Monday, 3 September 2012

Metal Gear (NES)

Because YOU demanded it (and I was probably going to get around to it at some point anyway), today I'm taking a look at the very first Metal Gear.

The game originally came out for the MSX2 computer, and I was surprised to find out that it actually did get an English language release in Europe, though apparently it doesn't have a great translation. A few years later the C64, PC and NES got their own ports of the game, and I've heard that they weren't translated from the MSX particularly well either. I'll be playing the Nintendo version so I suppose I'll find out.

It starts with a short cutscene showing several soldiers in blue parachuting into a jungle.

But then when the game starts, Solid Snake's alone and wearing green! Isn't it really weird how the guy's name sounds perfectly normal now? 'Metal Gear Solid', 'Big Boss', 'Revolver Ocelot'... Hideo Kojima has a talent for making up the daftest sounding names and then somehow making them work. Maybe 25 years from now even 'Revengeance' won't sound entirely retarded.

Oh hang on someone's trying to call me.

You are to infiltrate the enemy fortress "Outer Heaven" then destroy their final weapon Metal Gear
It was Big Boss (my boss) on the radio, giving me a last minute mission briefing for Operation Intrude N313. I've been ordered to break into "Outer Heaven", make contact with a missing agent called "Grey Fox", then find and destroy their final weapon "Metal Gear" Metal Gear.

Seems a bit weird going after the last weapon first, but it sounds simple enough. Would have been nice if they'd given me a gun though, or a knife, or anything. All Snake has on him right now is a pack of cigarettes, because not even Nintendo could separate Solid Snake from his smokes.

I feel asleep!!
Hey it's the 'I feel asleep!!' guy, star of a thousand screenshots. I guess I'm supposed to wait until he dozes off on his feet, then just walk right past him. I tried sneaking behind the car to knock him out instead, but despite how it looks there isn't actually a gap there.

By the way the music for this bit is great. Here, listen to it on youtube while you read:

The next screen down has two exits, and a lot of dogs. I don't see any 'zzz' above their heads, but I'll hope for the best and try creeping past anyway.

Nope, can't sneak past the dogs, RUN SNAKE RUN!

Damn, I'm glad I took the right hand path, as the other one leads straight into a dead end. The dogs weren't actually any trouble at all by the way, I was able to escape onto the next screen before they caught up, and they didn't bother following me over.

Unlike sleepy jeep guy at the start, this enemy looks well armed and wide awake. I'm either going to have to wait until he's looking the other way, or I'm going to have to take him out with some special forces CQC moves.

I decided to walk up and punch him while his back was turned, and he kicked my ass in seconds. I guess I must have been standing too close for my attack to connect or something.

Choosing continue put me right back at the start of the jungle, so now I've got to get past the dogs again. Still it does have infinite continues, so it could be worse.


Fuck, it's a dead end!

Wait, I have an idea. Maybe there's something I can use inside one of these trucks. I couldn't get into the one on the earlier screen, but it's possible I just wasn't lined up with the thing right.

Uh - oh! The truck have started to move!
Wow, this truck did not seem so big on the outside.

There wasn't anything inside I could take, but it have started to move the second I climbed inside. So with any luck it'll take me through the gate and not just dump me out in the jungle somewhere.

Awesome, now I'm making progress.

I tried checking the other truck on the left and found some rations inside, which restore health. Then when I climbed back out I was immediately spotted by the guard! The guy's position is reset to face the back of the truck whenever I enter this screen, so it's impossible to sneak back out.

I ducked back inside the truck to avoid being shot, and found another tin of rations sitting there. It seems that this is where they keep their infinite supplies, as they keep respawning every time I enter the screen. I decided to eat one to refill my life bar then grab every tin I could carry. Which turned out to be three.

And then I tried the other truck...

Uh-oh. Now where the fuck am I?

Actually getting stranded in the middle on nowhere turned out to be another stroke of good luck, as on the way back I stumbled across the key I needed to actually get into the building.


Awesome, I'm finally infiltrating something! It seems that the stealth in this is pretty much based around observing the enemy's patrol route, then making sure that I don't walk directly in front of where they're about to be facing. Other than that I can get away with running around as much as I like.

Right, let's see what else Card1 can open up for me.

Metal Gear (MSX2)
The original MSX version of the game actually starts around this point, with Snake swimming into the base. All that crap in the jungle was apparently added for the NES port just for the sake of making the versions different, and to be honest I think the game's better without it.

Metal Gear (Commodore 64)
Oh, and that's what the C64 version looks like if you were curious. It's a straight port of the NES game, jungle and all. Except with worse music, disk swapping, and loading times between areas.

Okay, what the FUCK? The ground suddenly opened up on me and Snake instantly died, game over! There wasn't anything to give it away, no clues, no warning signs, no marks on the floor tiles. I just chose the wrong corridor and therefore I lose.

This level of the building has a differently layout in the original MSX game by the way, and this pit was a special bonus added exclusively for people playing the ports to enjoy. Though I get the feeling that this is just a preview of the kind of shit all the versions are going to have on the next level.

I suppose I'll have to choose 'continue' and go find out.

Oh you have got to be shitting me. I am so tempted to just turn this off right now, but I'm not quitting until I reach the first boss.

At least I got to keep the Card1 and my stack of rations.


If you stand around on this screen long enough the solider guarding the door says 'Ok, your turn!!' and just walks off. I don't think he really has a proper grasp on the fundamentals of sentry duty.

Actually he's apparently supposed to be saying 'Shift change!!' He just couldn't be bothered to wait for the next shift to arrive before wandering away.

Whoa, it's gone side view for a second as I ride the lift up to the next floor.

Metal Gear (DOS)
The DOS version of the game has a little cutscene of Snake walking out of the elevator wearing a beret, but otherwise it looks like it's trying to be a port of the NES game. There's nothing like this in the original game.

A surveillance camera?! Well being caught on camera has stirred up the hornet's nest, and now guards have started pouring in from off screen to kick my ass.

Fortunately the enemies have the memory of a goldfish, and just walking off screen for a second is enough to make them forget they were chasing me. Which is good, because the way the rooms are set up means sometimes I get spotted the second I walk in, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Metal Gear (MSX2)
It doesn't quite seem to work the same on the MSX version though. Once the base is alerted, I can't get rid of these bastards no matter where I go. I have to kill all of them before they'll quit hounding me. On the other hand in this version I haven't once found a room it wasn't possible to sneak through.

The NES and MSX games are starting to get a lot more similar though by this point, with a lot of the rooms sharing an identical layout. Though I think it's fair to say that the MSX game has the better graphics. It's mostly just a different palette, but it makes a big difference.

Metal Gear (DOS)
And then there's the DOS version. I would say it seems like it was made by some poor guy in week based on a VHS tape of someone playing the C64 game, but that'd be mean. Instead I'll just point out that Outer Heaven seems to have been decorated with sheet music.

Oh shit, Snake's turned purple and the life bar's draining down. That can't be good.

Oops, Big Boss forgot to tell me about the room filled with poisonous gas.

He tells me that Schneider knows the location of the gas mask... but forgets to tell me who that is or the radio frequency to contact them. I dunno, maybe it's in the manual. Fortunately I already found the gas mask along the way, so I don't require their help just yet.

And then when I reach the other side of the room, the game makes me take my gas mask off for a second to get my Card1 out to unlock the door. Just in case Snake hadn't breathed in enough poison already.


The corridors beyond the gas room lead to a Card2 and this electrified floor. Big Boss phones up to say he forgot to tell me that I need to destroy the electric control panel on the other side of the room to avoid being electrocuted, and that Schneider knows where I can find a remote control missile.

So now I've got to go backtracking through the base, looking for a door I couldn't open with my Card1 first time around.


Well I found the remote control missile, but I kept checking rooms and also found a silencer, a grenade launcher... and a portable cardboard box to hide in. It's genius really, as a crate is the best camouflage you could possibly have in a video game.

I still haven't found a pistol yet though, annoyingly. Lots of pistol ammo, but no gun. I'm starting to worry I must have walked past it at some point, still hidden in one those trucks or behind a door I forgot to unlock.

Hey, it's the other side of the electric floor. Turns out I didn't need to blow up the control panel after all, and I can hang on to my rc missile.

Awesome, now I've got someone new to call on the radio... oh shit, I just skipped past the part where he tells me her frequency and there doesn't seem to be any way to get him to repeat the number!

I had to look the frequency up in the end, because I couldn't be bothered replaying the game again from the start. Not that it was much help to me as resistance fighter Diane is out shopping.


Rescuing enough of hostages earned me a higher rank, so I can carry more rations and more ammo for the pistol I still don't have.

Come on, one of these keys must open this door. I'm going into the inventory and trying each one in turn, but it's not happening. This would have been so much better if the keys worked automatically from my pocket without having to be selected. I'm sick of having to switch from Card2 every time I find a (potentially) Card1 door. Also would it have killed them to write the access level on the door?


Well the bad news is they caught Snake and beat him to death. But the good news is that I restarted at the entrance of the building this time, and found the pistol along the way!

They've given him a new animation for when he's holding a gun, and they even went to the effort of drawing new frames for when he's facing the other way, instead of just mirroring them. Okay true he's carrying an assault rifle when he should be holding a pistol, but give them a break it's just a NES game. The poor developers didn't have much memory to work with.


And then I got captured, stripped of all my equipment, and locked in a cell. A cell without ANY doors. They even took my bloody pistol away. You know, this might actually be the first time that the 'no-gear level' trope has appeared in a video game.

Oh and now Big Boss is calling again. Probably to tell me he forgot some essential advice about not getting thrown in prison cells.

No, 'infiltration accomplished' was when I successful strolled in through the front door. This is 'infiltration all fucked up'. And he didn't even have an escape plan for me! Man, he's a terrible commander.

I did eventually find a way out of the room on my own though by systematically punching everything in it until something opened.

Hey, I've found agent "Grey Fox!" The poor guy must be kicking himself that he never thought to try punching walls. Well that's part one of my mission complete, now all I have to do is destroy Metal Gear and I'm done here.


Oh shit, it's the Shotgunner! Well this fight's going to be a little one sided seeing as I didn't even bring a knife to this shotgunfight, as those bastards took all my guns. Though I do see two doors on the bottom of the screen.

Hell yeah, all my equipment's back! And they even threw in a transmitter as a bonus. I think I'll let them have it back though. I've already got a radio, and mine doesn't broadcast my location to the enemy. OR DOES IT?

The Shotgunner fight was so anti-climactic that it's not even worth showing. I pointed my gun at him and filled him with bullets until I won. After the fight I grabbed some gear in the next room and decided to quit by walking into an enemy. Choosing END instead of CONTINUE got me a password though, so even though my actual progress through the base is lost, my story progress and gear have been saved.

I want to like NES Metal Gear, but I get the feeling it doesn't like me much. Falling down invisible instant death pits, swapping through key cards at every other locked door, and replaying chunks of the game after every major screw up just isn't much fun. Plus you've got to backtrack through the base to open up areas with your new gear like in a Metroidvania game, except in this backtracking means sneaking through the same groups of soldiers you've already gotten past, and I've already solved those stealth mazes. Plus it doesn't have the same appeal somehow as blasting through a group of old enemies with a new toy you've just earned. I mean sure you could go on a killing spree in this, but that's not really in the spirit of Metal Gear.

But if I was forced to keep playing one version of the game, I'd choose the MSX one. Preferably the re-translated version included with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. It looks the best, arguably sounds the best, and seems to have the lowest amount of bullshit. Though on the other hand, no Jungle Theme...

That's what I think anyway. If you want to share what you think, there's a handy comments box underneath. Opinions, criticism, suggestions, requests etc. are welcome.


  1. I could never get far in MG

  2. This game was almost impossible to play, too many "reset" between one screen and the other, it was impossible to make meaningful progress ._.

  3. If you just kept a bit longer, you probably would get stucked at the bridge screen, where sometimes you can fall down or not, and if you do you will die.

  4. I finished this game years ago it was a real pain..

  5. I really, REALLY think you should play the DOS and C64 versions of Metal Gear. They're guaranteed to have you badly want to write up an article on them due to their quirks, obscurity and the absolute absurdity that awaits.


Semi-Random Game Box