What were you doing 25 years ago? I was debating with my brother whether we should be playing Commando on the NES or this weird looking game called Metal Gear. While I liked the mech on the front, and the Michael Biehn inspired portrait to go along with it, why would I play this unproven title from Ultra Games over Capcom's Commando? It seemed like a valid question at the time.
Thankfully, my brother, who is much taller and stronger than I am, won out. Metal Gear was the game of choice for our dreary Saturday morning back in 1987, and now Metal Gear Solid is still my stealth action game of choice in 2013. Again, thank GOD my brother won out that day. I might have skipped an entire generation of top notch games.
Old man memories aside, Konami released Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection on July 9th, and while we got ours a tad bit late, the wait was certainly worth it. It's the ultimate edition of Metal Gear gaming for any Metal Gear fans out there. Konami did a bang up job of packing all their revamped HD collections together and putting them in one very affordable package. So, without further delay, let me break down what you should expect from this collection:
- Metal Gear/Metal Gear 2: Nothing 'solid' in these titles (pun intended). The original two Metal Gear games that may not resemble Snake as we know him today, but they certainly maintain the core ideas of stealth/action. The sheer brilliance of having your character avoid enemies as much as possible and find ways through various levels to prevent total world war chaos is something special for a game coming out of the 80s. While it won't win anyone over in terms of looks, sound effects and gameplay elements, it's still one of the more creative titles to arrive on the NES. By the way, these are located inside of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It took me about 30 minutes to locate them then I remembered that these originally came with MGS3. Just wanted to give you a shortcut.
- Metal Gear Solid/VR Missions: The real treat in this duo is that Metal Gear Solid looks phenomenal for a game that helped to propel the PlayStation (original one) to stardom. It was the introduction to David Hayter's Snake and one of the first top-down 3D games of its kind. The story and the characters were strong. Everything about this game helped to shape what would be future MGS titles, even the odd gameplay elements that are unique to the series. For example, the moment you realized Psycho Mantis can't read thoughts if you switch control ports (not as easy on the PS3) was amazing, and very much out of left field. Things like that would make way for other unique opportunities that would crop up in future MGS titles (see The End's multiple was to die as an example). It truly was a reviving point for the series and a stepping off point for what Kojima and crew were going to do in the future. As for VR Missions, if you aren't familiar with them, they're just add-ons to the original MGS game. Entertaining? Somewhat. Good for a complete collection, though.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Following the story of Shadow Moses from MGS, Sons of Liberty has our favorite stealthy guy going after Ocelot and Liquid Snake (well, sorta Liquid Snake) as the 'Sons of Liberty' are trying to resurrect Metal Gear once again. This time around, we get Raiden in on the action with an actual story attached to him. MGS2 was a fantastic follow-up to MGS, but looked a lot more refined with the next generation hardware at the time, and improved upon things like AI and environmental effects. This version of that game is quite beautiful, as it's been given a nice facelift and shine thanks to an HD upgrade. Thankfully, this was the last of the top-down type of gameplay that Metal Gear had always been known for. To be quite honest, it's tough to go back and play this game after playing the next few. Still, a classic nonetheless that has a story that fits nicely with the overall scheme of things. Definitely a Kojima classic.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Don't worry. This is the Subsistence version of the game with the 3D camera movement included (google that for details). While I love the fourth Metal Gear Solid game, this one is my favorite in the bunch. Set during the Cold War 1960s, Snake (Naked Snake) must track down his traitorous mentor, The Boss, and take her and her group of minions out before Soviet Russia starts World War III. This is a cold and calculating title that introduces a bevy of new gameplay elements. The three most important elements are -- Camouflage, stamina rebuilding and 'curing'. The camo is used to help Snake blend in with his environment, thus helping him to hide from soldiers in jungle/building scenarios. It's a brilliant element that was way ahead of its time.
The second element is maintaining Snake's stamina during battle. Giving Snake the ability to hunt down and eat animals to keep him alive, adds just another element of real world survival to the Metal Gear Solid world. Sure it's a bit gross sometimes (killing rats and eating them -- yum!), but it gives you another thing to worry about while you're trying to hunt down people.
The last element is that of 'curing' Snake. When he gets hurt in particular moments of the game, you have to repair his character using a variety of different methods. If you get shot in the shoulder then you have to use the knife to pry out the bullet, the disinfectant to clean it, suture kit to sew it up and a bandage to wrap it. Each item, sans the knife, is something you have to keep track of in the game, so you don't run out of them. There's a strong possibility Snake could bleed to death otherwise.
I was sort of shocked that all of these elements didn't lead to 'relieving one's self' in Metal Gear Solid 4. I thought for certain that would be the next natural transition to bringing more reality to the game. Anyway, I think taking Snake back to the 60s and showing gamers where this character began was a fantastic idea. It also made a perfect lead into Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: This is the pinnacle of the series for most people. It featured the return of camo, stamina rebuilding and an old Solid Snake that had progressed in age via some weird Benjamin Button effect. The fourth game in the 'solid' series was a well wrapped goodbye to Snake's character (or so we thought), as Snake encounters ghosts front the past that help/hurt him in his quest to save the future. It contains some of the best gameplay you've seen in a 3D stealth/action game. It also contains some of the longest cutscenes that connect all the pieces from past (BIg Boss) to present (Liquid). It's basically a movie that contains a well produced game. You aren't the same when you play this game, and definitely won't feel the same when you finish it. Kojima and crew did a fantastic job with putting this on a tall pedestal of how a game should be produced, and how a Metal Gear Solid game should run/act. It's one of the best parts of this collection, and still worth a $49.99 price tag in my opinion.
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: A last hurrah for the PSP is a big one. Following the story of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Portable Ops, Peace Walker picks up with Big Boss' (formerly Naked Snake) rogue unit of soldiers who are hired to help out the Costa Rican government in investigating and stopping an invading group of soldiers. Of course, there's more than meets the eye and friends quickly turn to enemies. Peace Walker, while small on scale, is definitely a solid fit in the story of Big Boss. The HD version of this is a wonderful addition to the collection and will help transition Big Boss into his Metal Gear Solid V role. Who can't wait for that?
In addition to all of these games, you also get the two part Metal Gear Solid Bande Dessinee, which is digital comic to help plug up and add onto some of the stories in the Legacy Collection. Kojima really put together an intricate web of material when it came to creating more than just a typical 'hero' with Big Boss and Solid Snake, so it's no surprise how good the digital stories are in contrast with the actual games.
Anyway, Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection is a wonderful set for any Metal Gear fan. It's especially attractive if you don't happen to own all of these titles already. Some of the young gamers out there might have cut their teeth on MGS4 or Peace Walker, so this might compliment those quite well (and learn 'em!). Having said that, let's break down the cost of this puppy versus the cost of purchasing these separately. I'm going to exclude the original two games because they originally came with MGS3. So, here we go:
Metal Gear Solid - $9.99
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - $14.99
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - $14.99
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patroits - $19.99
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - $19.99
TOTAL: $79.95 (before tax)
You could go the smart route and get the collections already out there and this is how it would break down:
Metal Gear Solid - $9.99
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (includes MGS2/3/Peace Walker) - $29.99
Metal Gear Solid 4 - $19.99
What I haven't included in both of these, which pretty much makes this a steal of a deal, is the inclusion of the VR Missions, the two digital stories ($7.99 a piece on PSN) and the cool book that comes with this collection. All in all, The Legacy Collection is worth its weight in gold, if not only to have it as an actual collector's piece. Not having to buy multiple discs and put them together on a single shelf is also a nice thing.
With that said, I wish that Konami had included Metal Gear Solid and VR Missions on the disc as opposed to making them downloadable. That was the first question that I was asked by my editors when I was reviewing this collection this weekend. Yes, you have to download them to your PS3's hard drive. While not a big deal in the long run, collector's of these types of games like a complete collection. Having something downloadable as part of the collection is nearly unforgivable to these folks; and I can't say I blame them. I know there is room on the second Blu-ray disc to hold Metal Gear Solid and VR Missions, so there is little excuse as to why this wasn't done in the first place.
I don't think it's a deal breaker for most people, but it is a slight turn off for the hardcore collector.