Why You Can't Fully Appreciate Metal Gear Solid Without Playing Metal Gear (1987)

Metal Gear Solid transcends gaming conventions and genres. It’s a masterpiece of game design that has been one of the most influential pieces of work the industry has ever produced.

Millions of gamers are fanatic about Metal Gear Solid and with good reason, it’s combination of amazing gameplay, gripping stories, and just enough randomly crazy Hideo-Kojima-goodness make for an unrivalled experience.

Yet despite the fact that millions of gamers are nuts about Metal Gear Solid, many have never played the original game, Metal Gear, released in 1987 for the MSX2.

That’s a big mistake. Because truth be told, you simply can’t fully appreciate the Metal Gear Solid series without playing Metal Gear.

Here are 5 reasons why you absolutely must play Metal Gear (1987)

  1. 1. Because you need to see the evolution of Hideo Kojima

Hideo Kojima is a genius.  He redefined game design and influenced every other developer in the world. But if you don’t play Metal Gear you’ll never fully understand where Kojima’s ideas and inspirations came from.

Metal Gear is packed full of movie references, most notably The Great Escape.

Metal Gear was initially intended to be an action packed shooter, but the MSX2 made that ambition impossible. In a move to remould the game, Kojima took inspiration from The Great Escape, removing the shooting action with stealth.

When you play Metal Gear you get to understand how the series started and how it tied into the pop culture of the time. And you get to see how those movies and that pop culture inspires one of the best game designers of all time.

This video pays tribute to the legacy of Hideo Kojima, a legacy which begins with Metal Gear (unless you’re a big fan of Penguin Adventure). 

  1. 2. Because Metal Gear is still fun today, 28 years later

I didn’t play Metal Gear back in 1987. The first time I played Metal Gear was when I wrote an analysis of Solid Snake for GamesTm back in 2012. Let me tell you, I was thrilled to play it. Obviously the graphics look shoddy now and there are some serious limitation to the gameplay, but the basic stealth action is still there and it’s still awesome.

There’s a timeless quality to Metal Gear. That’s largely thanks to the fundamentals of its design. That basic maze-like stealth action is just pure gaming gold. I could definitely still play Snake Eater today, I could definitely still play Metal Gear too.

  1. 3. To see where all those gadgets come from

James Bond’s friend “Q” must be working behind the scenes on Metal Gear. The series has been so full of gadgets. Every game has introduced new tech. But the best gadgets were present way back in 1987.

Snake begins with a pack of cigarettes which you can equip (which depletes his health). He’s got his CODEC too which keeps you in contact with the other characters. He’s got his trusty knife (the only weapon he starts with) and there’s the cardboard box. Those, I’d say, are the four items that Snake is most famous for carrying. And they’ve really not changed that much. They’re used in the same way that they are now. But if you’ve never played Metal Gear you’d never know.

 

  1. 4. Because it’s full of so many pop-culture references

Hideo Kojima fans know him to be a big fan of movies. You can see the influence of Hollywood in every game Kojima has made. But nowhere is that influence more apparent than in Metal Gear. Just take a look at Snake on the front cover. He’s clearly Kyle Reese from Terminator. Or, as I said earlier, consider how The Great Escape helped shape the game’s design.

If you’re a fan of old movies and you also love Metal Gear Solid, you’d be crazy not to play the original game.

  1. 5. Because it was the first time Hideo Kojima broke the “Third Wall”

We all know that Kojima is famous for breaking the “third wall”. But did you know that the first time he did so was in towards the end of Metal Gear when Big Boss, Snake’s commander, gets irritated with him and sends him a message:

 

THIS IS BIG BOSS… SOLID SNAKE! STOP THE OPERATION SWITCH OFF YOUR MSX AT ONCE.

If you’re a MGS fan you really need to play the original if only for that message. I had a huge grin on my face when I read that. That was the beginning of Kojima talking directly to players. Without that message you wouldn’t have the Psychomantis scene or the unforgettable Fission Mailed moment.

 

Metal Gear Solid has been an absolutely sublime series. But that’s no reason not to enjoy the original game. Grab yourself a copy and get playing. Trust me you’ll love it.

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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