Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake review

alex9234’s Sunday Review

Welcome to another episode of Sunday Review, and today we’re going to look at another one of Konami’s almost forgotten gems from back in the day. Hideo Kojima was in his prime in the 1990s, putting out hit after hit for Konami, and games like this showed that Kojima was a force to be reckoned with. Today, we’re reviewing Kojima’s 3rd game, the game that set the standard for future Metal Gear titles, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which came out on the MSX2 computer in Japan in 1990, which makes this the oldest game I’ve reviewed as of now.

The Plot

The year is 1999. It seemed that the threat of nuclear war would be a thing of the past. However, the world’s oil supply had gotten drastically smaller, and just when the world was going to take drastic measures, at the World Energy Conference in Prague, Czech scientist Kio Marv revealed that he had successfully bio-engineered a new species of algae called OILIX, that could produce petroleum-grade substances without the need for drilling. When Marv was on his way to a demonstration in the U.S., he was kidnapped by agents of a new nation that recently became a threat to the free world, Zanzibar Land. Located between Tajikistan, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zanzibar Land becomes the world’s only nuclear superpower, and is planning to hold the world hostage by controlling the supply of oil.

On Christmas Eve, FOXHOUND’s new commander, Roy Campbell, brings the legendary Solid Snake out of retirement and has him sent to Zanzibar Land to rescue Dr. Marv as well as the world’s oil supply. During Snake’s mission, he teams up with Holly White, a CIA agent posing as a journalist, as well as Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar, the creator of Metal Gear from Outer Heaven, who tells Snake that he had been kidnapped and forced to work on the new Metal Gear unit, Metal Gear D for Zanzibar Land. Madnar also tells Snake that Big Boss survived the events at Outer Heaven and is now the leader of Zanzibar Land. Later on, Snake teams up with Czech STB agent Gustava Heffner, who had also been sent to rescue Dr. Marv, and she helps pinpoint Marv’s location for Snake. Snake learns from Heffner that Marv is being held in Zanzibar Land’s prison facility. Can Snake and his group of allies rescue Dr. Marv and save the world’s oil supply?

The Gameplay

Remember when I said that this game set the standard for future Metal Gear games? Well, this has a lot of similarities with Metal Gear Solid. You have to infiltrate the enemy stronghold, while avoiding security cameras, infrared sensors, guards, etc. Instead of just being in one screen in the previous game, guards can now patrol different screens across a single map. Guards and cameras have a 45 degree cone of vision, and guards have the ability to turn their heads left or right to see diagonally. Guards can now hear noises made by Snake, such as gunshots without a silencer, punching a wall, etc., and guards will investigate if they hear anything suspicious. Snake can now kneel and crawl, which allows Snake to avoid making noise over certain terrains.

The Soliton radar system makes it’s first appearance, as it appears in the upper right portion of the screen as a 3×3 grid, which shows the player as a red dot and enemies as white dots, allowing you to see what’s ahead and plan out your next move. You can also use the Soliton radar to determine the location of enemy mines or launch stinger missiles at a target in the air, like a plane or a helicopter. However, your radar gets disabled when enemies spot you, and a counter will be displayed showing Snake’s health and an alert level. After a short period, if you’ve managed to hide from enemies, the radar will enter cooldown mode for 15(?) seconds, and once those 15 seconds are up, the radar comes back up. Most of the weapons and equipment from the first game are brought back for the second game, and new items have been added in like the robotic mice, which is used to distract enemies, the cardboard box, a camouflage mat, as well as 3 different kinds of rations that are used to restore health and can be used for other purposes.

In order to save your current progress, you have to leave certain areas on the map, which will give you this screen pictured above. When you see that screen, you can save shortly after. That screen will also indicate when you’ve reached a checkpoint, and if you die, you’ll be spawned at the last checkpoint you reached, so don’t worry about saving too often. Or hell, if you plan on beating the game in a single day, you probably won’t have to save at all!

The codex has also been improved upon as well, as conversations are now context-sensitive instead of being area-oriented. The codex screen now shows the faces of Snake and the person he is communicating with, as well as the codex frequency in the middle of the screen. Keep in mind that certain characters, notably Holly and Col. Campbell, will change their frequencies throughout the course of the game, but they will give off hints as to what their new frequency will be. Or, if you’re lazy like I am, just use a guide.

The Characters

Solid Snake – Age: 27 – Snake returns as the main character for Metal Gear 2. 4 years after the events at Outer Heaven, Snake is brought out of retirement by FOXHOUND Col. Campbell and is sent to infiltrate Zanzibar Land, rescue Dr. Kio Marv and the OILIX microbe, as well as destroy Metal Gear D, as part of Operation Intrude F014.

Roy Campbell – Age: 54 – Col. Campbell is the new commander of FOXHOUND. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps under the 5th Marine Regiment, and shortly after, he joined the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. When he became the head of FOXHOUND, he modernized the unit, as he discarded the codename system and adpoted the use of the newest high-tech equipment such as radars and spy satellites. During the Zanzibar Land mission, he is Snake’s CO, and gives Snake helpful information throughout the mission.

Holly White – Age: early 30s – Holly is an undercover CIA agent. Before the Zanzibar Land incident, she was a news reporter who reported information on the Soviet War in Afghanistan and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her efforts. Holly then worked as a fashion model for the magazine <em>Depeche Vogue</em>. Behind all this, she worked as an undercover CIA agent, and the CIA made use of her status and fame to further it’s operations. During the Zanzibar Land mission, she entered the country posing as a journalist and she works with Snake by providing him with support and other important information. I wonder why Kojima never brought Holly back for any future Metal Gear games? I smell a missed opportunity…

Gustava Heffner – Age: late 20s – Gustava is a Czech STB agent who was sent to rescue Dr. Marv from Zanzibar Land. Before the events of the game, she was an Olympic figure skater known as the “Ice Princess” in both professional ice skating and the Olympics, and in 1988, she took home the gold metal at the Calgary Olympics. She fell in love with an American known as Frank Jaeger (aka Grey Fox!). She tried to escape to America with him, but she was denied U.S. citizenship and could not leave then-Communist Czechoslovakia. With nowhere else to turn, she joined the STB, and during the Zanzibar Land mission, she is sent in to rescue Dr. Marv and the OILIX microbe.

Drago Pettrovich Madnar – Age: around 70 – Dr. Madnar is a Russian robotics engineer who was responsible for creating the Metal Gear prototype in Outer Heaven during the events of the first game. He became a famous scientist in the Soviet bloc countries for combining the principles of Physiology, Mechanical Engineering, and Systems Engineering into one. During the Outer Heaven incident, he and his daughter Ellen tried to seek asylum in the U.S., but both of them were captured by Outer Heaven forces and Madnar was forced to work on war machines and reform the OH fortress with new technology while his daughter was held hostage. During the events of this game, he and Dr. Marv were taken prisoner by Zanzibar Land agents while staying in America, and Madnar was forced to build Metal Gear D.

My Thoughts

Though this game is now almost 30 years old, Metal Gear 2 has managed to withstand the test of time reasonably well. The overall gameplay is still very good – the controls are well done, the addition of the Soliton radar makes it easy to plan ahead, and the new elements and challenges added make for a satisfying gameplay experience. The graphics are also impressive, as the visuals are on par with a lot of games from the 16-bit era. The cast of characters are also impressive as well, especially Gustava and Grey Fox (yes Grey Fox is in this game). The story is also a fun one too, with a few of those mind-blowing plot twists that Kojima is known for. The soundtrack, however, is, well, odd. Though some tracks are fine, some of the other tracks, like the tracks heard when you’re about to begin a boss fight, are actually quite eerie and frightening, like something you’d hear in a horror game.

The first and fifth tracks absolutely scared the shit out of me when I first heard them.

Though this game has aged well, there are some issues. It’s very difficult to dodge the security cameras, as you aren’t able to tell on what part of the camera where you’ll be seen, you’ll have to use a guide for this, as it’s really easy to get lost and not know what to do next, and you’ll have to do a TON of backtracking. Literally. Not even a Metroid game has this much backtracking. But overall, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake remains one of Kojima’s finest creations. You can play the fan translation of the original MSX2 version, it’s included in the Subsistence edition of Metal Gear Solid 3, and I believe it’s on the Wii and Wii U virtual consoles. Anyway, play this whenever you can. It’s worth it.

My score: 8.75/10


Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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