on April 24, 2014
Like Star Wars, Metal Gear is an epic saga about a father and a son. Spanning 8 chapters and 50 years of history, the Metal Gear Saga is the story of the rise and fall of Big Boss, and the legend of Solid Snake, and how their influence effected the lives of others.
MGS: The Legacy Collection contains all 7 main chapters* released up to 2012. From the 8-bit MSX era to the power of the PS3, Metal Gear has evolved for over 25 years, changing and adapting to new hardware and levels of realism, while maintaining the same core gameplay principles that defined the series; "Infiltrate behind enemy lines and stay out of sight! Fighting is a last resort!"
*MPO and Rising don't really count as "main chapters." In an interview on Twitch, series creator Hideo Kojima said he divides games between "A Hideo Kojima Games" and games he wasn't deeply involved with. Think of them as Star Wars Expanded Universe material, except worse.
^This timeline shows all of the games that are considered part of the main Saga.
METAL GEAR (1987 - MSX): The game that started it all. Inspired by "The Great Escape", young game designer Hideo Kojima wanted to make a different kind of game from the Rambo-like shoot-em-ups that were common in the era. While somewhat frustrating to play (it's probably best to play with a guide for some parts), it's still interesting to see where the series began. The story is very paper thin, but it does show the Outer Heaven Uprising, a very significant event in the Saga, and the roots of Solid Snake and Big Boss' complicated relationship.
METAL GEAR 2: SOLID SNAKE (1990 - MSX): To me, this is where Metal Gear started to become the Metal Gear the series is today. The story is much more fleshed out, dealing with Cold War politics, nuclear disarmament, and even war orphans. Big Boss is given proper motivations (and the roots of those motivations are explored in MGS3, PW, and soon, GZ/TPP), and Solid Snake is fleshed out as someone suffering from PTSD after his heroics in Outer Heaven are challenged by old friends turned foes. Many improvements to the core stealth gameplay were made, such as enemy cone vision, a radar displaying guard positions, and the ability to knock on walls.
While these chapters are very important to the overall Saga, and MG2 especially is worth playing, people who don't have the patience to play these games can read detailed "Previous Operations" summaries in MGS1's "Special" menu.
METAL GEAR SOLID (1998 - PS1): The series jumps to 3D! Even though Big Boss is dead, his legacy still lingers, in the form of a new villain; Liquid Snake, a man who looks identical to protagonist Solid Snake. The complex relationship between Snake and Big Boss is fleshed out even more in this game, and Snake, while tough on the outside and more reserved with his feelings, shows his softer side as the game progresses.
Taking advantage of the new 3D engine, items like the Scope and Sniper Rifle are introduced, as well as a huge boost in visual presentation. The game now has real-time, in-engine cutscenes. While the graphics are very dated by today's near-photorealistic standards, the charm of the well designed polygonal models still holds up for those willing to adjust their standards. It's actually quite fascinating how Kojima is able to portray personality with his characters with body movement, hand gestures, and voice-acting, all while everyone's face is static and low-res.
Even though I didn't play it until 12 years after release, long after its gameplay and graphics have been surpassed by other games, MGS1 remains my favorite game of all time. Although I've replayed each game many, many times, I have the most fun replaying MGS1, and re-experiencing this amazing game.
Sadly, The Legacy Collection only contains this game as a download voucher, so some of the fun nuances are lost in this version (like looking on the back of the CD case for a Codec frequency. It's still in the digital manual, but it's not the same. Still not a deal breaker, though.)
Remember to 1.) not give into the torture (otherwise you'll get the non-canon ending. Use a spoon or similar object to rub the O button really fast), and 2.) stay after the credits (not just for this game, but every game)! You'll be given a mindblowing plot-twist that made me fall in love with Snake even more.
METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY (2001 - PS2): Kojima takes his cinema-quality ambitions to new heights! Sons of Liberty was a major step forward in delivering a more movie-like experience, with improved lighting and weather effects, more life-like character models and motion capture, and refined gameplay that builds on the foundations of the previous games. MGS2 also takes several big risks, the most famous of which was replacing Solid Snake with a more effemine protagonist, named Raiden, who aspires to be like the legendary Solid Snake of the Shadow Moses Incident. Many of the themes in the game (about the impact of the digital age, information control, "context creating" social engineering etc.) were ahead of its time. in fact, many of the things people praised about Spec Ops: The Line and BioShock Infinite (deconstructing action game narratives and their relationship with the sadistic nature of the gameplay) were done in this MGS2 first, a decade before those games were released (except the pretentious messages of those games are counter-balanced with yet another inspiring speech from Solid Snake, about the true nature of "reality.") This game is often misunderstood and ridiculed by fans, but I hope this great video ( youtube(DOT)com/watch?v=Zx2dgVKYWWU ) helps people gain a new appreciation for the game.
While it's not my favorite game in the series, MGS2 is still a fantastic game, and one of the best examples of games being used as a relevant artistic medium.
METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER (2004 - PS2): After the mind-**** that was Sons of Liberty, Kojima took a deep breath, relaxed, and went back to basics with the story. After the backlash of playing as Raiden, Kojima made "Snake" the playable protagonist again, but not the Snake from MG1, 2, and MGS1. This Snake would later become Big Boss, the father (and antagonist) of Solid Snake. Taking place during the Cold War, in a Russian tropical jungle, Snake Eater shows us a time when Big Boss was a young, naive, patriotic soldier who believed in his country and its government. However, as the game progresses, his perception of the world is challenged, as he is duty-bound to kill his master and mother-figure, The Boss, who defected to the USSR. Like how MGS2 is often misunderstood as "pretentious", MGS3 is often misunderstood as "simplistic." It's true that the game isn't as in-your-face with its message, but that's what makes it great; you get to *feel* the game's message. Your own perception of the world is changed along with Big Boss. It tricks you into thinking this is just a fun, James Bond-esque spy thriller game, only to turn that perception on its head by the end.
This is also the first game in the series that doesn't have too many set-pieces for the second half of the game; there are still a few, but for the most part the game sticks to its core sneaking gameplay for the entire game. Which is good, because MGS3 overhauls the core mechanics to fit the more natural, down-and-dirty, "survivalist" nature of the game. Areas are much more open and more beautiful, guards can now see farther and hear footsteps, and your visibility is determined by the Camo Index (you can change camos at any point in the game, but I found this to be a cheap way to complete the game. These days, I just use the default camo and only change either when the mission required it, or when I'm sneaking in the mountain area.)
MGS3 was my first game in the series, and I feel it's a great start for everyone. In fact, since the game's theme is about SCENE (the times), and how the past can influence the future, playing MGS3 and MGS1 back-to-back creates an interesting perception of the latter game; MGS3 takes place in a natural jungle, filled with all sorts of life. MGS1 takes place in a facility of concrete and advanced technology. MGS3 takes place during the height of the Cold War between the US and USSR. MGS1 takes place after the Cold War, as the world deals with its after-effects (like surplus nuclear weapons and scientists.) And yet, despite these differences, you can see that there are still many similarities between what both Snake's experienced (the convo with Snake and Naomi, after the second round of torture, best illustrates this point.) The times may have changed, but war remains the same.
METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS (2008 - PS3): War has changed, and so has Metal Gear. Fearing that fans still didn't understand the message he tried to convey in MGS2, Kojima came out of retirement to direct what he intended to be the final chapter in the Saga. Solid Snake returns, now as an old man who feels out of place in the world of the dehumanizing War Economy (where war is a business, backed by Private-Military Contractors), which can be analogous to Kojima himself. With MGS4, Kojima tried to balance answering fan questions while trying to get fans to "get" his message. ( konami(DOT)jp/mgs4/uk/interview/03.html ) This results in a game that tries to do way too much and struggles to make it all coherent.
The gameplay builds on MGS3's new gameplay system with more refined sneaking and shooting mechanics (like crouch-waling/TPV aiming), but sadly the level design for parts of the game aren't as open or free as MGS3, and like MGS1 and 2, the second half of the game has too many set-pieces and areas with no enemies at all. But there are still plenty of good sneaking sections; the Crying Wolf battle is one of my favorite bosses in the series.
MGS3 finally struck the right balance between gameplay and cutscenes, but MGS4 goes way overboard with over nine hours worth of cutscenes, making the gameplay sections far too chopped up and interrupted.
This is probably my least favorite game in the series (besides MG1), but ultimately, MGS4 manages to do more right than wrong, and I feel that it did its job of concluding this massive Saga very well. If the series ended here, I would have been happy.
Side-Note: I highly recommend that people read Project Itoh's MGS4 novel. It's both an adaptation of MGS4 (told from the perspective of Otacon, Solid Snake's geeky best bro) and a character/story analysis of the Saga as a whole. I especially love how Itoh portrays and analyzes Solid Snake. Too many fans seem to write off Snake as "emotionless." Many of the thoughts and feelings I had of the character for years were eloquently put into text by Itoh-san. Recommended for both new fans and long time fans, to give better perspective of the saga.
Even Kojima recommends the book. ( twitter(DOT)com/HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN/status/350077034615144449 )
METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER (2010 - PSP): Kojima was determined to make MGS4 his last game in the series. But when he tried to hand over the next chapter of Big Boss' story to his younger team, he felt that his younger team would have a difficult time understanding the nature of the Cold War, due to generational differences. gamercenteronline(DOT)net/2009/06/12/kojima-wants-to-teach-youth-about-the-cold-war-and-the-love-box/ So, once again, Kojima takes the lead in charge of another Metal Gear game.
While theoretically taking place after Portable Ops (not included in this collection), PW is more of a sequel to MGS3*, dealing with Big Boss' memories of killing his mentor, while starting up a private-mercenary company to give soldiers a place to live (the roots of Outer Heaven, seen in the very first Metal Gear.) Despite his villainous future, the Big Boss in PW is still very much a hero. He's grown so much since MGS3, just as Solid Snake grew as a character after MGS1. He's no longer a "Cold War tool." He's disillusioned from the idea of nations or ideologies. He is his own man, fighting for himself. Sadly, the roots of his future are planted in the game's *first* ending (to unlock the second ending, follow these instructions; justpushstart(DOT)com/2010/06/real-ending-of-metal-gear-solid-peace-walker/ )
*In fact, in the Afterward of the MGS4 novel, Kojima said that "on the timeline, PW takes place after MGS3." The only reference to MPO in PW is a single, derogatory line from Master Miller; "finally, we can leave all that crap in San Heironymo behind." Remember that Twitch interview I mentioned earlier.
The gameplay adapts MGS4's control scheme to the PSP, using the face buttons to move the camera and the D-Pad to select weapons/items or go prone. The HD version uses the right-analogue stick and makes the game control even more like MGS4 (although you still can't crawl.) New to the main series is the ability to recruit soldiers from your missions and use them to build up Mother Base, where you can develop weapons and items. This creates a meta-game within the game, where you use the Analyzer on enemies to see their various skills, knock out the ones you want to recruit, and then use the Fulton Recovery balloon to bring them back to Mother Base, where they will eventually pledge their loyalty to you. Over time, you see Mother Base grow from a small plant to this huge off-shore structure, which parallels Big Boss' growth into a military leader.
To accommodate the limited PSP hardware, PW use comic book style cutscenes drawn by Yoji Shinkawa and Ashley Wood, bringing back some of the charm of the polygonal models of MGS1. The length of the cutscenes have also been greatly reduced, although many of the plot details and real-world inspired history can be found in the game's Briefing Files, which flesh out the story and various characters.
Sadly, replaying the game without starting over using a new save dilutes the experience somewhat, because you have these advanced weapons that can easily take down enemy mechs in a few shots. And without difficulty options, the game becomes way too easy. There's also confusion as to the proper order of Briefing Tapes the player should listen to, along with things that only happen in New Game saves (like the meta-narrative of Mother Base growing and expanding, that runs parallel to Big Boss' personal adventure.) And starting the game with a new save can be frustrating toward the end, as you try to unlock all of Chapter 5 and get the true ending.
Personally, I feel Peace Walker is best played on a portable device, either on the PSP or the Vita (via PSN.) The game was designed to be enjoyed without the borders of home consoles. Listening to Briefing Tapes while on a bus or while driving is a much better experience than sitting on your couch listening to them. And while the second analog stick in the HD version is nice, the AI wasn't re-optimized with that in mind, making an already easy game even easier. But for people without a PSP or Vita, it's still nice to have the game playable on the same system as the other main games, especially since "MGSV:Ground Zeroes/The Phantom Pain" is a direct sequel to the events of PW.
Ultimately, PW remains one of my favorite games in the series. While MPO used the PSP's limitations as a crutch, PW used those limitations as a challenge. Kojima made the impossible possible yet again, by making a game worthy of being a full console Metal Gear game for a portable system.
Edit: I would also like to mention that Peace Walker is David Hayter's last game as Snake. While Hayter did have his ups and downs, like any actor, he was always very passionate about his work and the character he portrays. I felt Hayter's performance in this game was especially great, perfectly conveying Big Boss' emotions as he faces his past. Although I really do like Kiefer Sutherland's take on Big Boss, Hayter will always be Snake (both of them) to me.
Also included with The Legacy Collection is The Legacy Book, which briefly explains the history of the Saga, displays a variety of promotional material, and explains the theme of each game (GENE, MEME, SCENE, SENSE, and PEACE.) There's also the Digital Graphic Novel adaptations of MGS1 and 2, for players who can't get used to the older gameplay style, but I implore people to play those games at least once. Nothing can ever replace playing those games for yourself.
Sadly, The Legacy Collection is missing one important piece to make this a complete collection; Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (and the recently released Ground Zeroes), which represents the "Revenge of the Sith" chapter in the Saga (where the father becomes a "demon"), is still a year away, if not more. But for anyone who is interested in that game, this is the best place to start (wait for the price of GZ to drop, unless you really love these games and want an appetizer for TPP, like me.) I'm glad that The Legacy Collection seems to be back in stock. When TPP is released, I hope Kojima Productions makes a version of this collection for PS4 and XBox One (and PC.) Everyone should be able to play this series!