Thoughts on Twin Snakes and LE Review

Alright, so all the lead-up leading to Metal Gear Solid 4 got me to finally finish playing through Subsistance and has really made me want to play throgh Twin Snakes once more (I just finished disc 1 on Extreme this morning).

Now, I’m sure most of you already know about Twin Snakes. It is the GameCube remake of the original PlayStation classic, Metal Gear Solid. Curiously enough, the game has been the subject of some contraversy since its release. There are arguments as to the quality of the game as well as the canonicity of the title.

First off. The original Metal Gear Solid was the game that convinced me to get the original PlayStation so when I heard that it was being remade for my favorite system at the time, the GameCube, I was overjoyed. While I enjoyed the gameplay additions from Sons of Liberty, the storyline and characters kind of left me wanting. Twin Snakes, as the remake was to be called, promised to update the classic game to the production of Metal Gear Solid 2, adding in the additional gameplay elements from that game.

Since its release, the game has seen a bit of contraversy among fans. A lot of fans consider this game inferior to the original in every way. I’m personally of the group that actually enjoys this version over the original. Of the detractor’s main complaints, one is the voice acting. I personally believe the voice acting in this game is better than the original for the most part. This game uses the same voice actor for Ocelot that was used in Metal Gear Solid 2 and gives the cyborg Ninja his own voice actor instead of re-using the same one that did the DARPA Chief. I personally like his new voice actor. Granted, each actor puts a different spin on the part. In the original Metal Gear Solid the actor gave him a more tortured slant while in Twin Snakes, the cyborg Ninja feels more lost and searching, if that makes any sense. Whichever one you prefer is a matter of taste, but I think that the new slant still works and the new voice actor fits the part better.

Then come the re-recordings for many of the characters that had heavy accents in the original version. Mainly Mei-Ling and Nastasha. Again, this is subjective. I’m personally not so much of a stickler to really go crazy over the voice of a character I never actually meet. Also, although Mei Ling’s parents are Chinese, she was born and raised in America, which I think would significantly reduce her accent and which is better reflected with the new recording. Again, that’s just me.

Another point of contention is the integration of elements from Sons of Liberty. Here, I think its a bit hit and miss. A lot of elements from Sons of Liberty were added like the ability to tranquilize enemies, hanging off ledges, hiding yourself/bodies in lockers, and using your weapons in first person view. The main problem with all of these is that they were added to a game that was not designed for them and that was unchanged to incorporate them, meaning that you really never have to use them while playing the game. That said, I really don’t think it is a terrible detractor to the game but more of a missed opportunity. Although I must say that this is coming from someone who played through the original Metal Gear Solid without all the additions. I believe that for players for whom this is the first time through this chapter of the saga, would be more apt to use these new elements because they have not been conditioned to go through without them. For them, it would be a standart tool in their arsenal as opposed to old players, like myself, for whom it is an extra skill.

Shooting in first-person view, I think, is one of the better additions to the game, however. In the original version, you pretty much had to rely on the auto-aim to get you through any shooting you had to do. Although Snake is a legendary soldier, no one seemed to wonder why he was unable to pull a headshot off with anything but the sniper rifle. The addition of shooting in first person view made killing enemies much more of an option. An Option. Meaning if you want to. If you don’t want to use first person view, you don’t have to. There are complaints that first person view ruins the boss fight with Ocelot. That could be true. However, if you think so, do you not have the option of not using first person view for the fight?

Anyways, moving on to perhaps the biggest gripe that fans of the original game have against Twin Snakes, the cutscenes. The cutscenes in Twin Snakes were all re-done by Japanese film director Ryuhei Kitamura at the request of Hideo Kojima. Kitamura’s style is completely different from what was presented in the original version of the game. His style has been described as over the top by many and that leads to much distate for the cutscenes and thus for the game itself. What can I say? Well, I’m watching the cutscenes from the original game as I type this up with disc 1 of Twin Snakes still very fresh in my mind and all I can say is that, by and large, the cut scenes are a vast improvement. Snake exhibits some amazing skills in the new scenes which I think really add to his character. Other scenes, like the one in which he meets the ArmsTech President or in which Meryl is shot by Sniper Wolf all have Snake exhibiting some form of emotion completely absent from the original. When Snake can’t get to Meryl because of Sniper Wolf, you can visibly see his frustration. He pretty much just abandons her in the original version.

For example, the scene in which Snake is captured by Sniper Wolf. In the original version he walks to the door and is snuck up on by the enemy soldiers and that’s the end of it. Hardly what you’d expect from the man that defeated Grey Fox hand-to-hand in the middle of a minefield or defeated Big Boss with an improvised falmethrower. In Twin Snakes, Snake puts up an effective fight and only gives up when Sniper Wolf has him in her sights at point blank range and there really is no point in resisting then.

Also, the scene in which Snake first meets Meryl just after the DARPA Chief has died. In the original Snake pretty much just robotically pulls his pistol on Meryl or just holds the barrel of the gun and the two talk back and forth. In Twin Snakes, the two scenes are largely the same but are now much more fluid. Snake easily disarms Meryl when she first sneaks up on him and she quickly takes back her weapon followed by Snake craftily pulling his own gun on her. The scene shows Snake’s skills as a soldier as well as showing that Meryl, although green is no slouch herself. If you really think about it, if not for that, all you’d really see Meryl do is get shot up by Sniper Wolf.

Granted these are hardly the scenes that people complain about the most. That honor goes to the now infamous leap off the Hind’s rocket. I will admit that that scene in particular pushes it a bit, but at the same time I don’t believe its so over-the-top that its unbelievable. Snake is supposed to be one of the greatest soldiers that ever lived. I don’t think the backflips he does here and there are so far beyond reason that they ruin the experience. Furthermore, I do not believe the game presents Snake as something of a superman,either. What many people fail to remember when criticizing the new cutscenes is that Snake very often hits the ground very hard after his acrobatics and is often out of breath.

In the end, though, it all depends on the player whether they like it or not. I personally find more to like in the way Metal Gear was re-imagined in Twin Snakes.

The other big contraversy with Twin Snakes is that of canonicity. Most people will insist that the original game is canon but I think there is a fair argument for Twin Snakes.

First off, the original game is the one represented in the recent Metal Gear Database as well as appearing in Metal Gear Solid 4. That alone pretty much cements it in the eyes of most fans. I have a different view, however. First off, Twin Snakes was a three-way collaboration between Konami, Silicon Knights, and Nintendo and as such is partly owned by Nintendo. This fact makes things interesting when it comes to the above points in favor of the original being canon. First off, the choice to go with the original game in the MGS4 flashback can be attributed to two things. First, Twin Snakes was a three-way collaboration between Konami, Silicon Knights, and Nintendo. Its unlikely that Nintendo would allow something they partially control to be playable on a competitor’s console. Second, the question of nostaliga. It was the original game that was the landmark and that brought Metal Gear back in the public eye which would make it a better fit for a flashback in a game that’s supposed to bring the saga to a close in the same way that Mario games constantly make references to the original NES days.

Now, as to why Twin Snakes should be considered canon. To begin, I’d like to say that I believe Twin Snakes is closer to Kojima’s intent with the first chapter of the saga, over-the-top cutscenes and all. Why? Well, first off, his choice to use Kitamura at all to redirect the cutscenes. As Kojima said in an interview, Kitamura’s first take on the new cutscenes were pretty much identical to what Kojima did in the original. If that was what Kojima wanted to be in Metal Gear he would have accepted that, but no, instead he chose to have Kitamura re-do the scenes in his particular style, over-the-top acrobatics and all. If Kojima did not want that included, he would’ve had them changed.

Second, Twin Snakes fits into the series better than the original. I think Snake’s characterization in Twin Snakes better reflects him in Metal Gear Solid 4. Granted, Snake isn’t jumping off missiles in Guns of the Patriots, but Snake exhibits a better understanding of close-quarters and hand-to-hand combat in Twin Snakes than he does in the original, which clearly carries over into Guns of the Patriots. Take for example, when Snake is captured by Sniper Wolf in Twin Snakes and compare that to how Snake takes down Big Mama’s guards in Guns of the Patriots. The techniques on display are pretty much the same.

Third, elements introduced in Twin Snakes have been carried on throughout the rest of the series. Despite many fans disliking the lack of accents for Mei Ling and Naomi in Twin Snakes, those are the same voices Kojima carried over into Metal Gear Solid 4. The sound clips used for Snake’s flashbacks during Shadow Moses in MGS4 are also taken from Twin Snakes, including the Ninja’s new voice actor.

That’s my stance explained rather quickly, but I think it makes my point. The main argument against Twin Snake as canon, I find somewhat comical, that being that Kojima didn’t work on it. Now let’s examine that. Yes, Snake’s Revenge was not made by Kojima and has since been classified as non-canonical. However Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is canonical and it was directed by Masahiro Yamamoto. Kojima’s credits on that game are for the original story, which was then written by someone else, and as General Manager/Producer. In Twin Snakes Kojima has credits for Original Story/Planning/Game Design, Written By, Settings Research/Justification, Conceptual Map, Producer, and Game Design & Executive Supervisor. I will concede that a lot of those can be carry-overs from the original game, but things like Producer and Executive Supervisor should be enough to match or exceed his work on Portable Ops. Oh yeah, and Twin Snakes has a big fat Produced By Hideo Kojima right on the front of the box.

Probably the stupidest argument against Twin Snakes as canon was one I heard on a message board about the original being canon because most of the fanbase was on Playstation so most of the fans would know the original and since Twin Snakes was on the Gamecube where fewer of the fanbase would have played it, it couldn’t be canon. This is hilarious because a) canonicity shouldn’t have anything to do with the console on which it appears, b) the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 are canon, by his logic, the NES version of Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge should be canon because that is where the fan base was..

On a final note, I personally wish that Twin Snakes had gotten a re-release the way the other games in the series had with Integral, Substance, and Subsistance. While I loved Twin Snakes, there are definitely opportunities to improve upon it in a re-release. They could add bonuses for collecting dog tags, for defeating the bosses with tranquilizer weapons, add VR Missions, a scene select for the demo-theatre, and all sorts of kooky things the way they did with Snake Tales, or Snake vs Monkey.

Anyways, I’ve probably made this whole thing a lot less interesting than it should be so let’s move on to something else. Something like:

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence Limited Edition

Inside the box we have:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3:Subsistance
  • Limited Edition Theatre Disc – Disc 3: Existence
  • Soundtrack

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance: The standard version of the re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater which includes a second disc with bonus videos, Snake vs Monkey, Metal Gear Online, and ports of the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

Disc 3: Existence: This disc contains a movie version of Metal Gear Solid 3. Basically the storyline edited down into a three-hour movie. Oh, and the first Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer is included as well.

When it was first released, this package was priced at $40, the then standard $10 over the original version. Although the bonus disc is interesting, if it was meant to introduce people who haven’t or are unwilling to play through the game, I think it should have been included as a standard DVD video as opposed to a PS2 disc, especially considering that disc 1 of the set includes the demo theatre which lets you watch any cutscene in the game as opposed to the chapter method used on disc 3. Also, I believe the disc uses pre-rendered video, basically a recording of the cutscenes, which, maybe because I am watching it on the PS3, looks absolutely terrible. The motorcycle chase at the end looks only slightly better than a spray of green pixels across your screen. The movies have much greater clarity when viewed on disc 1’s demo theatre.

As for the disc itself, it is an interesting beast. Instead of just playing back each cutscene, they’ve taken the time to edit it into a more movie-like experience. A lot of radio messages are now played as narration as they show gameplay of Snake progressing through the area. The gameplay sequences are also given a more cinematic flair with different camera angles not normally possible in-game. Even the cutscenes from the game are given a touch of spice here and there with split-screen scenes showing two things happening in different locations or one event from different angles. Interesting, but not necessarily worth drooling over.

Which brings me back to pricing. For $40, even if the bonus disc is only so-so, you get enough content from Subsistance to make it feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Is it worth scouring for if you don’t already have it? Unless you’re a rabbid Metal Gear fan, I’d say no. The game commands a rediculous price on eBay. I’m looking at three auctions as I type. One auction, ending in just under two hours from now is currently at $127.50 after 19 bids, but that includes the Limited Edition Guide and the Saga vol 1 disc. Another auction just for the Limited Edition with three and a half hours to go is at $137.50 after 11 bids. And finally, one auction for a factory-sealed copy of the Limited Edition and the Saga vol 1 is currently at $200 after 10 bids with nearly two days to go, so its sure to go higher.

I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to hunt this one down unless you absolutely cannot live without it. You’re not getting all that much extra and for $100 you can probably buy a more worthy Limited Edition, or just a few extra games.

And that does it for today. I think I’ll take a break from Metal Gear related reviews for a while. As usual, suggestions are welcome in the comments.

PS. I just saw two copies of the Limited Edition guide currently at $90 on eBay. Metal Gear Fever is crazy!