The Memory Card .03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis

Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

What makes a video game moment memorable? Well, in the case of the last two Memory Card inductees it was the story twists and emotional heart-tugging sequences that helped seal them in the memories of gamers everywhere.

But sometimes story doesn’t always matter. It is a vital building block, sure, but sometimes it is just the innovation of the gameplay itself that makes a moment unforgettable. In fact, I may go so far as to say some of the most amazing moments in video game history are memorable based on innovation alone.

Nothing is more exciting than experiencing something you have never seen before in a video game. Most of the time this is because of creative game design, but sometimes it can be attributed to new technology. Once (good) designers get their hands on a “next-generation” console and all the bells and whistles that come with it, well, the sky’s the limit.

Metal Gear Solid is the perfect example of a game made all the more memorable due to its leaps in technology. One moment, in particular, stands out above the rest due to some of the most creative and, frankly, coolest techniques ever used in a video game.

The Set-Up

In Metal Gear Solid you play as everyone’s favorite infiltrator Solid Snake. This time, the game’s mission sends Snake to a huge nuclear weapons disposal facility in Alaska, dubbed Shadow Moses.

Metal Gear Solid

The first part of your adventure is filled with loads of stealth missions, gun battles, and over-the-top cinematics (all common to the Metal Gear Solid universe). Not so long after the opening sequence you meet up with a girl by the name of Meryl. It turns out that she is the niece of Roy Campbell, Snake’s former commanding officer.

Snake and Meryl

After this brief introduction you and Meryl are separated during a bloody escape from the base prison. During this escape, Snake experiences a quick glimpse of a strange, floating man clad in a gas mask and full body gear. Before he can realize what is going on, the man creepily mutters something about Meryl being a “good girl” and disappears into thin air.

Snake, obviously confused about what he sees, finds comfort in his Codec to find out more about Meryl and the mysterious hovering figure.

Metal Gear Solid codec

Snake’s Codec companions inform Snake that the enigmatic vision must have been that of Psycho Mantis, one of the members of FOXHOUND, run by the evil Liquid Snake, Solid Snake’s brother and the main antagonist of the game. Confused yet? Yeah, I know, it’s a Metal Gear Solid game, what can you do?

Anyway, after some pretty memorable sequences unto themselves, Snake is finally reunited with Meryl after, well, recognizing her “assets.” Following a sexual tension filled conversation, the two decide to make their way further into the facility.

Here is where the next Memory Card moment occurs. As Meryl and Snake make their way to a back office in the nuclear warehouse they have a full on encounter with Psycho Mantis, only briefly seen earlier in the game.

The Moment

Before entering the office, right as Snake approaches the door, Meryl collapses to the ground and starts to act very strange. There is even a brief moment when her voice sounds eerily familiar to a certain character you met earlier in the game.

Once she supposedly shakes off whatever is wrong with her, Meryl insists that she is fine and her and Snake run into the office, ready to continue their journey.

As the office door closes behind them, Meryl immediately begins acting stranger than she ever has before. She even goes so far as to holding a gun up to Snake and saying things like “Hold me, Snake!” and “Make love to me!” Man, pretty serious stuff.

 Psycho Mantis and Meryl

Right before she manages to get a shot off, Psycho Mantis appears floating above her and it is obvious to Snake that the psychotic man is controlling her mind somehow. Not wanting to kill her, Snake just knocks Meryl out with a few choice punches to the head.

Now, this is where the game takes a mind-blowing turn and really makes this moment one of the most memorable of all time.

Angered that you knocked out Meryl and foiled the first part of his plan, Psycho Mantis begins showing off and bragging about his telekinetic powers.

First off, Psycho Mantis proceeds to read the actual memory card you have in your system. If you have played any other popular Konami game at the time (particularly Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) Psycho Mantis will remind you how much you like “Castlevania,” eventually even commenting on how much you have saved during the game.

After displaying this impressive (and pretty darn innovative) feat, he asks you, the actual player (!), to place your controller on the floor so he can show you how powerful he really is. Upon your abiding to the creepy video game boss’s wish, Psycho Mantis grabs his head and, using the built-in rumble of the DualShock, has the controller shake uncontrollably, even, if you happen to have to set it on a high table, making it fly in the air and tumble to the ground below.

If that weren’t already enough, once the battle begins you realize that there is no way to beat Mantis. Since he can read minds, he manages to dodge every single attack you throw at him.

Psycho Mantis battle

Through trial and error (and most likely a guide), you eventually figure out that, in order to beat him, you must unhook your controller from port #1 and attach it to port #2. Once this is accomplished, Psycho Mantis will actually comment how he can’t read your mind anymore. Then you are only one fairly simple boss fight away from defeating the definitive character.

While it won’t be as memorable since you won’t get to see the actual controller rumbling (that is the best part!), check out some video of this classic gaming moment right here:

The Impact

I will admit, Metal Gear Solid is a pretty polarizing game and a lot of you out there are probably disappointed that something like this made the list of most memorable moments of all time. A lot of gamers cry foul when people mention the greatness that is Metal Gear Solid, claiming the series is highly overrated.

But regardless of your feelings, you can’t really argue that this moment does little to change the experience of what it is like to play a video game.

For one of the first times ever, the fourth wall that separates the player from the action on-screen was shattered. Not only was this an amazing thing to experience, but Kojima’s decision to randomly and unexpectedly place it in the context of a game like Metal Gear Solid was surprising, to say the least. It was a pretty amazing and partially surreal moment that, weirdly enough, hasn’t really been duplicated to this day.

Seriously, think about it, how many other games have ever utilized or even brought attention to the actual technical functions of the player’s controller, the memory card, even the video input on the television? Maybe zero. This was pretty revolutionary for the time and still holds up as being just as revolutionary now. It is very shocking that more game designers have not experimented with this innovative and ridiculously original gameplay technique.

While not nearly as emotional or heart-wrenching as other sequences most of us have played in the past, the encounter with Psycho Mantis still ranks as one of the best moments ever. There is a reason critics and gamers alike call this one of the best boss fights in the history of video games.

If you are not a big fan, or, at least, don’t remember being one, give this sequence another run-through and I think you will be convinced of its drastic innovation. In my mind, this entire encounter will not be forgotten anytime soon, and that is why it easily takes the rank as one of the most memorable video game moments of all time.

Memory Card Save Files

Chad Concelmo