powerful blow. In a jaw-droopingly cool addition, as Snake hits Liquid and he falls to the ground, quick images of Ocelot and Liquid from the original Metal Gear Solid (complete with PS1 graphics) flash across the screen.

Once Liquid recovers, the second part of the battle begins. This time, the music from Metal Gear Solid 2 starts to play and the HUD names change to Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot.

Again, after a strong punch, Liquid falls to the ground as scenes from Metal Gear Solid 2 flash on the screen.

As the villainous foe recovers once more some new music fades in: that’s right, the gorgeous, lyric-filled theme from Metal Gear Solid 3. And with this some new HUD names: Naked Snake and Ocelot.

At this point, with his actions and dialogue, Snake begins to realize that Liquid is slowly starting to fade away and the true Ocelot is coming through. Instead of the HUD names being just some clever nostalgia leading the player through past games, they come to actually mean something.

Bruised and beaten, Old Snake stands up and proceeds to use all his remaining energy to pound one last time on Liquid Ocelot.

A series of extremely brutal punches between the two commence accompanied by a gorgeous, muted musical theme from Metal Gear Solid 4.

With nothing left in them, the two collapse on the hard, metal surface.

Old Snake slowly picks himself up and makes his way over to his enemy’s side.

Liquid Ocelot is dying; his body can’t take anymore.

After a few more words to Snake, Liquid disappears entirely and, for a split second, Ocelot is himself one last time. Right before dying, Ocelot looks up at Snake and uses his trademark hand gesture while uttering his final line to him: “You’re pretty good ... “ -- a line that Ocelot made famous in the original Metal Gear Solid.

As Snake watches over his fallen rival, the camera slow pans back while rays of newly formed sunlight dance all around him. The haunting musical theme again softly plays in the background.

After four games, Snake’s mortal enemy has finally been defeated.

You can watch the epic final battle right here -- words really can’t do it justice:

The Impact

Admittedly, this final battle between Solid Snake and Liquid is much more satisfying if you have played all the games in the Metal Gear Solid series, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is an absolutely brilliant piece of videogame art.

I honestly don’t think I have enough space in this post to explain how much this fight affected me.

First off, the player knows the Metal Gear Solid series would eventually end with a battle between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot -- it had been hyped up for four games! Having this final, highly anticipated confrontation be just a simple fist fight is a very surprising creative choice, to say the least.

Even more surprising is how gosh darned well it works!

I don’t know if I have ever experienced something more emotionally and physically satisfying in a videogame than when I, playing as Snake, got to punch Liquid over and over again in the face. I know this sound so brutal (and maybe makes me sound like a bad person), but by this point in the series there is so much invested in these two characters -- so much history between them. Liquid has taken so much away from Snake and, as a player, you want to do whatever it takes to seek revenge and justice.

The raw power of a simple fist fight is endlessly more affecting than some kind of mech/overpowered weapon duel could ever be.

And, obviously, this scene would not be nearly as memorable if it wasn’t for the use of music and visuals to bring everything together. The way images from previous games flash across the screen as Snake fights Liquid is absolutely brilliant -- a technique I don’t recall ever seeing before.

This striking visual choice combined with the constantly changing musical themes creates one of the most well-directed videogame sequences of all time.

Well-directed. That is the term that needs to be focused on when discussing this scene. Not only is Solid vs. Liquid my favorite boss battle of all time, I would go so far as saying it is the best directed scene in any videogame I have ever played. Well, maybe second best (the first best also occurs in this game at an earlier point and will be featured on a future Memory Card). Regardless of its placement of my pointless list, the scene is stunning in its beauty and emotional effectiveness.

And, man, don’t even get me started on just how pretty and polished everything is as well.

But enough of this praise; I could go on for hundreds of more paragraphs. The bottom line: the battle between Solid Snake and Liquid on the sail of Outer Haven is a videogame moment I will never forget. As I played it I remember my eyes filling with tears while at the same time my hands were trembling from anticipation and suspense. How many pieces of art can elicit this kind of reaction?!

I tip my hat to you Hideo Kojima. Not only did you create an unforgettable, creative battle, you brought an acclaimed and beloved series to a perfect close.

The Memory Card Save Files

.01 - .20 (Season 1)
.21 - .40 (Season 2)
.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)
.42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2)
.43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)

Chad Concelmo,
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