Here we are, ladies and gentlemen, the video game that redefined everything that we thought we knew about stealth gaming, console gaming, and Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation. Without this game the rest of the series wouldn’t exist or have anywhere near as hefty of an impact, and arguably without this game I wouldn’t even be here writing about Metal Gear or possibly even video games at all. Metal Gear Solid is one of the greatest games ever made and one of the biggest reasons why I still hold the opinion that video games are even viable entertainment.
Since the release of Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation in 1998 is such a pivotal turning point for the Metal Gear series and for video games as a whole, I want to break my write up on the title into three parts: My experience with the game, Gameplay and history, and Story. This week we’ll be focusing on my specific experiences with this title and why I hold the game in such high esteem, essentially why I’m still a massive Metal Gear fan to this day. You’d be doing yourself a favor if you listened to this while you read.
Metal Gear Solid (PSX)
Konami Entertainment Japan
September 3rd, 1998
It was the week of Christmas in Gainesville, Florida, in 1998 and I was only nine years old. The only game systems that I’d owned at the time were an old NES, a Sega Gamegear, a Sega Genesis, and an Atari 2600, and I’d been playing a friend of mine’s Playstation and Crash Bandicoot 2, when we’d go and visit her, for months. None of the kids that I knew had one, and so I often fantasized about what the system played like and what 3D could be like on a television, since most of my PC gaming had been isometric RPGs and pseudo-3D shooters at the time. My parents weren’t the most wealthy, however, and so I feared asking for such an expensive gift for Christmas. However, during the days leading up to the holiday that would all change.
One evening, my father decided to order a Pizza Hut pizza for me, my sister, and my parents to share for dinner. I didn’t think much of this dinner decision, but my apathy quickly became unbridled enthusiasm whenever the delivery man arrived, pizza in hand, with an additional item in tow. Pizza Hut was running a special on their pizzas, alongside Sony, to provide customers with demo discs for the Playstation in order to help boost holiday sales, and included on this demo disc was Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider III, Gran Turismo, MediEvil, and Crash Bandicoot: WARPED. I… lost my mind.
My father can attest to me throwing one of the biggest tantrums of my life that night. Every game that I was evenly remotely interested in was on that disc and I wanted to play them, right then and there. The details are kind of blurry at this point, but I remember that my constant insanity finally drove my parents crazy and they eventually bought me my very own PlayStation a few weeks after our fateful pizza delivery, and I played that demo disc until it stopped being able to be read by the system’s optical drive. Eventually, I traded a neighborhood kid something or other and an arm and a leg so that he’d go to our local Rhino Videogames and purchase Metal Gear Solid for me, and then I Sharpied over the M-rating on the case and on each of the discs in a feeble attempt to hide the content from my parents, who were initially doubtful of allowing their young son to play maturely themed video games. I was in heaven.
I was just starting my fascination with Japanese animation, electronic music, and science fiction and Metal Gear Solid played into all of those budding obsessions. From the Konami intro logo music to the art design and intricate narrative sequences that played out like short films, I was hooked. I played and replayed many of the game’s memorable moments, even though I’d played them in the demo version, simply dissecting the game to see why it worked so well together. I left the game on its main menu just so that I could listen to the music over and over again. And I fully thrust myself into the game’s world, reading all of the supplemental material and watching all of the extra video segments, just basking in the little details. At the time, I never knew that there were two previous games in the series’s canon, and so I clung to every word of the fully voiced-over dialogue, which at the time was really something to gawk over in a console video game.
Eventually, this enthusiasm for director Hideo Kojima’s first 3D work would propel me into enjoying many more other titles, starting out with those most similar to Metal Gear Solid and then panning out to other styles of console games. I’d buy Zone of the Enders for the Playstation 2, years later, solely for the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, and then fall in love with Zone of the Enders as well, a robotic sci-fi love letter also penned by Kojima. But I have never forgotten just how much of an impact that the original Metal Gear Solid had on me, both thematically and in relation to what media could do. Honestly, part of why I got into visual storytelling as a filmmaker stems directly from the cinematic sequences of the original Metal Gear Solid as well as many of the films that my father and I would watch late into the night on HBO or VHS tapes that we either recorded from television or rented from the local rental store.
No matter how great each and every new addition to the Metal Gear series is, my loyalty still remains to the original title that not only tacked on the Solid part of the series’s name, but also changed the face of modern video games.
Next week, we’ll look at what Metal Gear Solid changed about console gameplay, storytelling in video games, and how it shaped a new generation of game players.