Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The back of the box for Metal Gear Solid promises "A taut, gripping story." If anybody tells you that it's perfect, they don't know what they're talking about. Neither does anyone who thinks it a sloppy throwaway spy tale that doesn't have any power to emotionally affect the player. Kojima is a guy with a lot of ideas, and although that's admirable, sometimes it gets to be too much when it comes to the story. MGS is stuffed to the brim with ruminations on genetics, fate, love, nuclear war, and existential doubt. It's heavy stuff, and not all of it is approached with grace. Nevertheless, the combination of high-quality machinima, a memorable script, and unprecedented professional voice acting turns what could have been a headache-inducing anime plot into a supremely powerful narrative. Solid Snake travels along a believable character arc; his cold heart is slowly thawed by the friendship of Otacon and the love of Meryl. I was sad to see Meryl absent from MGS2 (yes, I know she's in 4, but still); I thought she was a great character. In fact, all of the characters are great. The plot of the Metal Gear series may appear to be nothing more than an impossible jumble of techno-babble and amateur philosophy, but its mythology is undeniably rich and packed with unforgettable faces.
This tense sniper duel is certainly a standout moment, but we're all aware of what may be Metal Gear Solid's most ingenious moment. I personally prefer The End, but many, many people will tell you that Psycho Mantis is the greatest boss of all time. They aren't lying. Before the encounter, mysterious chanting music can be heard reverberating on the wooden walls that surround Snake and Meryl. Pressing triangle normally allows Snake to look around in first-person, but if you try it within the hallway that leads to Mantis' office, the screen turns a sickly green as you stare at Snake from just behind and above Meryl. Upon entering, Meryl starts acting weird, pleading for Snake to make love to her while aiming her Desert Eagle at his confounded face. After knocking Meryl unconscious, Psycho Mantis reveals himself to Snake and proceeds to show off a variety of fancy parlor tricks: moving your DualShock controller across the floor and reading your memory card, commenting on both the games you play ("You like Castlevania, don't you?") and the number of times you save. After this freaky introduction, the real battle begins, but the trickery persists. Psycho Mantis will use telekineses to hurl a chair at you, and just before you dodge out of the way, he'll pretend to turn off the TV screen (with HIDEO in green running across the upper-right corner of the blackness). Mantis, a skilled mind reader, can anticipate nearly every one of Snake's attacks and appropriately evade them. After many minutes of confusion teetering on the verge of frustration, you call Colonel Campbell again, hoping to receive some help. Suddenly, the "retired old warhorse" has a eureka moment, determining that Psycho Mantis won't be able to read your movements if you switch your controller to Port 2. It works, and Mantis is defeated (I've actually managed to proudly defeat him without resorting to this method). Talk about a mindfuck; the fight with Psycho Mantis takes the 4th wall and tears it to subatomic shreds.
Metal Gear Solid is important. It was paramount in the invention of both the stealth genre and the cinematic gaming experience. Metal Gear Solid is fun. I still enjoy avoiding a guard's line of sight while setting up a Claymore mine for him to foolishly waltz onto. Metal Gear Solid is riveting. Rarely have I encountered such a bombastic, engrossing story in a video game. Metal Gear Solid is visionary and awesome and funny and wonderful. It's my second favorite game of all time.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Somehow, the game is nearly as memorable aurally as it is graphically. The blinking of a scanner, the mechanical whirring and whining of Dog, the compressed walkie-talkie squeal of a dying Metro Cop, the satisfying thwack and crunch of a crowbar swing, every sound makes a lasting impression and colors the experience.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Not to be outdone, Kow Otani has produced an epic soundtrack uncannily able to translate the player's current feelings into beautiful symphonies. From the fluttering flutes and string plucks of the game's first seconds to the overwhelmingly gothic organ tune in the Temple of Worship to the exciting melody of heated battle, the music never disappoints.
Speaking of the greatest characters in gaming, I have determined who deserves to be named my favorite personality in video games... Agro, the horse. Yes, the horse. Animated even more convincingly than the colossi, she guides Wander through the Forbidden Land with courage, intelligence, and grace. Because of her unflinching loyalty, she is the centerpiece of one of the most heartrending scenes in gaming. It may sound crazy to be so enamored with a digital horse, but trust me, Agro is special.
If you're going to play one video game before shrugging them off as a juvenile waste of time, make sure it's Shadow of the Colossus.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The eternal children at Nintendo have a different interpretation of "cool" than the rest of the world. Super Mario World, like its grandpa Super Mario Bros., was a pack-in launch title that had to almost single-handedly sell the new system on release. To show off the power of the 16-bit Super Nintendo, SMW did not feature explosions or fast cars or cutscenes. It featured a pudgy mustachioed plumber hopping around colorful side-scrolling levels, mounting a pet dinosaur named Yoshi, and soaring through the skies with a brand new cape. Less than a year later, Sega introduced the world to Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis. Where Mario represented the old guard of childish silliness, Sonic quickly became the 'tude-sporting mascot for "cool" in the early 90's. His legacy may have turned to sand in the last ten years, but back in 1991, the speedy blue rodent was a force to be reckoned with. Generation X was growing into its adolescence, and for some, Mario just didn't cut it anymore. That's a shame, because Super Mario World is two-dimensional perfection, timeless in a way that a trendy Sonic never could be. Although it wasn't much removed fundamentally from the stellar Super Mario Bros. 3, World managed to do a lot in terms of proving to kids and their parents that the SNES was worth shelling out for. To this day it remains technically flawless, impressive, and cool.
There's really not a whole lot one can say about Super Mario World. It's classic Mario perfected. It's adorable. It's got a still-impressive audiovisual package. It's fun. Most of all, though, it's a portal to another world; not to City 17 or Hyrule or Rapture, but rather to childhood. It forms a beautiful bond with its player and reminds him that joy, true joy, never ages.