10 June 2013

A Sneak to the Past... in HD

Let's start with a little history...

There were a few years sometime around the turn of the millennium when I was pretty much exclusively playing Japanese console RPGs (especially the Final Fantasy series). I just loved the characters and the storytelling in those games. This was also around the same time I was really getting into anime and manga. The cool, imaginative, over-the-top style of fantasy from the east was something new and refreshing compared to the western fantasy I grew up with, and right up my proverbial ally.

The other games I was seeing around me at that time period simply failed to interest me. It all seemed to be western RTS and FPS stuff, maybe some childish platformers and moronic sports games on the console side... They didn't seem nearly as cool as JRPGs, nor did they seem to have much potential for strong storytelling, which was very important to me. But one game changed all that and taught me to appreciate the action adventure genre as well.

That game was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. A friend borrowed it to me. I'd seen, like, the intro sequence and thought it looked intriguing enough to give this action thingy a shot. And I loved it. I was very impressed by the story. It was like watching an awesome sci-fi action movie. And the gameplay was unlike anything I'd ever played before. (For the uninitiated, it's a third person action adventure where you play an operative infiltrating an enemy occupied facility. Emphasis is on stealth and sneaking around enemies rather than open violence. The slogan of the series is 'tactical espionage action'.) I liked it enough to soon buy a copy of my own and replay it.

Of course it was still a Japanese game. It would take me many more years to accept that westerners could possibly also make interesting games. But that's a whole other story...

Naturally I played the first Metal Gear Solid, too, and when Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came out in 2005 it was the first game I ever pre-ordered (although in the end the store failed to notify me of the game's arrival and I received it several days late, but whatever). This prequel took the game in a brave new direction by moving the action from near future interiors to a 1960s wilderness setting. While it doesn't quite have a similar place in my heart as MGS2, it definitely featured some interesting gameplay elements, and also proved to be surprisingly important in terms of the plot of the overall series.

But let's finally cut to the present...

The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was released for the PS3 last year, featuring ports of the PS2 games MGS2 and MGS3, along with the more recent PSP title Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. I'm usually pretty reluctant to buy re-releases of games I already have, but this collection contained one game I hadn't played yet (since I don't have a PSP) and the games were also 'remastered' to feature widescreen HD graphics, which naturally makes them look a great deal better on modern TVs.

I finally got around to buying the collection this summer. I started with replaying MGS2, and late last night I finished MGS3. And yes, they're still pretty cool. It took maybe a little while getting into the swing of things after spending the spring playing games Portal and Mass Effect (particularly in the case of MGS2, which lacks the camera control which has become pretty standard in modern 3D games). Of course one must wonder whether part of the appeal of these games is simple nostalgia. Certain elements (particularly some aspects of the controls) can feel maybe a tiny bit dated... But the story and characters are still pretty darn cool, and the games still look and sound pretty good too, especially with the new HD facelift.

Apart from the increased resolution the games are pretty much identical to the originals, or more precisely the MGS2: Substance and MGS3: Subsistence special editions, including much of the bonus content from them (such as the improved camera control for MGS3 and the two original 2D Metal Gear games). All in all there's plenty of classic gaming here for the price of one game.

I have yet to play Peace Walker. I'll surely write about it once I get around to it. And the time is long overdue to replay MGS4 as well...

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