This Week in Gaming History: Metal Gear sneaks into our hearts0 Comments
It is one of the most iconic franchises in video game history. Numerous generations have enjoyed the adventures of Solid Snake as the Metal Gear series left an impact on a wide range of video game consoles. What some don't seem to know is that the franchise didn't begin on a video game console at all, and that some of the most notable aspects of the brand came about due to technical limitations.
The original Metal Gear debuted on July 7, 1987, but not on a video game console nor a platform familiar to many in the United States. This first release was for the MSX2 personal computer, part of the MSX series that rarely saw any marketing in the then-saturated North American market. Mostly available in Japan, the MSX2 also made it's way to some parts of Europe, as did an English translation later on.
While the series would go on to be forever associated with Hideo Kojima, the now-legendary game developer was actually handed the project from a colleague who was unable to complete the assignment. Tasked with creating a war combat game, the MSX2 was only able to display and move a small number of items on-screen at any given time. To work around this challenge, Kojima would turn the game into one of stealth rather than combat, encouraging players to avoid confrontation rather than engage in it. This simple hardware limitation resulted in the most famous element of the Metal Gear franchise.
Metal Gear would make it's video game console debut in December of the same year when a port was released in Japan for the Nintendo Famicom. However, this port did not involve Kojima or his team, who were unaware of the project and unhappy that the original source code was shared with another development team and altered to make the Famicom version different in several aspects, including the opening of the game and the end boss, which was changed into a supercomputer.
The game was finally ported to North American shores in June of 1988, published under Konami's alternate label of Ultra Games. This side label was created only to help the company get around Nintendo's limiting of how many games a company was allowed to publish in a year. During this time, thanks to Metal Gear and a game based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ultra Games became just as hot of a label on the Nintendo Entertainment System as Konami was at the time. Ultra was quietly phased out down the road, when Nintendo's publisher limitations no longer came into play.
This port was somewhat notorious on the NES for a number of bad translations. "I FEEL ASLEEP" is some of the first dialogue within the game, while "UH-OH, THE TRUCK HAVE STARTED TO MOVE!" exists within a frequently visited portion of the game. Also worth note were the inclusion of cigarettes and smoking, a bit of a surprise within an era that saw Nintendo making numerous family-friendly edits to games prior to release. Nonetheless, the game was a huge hit, quickly climbing the charts in Nintendo Power magazine while receiving a fair amount of promotion within the pages of the publication. Critics were mixed on the NES port, citing early difficulty of the game and graphics as their main issues.
The North American success for Metal Gear resulted in a sequel - Snake's Revenge - to be developed and released in 1990. However, this game had no involvement from Kojima, who put together Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX in Japan. Due to the ties with the original creator, this game is considered the true sequel to the original game, leading to later titles including Metal Gear Solid, which arguably became more famous than the original Metal Gear game.
Metal Gear, like many other games developed in the late 1980s, has left a bit of a mark on popular culture as well, with references to the game series appearing in mainstream television and film, such as Disney's popular Wreck-It Ralph film. It is also credited with creating a new genre in gaming, which had previously contained far more straight-forward action over stealth. What kind of future exists for the Metal Gear series is not known at this time, given Kojima's exit from Konami and the company's apparent plans to focus on other forms of interactive entertainment, but there is no questions regarding the extreme impact the original title left on the industry.