The continued adventures of Buff McUpperbod
Growing up, I always saw Metal Gear on the NES as one of its landmark titles. I mean, sure its translation was legendarily horrible, but people seemed to dig the progenitor to the Metal Gear Solid series. Then we got a translation of the MSX2 original on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and series creator, Hideo Kojima, said that he disowned the NES port, and suddenly the former classic is just poop.
I don’t know. I get that the MSX2 port is better, but I liked the NES version just fine.
One game that has always been the black sheep of the Metal Gear family is the sequel to the NES port, Snake’s Revenge. Konami wanted a sequel to Metal Gear for North Americans who like their heroes gruff and their villains villainous, and they weren’t going to wait around for Kojima to make his vision, so they got another team to whip something up. Then, three months later, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released on MSX2 exclusively in Japan and it was awesome. As for us North Americans, we got poop.
Snake’s Revenge is the story of series protagonist, Snake, who is out for revenge. Actually, that’s not true. He isn’t. A hostile nation is building a new Metal Gear and Snake has to sneak in and stop it. There’s probably nukes in there somewhere, as well, because there always is, even in the dollar bin Metal Gear titles.
Surprisingly, Snake’s Revenge goes back and borrows from the original MSX2 Metal Gear; stuff that was cut from the NES version. There are now two alert levels, and punching out enemies causes them to drop rations. With the heightened alert level, walking over to the next screen isn’t enough to make everyone forget about you. Instead, you have to kill enough of them to convince the rest not to come after you.
Honestly, the game feels less shaky than the first NES port. The graphics are cleaner and more diverse, and the mechanics just fit together better. If I have a complaint about the game’s aesthetics, it’s that Snake looks like an ‘80s wrestling figure. He’s got this big upper body and all the muscle definition the NES could muster. It’s like what an eight-year old boy would consider cool. He’s Rambo.
If there’s one major deficiency that Snake’s Revenge has, it’s that it abandoned its interconnected world in favour of a series of more linear levels. Metal Gear was something of a student of Metroid; you explored the world and opened up more of it as you picked up new gear. That’s not completely abandoned here, but there’s only so much exploration that can be done on a train.
What’s ridiculous about this is that the horrible key-swapping is still included. If you’re familiar with Metal Gear, you may recall that you pick up eight numbered keys throughout the game and none of them become obsolete. Every time you come to a locked door, you need to pull out your keychain and try each card, one by one, until the door opens. That was a vexing problem for the first game, but its inclusion in Snake’s Revenge feels like it was done out of spite.
Want proof? Towards the end of the adventure, you come to a series of rooms. Each one has three doors, and only one of them can be opened. And it’s locked. So the only way to find out if the door will open is to stand in front of it and dig through your pockets. Tell me what would inspire that little gameplay mechanic if not malice.
The most head-scratching addition to the formula is the inclusion of side-scrolling sections. There’s potential to make interesting stealth additions to side-scrolling — it’s been done before — but Snake’s Revenge doesn’t do that. You can technically sneak up behind guards, but only if they’re pre-positioned to face away from you. That, or you can crawl between screens, since guards don’t know how to look down. Otherwise, you’re just going to play an extremely sucky rendition of Rush’n Attack (Green Beret) where enemies just charge at you.
The bosses also just stop short of being offensive. They’re pattern based, but their attacks can be difficult to avoid and cause massive damage when you’re hit. I got through most of the bosses by chowing down on rations like Snake just gave up his New Years’ weight loss resolution. It’s not unreasonably difficult, nor is the game as a whole. Most of the lives I lost were to the many bottomless pits that suck you in.
Maybe you think Snake’s Revenge doesn’t sound so bad, and honestly, you’d be right. It’s certainly not top-shelf, but it isn’t the bastardization that some people make it out to be. It doesn’t come close to even approaching Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but as a game developed under corporate mandate without the involvement of the original creator, it does the job.
It’s just kind of too bad that its reputation is in the toilet. Sure, it was never considered canon, but people still worked on it, and it’s not offensively horrid. Yet, we’ll probably never see a re-release of it unless Konami decides to do a comprehensive Metal Gear collection with all the offshoots, like Metal Gear Acid and Ghost Babel. Honestly, I’m down for that. Put that on the list of things I want from Konami after it’s out of rehab and has kicked its gambling addiction.