Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (PS2)

Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake Playstation 2 title screen
Today I'm having a look at Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the second attempt at making a sequel to Metal Gear, this time by the original creator Hideo Kojima. This one is considered to be the true follow up though, kicking poor Snake's Revenge out of the franchise.

Metal Gear D art from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Damn, that's way better than Snake's Revenge's take on Metal Gear. For one thing it doesn't have tiny little legs.

The intro features Snatcher style animated computer screens showing off Metal Gear schematics, but sadly they don't come close in quality.

Metal Gear 2 beretta pistol
In game there's a lot of text scrolling up over this background setting up the plot, but this pixel art is way too nice to be obscured.

It is the late 1990s... The world is embarking on an age of peace and stability. The Cold War is over, regional conflicts are being resolved, and the threat of nuclear war is now a thing of the past. Hey, things are starting to look up!

Solid Snake smokes Gator cigarettes
But of course this is the Metal Gear universe, so things soon go to shit. A military junta seizes power in the nation of Zanzibar Land (not to be confused with Zanzibar which is a: someplace entirely different, and b: not fictional), and then goes and steals a bunch of nukes to set itself up as the world's only nuclear power. Oh also they've kidnapped the only person who can solve the world's energy crisis.

I gotta say, as set up narration goes, this beats the shit out of; "The enemy base has a weapon. Is it Metal Gear?" from Snake's Revenge.

The game was originally released only in Japan (while Snake's Revenge was only released everywhere else) and we had to wait until Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence included the game as bonus content before we got an official English translation.

Though it wasn't a completely straight port, as they decided to make a couple of changes to bring it closer in line with Metal Gear Solid. For one thing they scrapped all the old portraits and replaced them with MGS style artwork, so Snake actually looks like Snake now. To be honest I think in this case I think I prefer the original art. Maybe because his original face reminds me of Zaeed from the Mass Effect games.

Metal Gear (MSX)
The MSX version of Metal Gear 1 starts with Snake emerging from underwater then climbing over a fence into a beautifully pixelled garage full of tanks.

Metal Gear 2 on the other hand starts with Snake climbing up out of the darkness onto some black miserable featureless rock. Not really the cool looking dramatic introduction I was expecting. Plus the playfield is considerably smaller with that HUD taking up a quarter of the screen space.

I'm instantly dragged into a radio conversation with Colonel Campbell, who somehow has a flickery video image despite the radio clearly not showing a video screen. He goes over my mission briefing again just to remind me (which puts him ahead of Big Boss in Metal Gear 1, who forgot to tell me what I was doing until I was halfway inside the base), and shows off my cool new radar system.

I'm here to rescue a scientist called Dr. Kio Marv, who will show up as a red dot on the radar. And... that's it. I was waiting for him to finish off his briefing with "And as always, DESTROY METAL GEAR." But nope.

In case you were curious, I put the different Snakes together to compare.

In the original Metal Gear Snake is an eager rookie, ready to explode into action. Apparently hanging around walking nuclear tanks too long has turned Lt. Snake from Snake's Revenge into the Yellow Hulk. But by Metal Gear 2 Snake is a jaded veteran who just doesn't look that bothered about anything anymore.

Snake's obviously been training hard between games, because he's mastered the new ability of crawling. Unfortunately the enemies have also got a few new tricks, like being able to patrol across multiple screens. Instead of just having the one screen of enemies to be aware of, now I have to keep track of what they doing off screen as well.

Also they tend to hang around in one place this time. So instead of just hanging back and studying the enemy patrol routes before I make my move, now I'm stuck waiting to see what they'll do next.

I found a single tin of rations in a truck! Again! Unfortunately this time it really is a single tin. Unlike in Metal Gear, this time re-entering a room doesn't make the item reappear.

Well I found my way through the fence maze to the entrance, but it seems they were smart enough to put guards in front of it. The Colonel tells me that there should be vents nearby, so I'll go off and look for them.

Oh fuck, he's seen me. And I don't think this is even a vent. Uh... RUN!

Oh right, that's obviously the vent. I just hope my life bar lasts long enough to reach it. Snake's supposed to be an elite special forces operative, but the guy can't even brush against an enemy without losing health.

Well I've got next to no life left, but at least I was able to escape from the main yard into the ventilation system. You know, this is starting to remind me of Metal Gear Solid for some reason...

Original Metal Gear FOXHOUND logo screenshot
If I didn't already know this is the FOXHOUND logo (the black ops unit Snake belongs to), this would seem like a really strange loading screen.

And then the second I get out of the vents I get another call on the radio.

Meryl?! Oh wait, this is Holly White, an agent who infiltrated Zanzibar Land a month ago disguised as a journalist. She explains that if I call her on the radio as I'm walking around, she'll give me information about the facility.

Now I'm curious what she looked like in the original MSX artwork.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2)
Hey, Holly's turned into Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. Oh wow, now Snake looks like a miserable chain-smoking Rambo. Oh I see, it's because I had the cigarettes equipped. This works in both versions by the way.

Well I've tried all the doors up here, but they're all locked. Oh shit, someone's seen me again.

I had to crawl slowly to avoid making a noise on the grating, but that meant I couldn't outrun the other guy wandering on screen from the right. They're not giving me much room to be stealthy here.


Oh will you guys fuck off already, I'm not hiding under the tank. No one is hiding under this tank!

I think they know I'm hiding under the tank. Trying to escape the enemies once the alarm has gone off is a pain in the ass, because they follow me onto every screen I run to, and I only barely have enough of a head start to crouch down and crawl under something before they get there. And so I get spotted just before I make it into my hiding place, and this happens.


I had to make a run for it in the end. Once those enemies are on you, they're damn hard to lose.

Okay so where am I? A pointless dead end. Fantastic. There has to be one door out there I haven't tried yet.

YES, this must be the way out. I kind of got frustrated and stopped sneaking, so I've dragged a few soldiers along behind me, but that doesn't matter now because I'm out of here!

What the fuck? The lift door isn't working! Oh shit, I must need a card key.

Metal Gear 2 playstation 2 game over screen
Well that was inevitable.

At least I restarted back in the tank hangar, so I don't have to sneak through the fences again. I think the checkpoints must be at the start of a new area, so when I see the FOXHOUND loading screen come up I know I'm safe.

Okay, new plan. Instead of wandering around blind I'm going to ask the experts for advice.

Thanks Colonel, but that doesn't really help me out.

See ya! Well now I know the wonders that await me beyond the lift door. But first I need to get past the fucking thing!


Uh, it turns out that you just punch the button, and that calls the lift. No card required.

So that's one mystery solved. 30 minutes I was stuck wandering around that bloody tank hangar and all I had to do was punch a button. But now where should I go? Well I remember Holly mentioning an armory on B1, and a drainage ditch on B2, and... oh fuck it I'll just go up a floor.

I was trying to be clever here and wait for my the right moment to move to the next screen, but then they wandered in from three directions and blocked off my exits! That's the trouble with this radar, I can't tell which way the enemy is facing, so half the time I can't be sure if it's safe to walk to a screen with dots on.

Oh, also the dots flash, that's why the map looks blank right now. I caught them on an 'off' moment'.

Well now I'm stuck with only half an 'L' of life left, so I need to be more cautious than ever. But fuck that, I'm just going to make a run for it and hope I can get back to the lift before they get me.

Card #1! At last we meet again. Good job I came to this floor, because I'm going to need this. Right, back to the lift.

Oh shit, no! My plan was working perfectly except for one minor flaw. I forgot that the lift takes time to arrive when I press the button. GAME OVER.

Okay, I've revised my plan. Next time I make a run for the keycard,  I'll press the lift button as I'm leaving, and then try to get back before the doors close. Then when I'm back in the lift I can travel to a new floor, save my progress, and the card will be forever mine.

Weirdly, in the original MSX version it seems that if you get Snake killed after picking something up, it'll still be in your inventory when you continue, plus you get your health refilled. But in the new version you're put back in the state you were in when you reached the save point.


Dammit, I wasn't even seen that time. I managed to avoid the surveillance camera too, but the alert went off anyway! Plus on top of that... this is the wrong card for this door.


Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2)
Well it turns out that I was supposed to use the cigarettes to see the invisible laser beams. That I didn't know were there. Because they're invisible.

Hey, I see a red dot on my radar. That surely means I've finally located Dr. Marv!

I've finally located Dr. Marv!

Metal Gear 2 Black Ninja NASA extraterrestrial special forces
Or maybe not.

Wait, so this guy is a special forces ninja, trained to fight in space... for NASA. Fight who?

Damn, Black Ninja is a bastard. In addition to the power of disguising himself as an old scientist, he can also teleport and throw shurikens. He won't let me stand still long enough to get a clear shot at him, and I dunno what's going to run out first, my ammo or my health bar.

Oh, it was the health bar.


Schneider... oh, you were the guy from Metal Gear 1! Nope sorry mate, I don't remember meeting you. In fact I never even got your codec number. Hang on, does that mean you were lying about being a space ninja?

The guy tells me how to find the real Dr. Marv, then explodes, leaving only the second keycard and a weird smell.

And then I went to try another floor and fell down a pit when the floor opened up without warning. The end. I think I've seen enough of this anyway.

I'm not sure I liked this game much, though I did want to. The new radar expands the stealth puzzle gameplay beyond a single screen, but for me that mostly meant a lot of waiting around staring at tiny flickering dots. And often all it took was a couple of those dots to turn around and start walking my way to leave me trapped in a narrow corridor with no cover or way out. Oh, and the game still made me go into my inventory to switch through keycards at every bloody door and take off my gas mask to open locked doors. Apparently that was a feature they were happy with and saw no reason to change.

Anything you want to say about Metal Gear 2? Feel free to leave a comment.


  1. I'm buyed the MGS3 only for play the MSX games version in PS2. For me, it's complicated play in a MSX emulator, I prefer a physical format.

    You wrote a great review, very complete and explicative. Nice Work!

  2. Thank you very much for this article. It is very complete and I have always been a big fan of MGS !

  3. This game rocks. You're just bad at it and a terrible reviewer.

    1. It's not really a review though is it? It's me just screwing around for an hour or two and losing all the time because it was my first go of a game I knew nothing about. In retrospect I might have done a terrible job communicating that.

    2. Your comment sucks, you're bad and you should feel bad.

  4. Honestly, you need to give this game a better chance. Much of your commentary seems to overlook the limitations and restrictions around the development of this game, the system it was designed for and the era of release.

    Sure, the radar doesn't indicate what direction the enemies face, but it's a huge step-up from the previous games. On top of that, combining the ability to tell which direction enemies walk and memorizing patrol routes (the latter of which is widespread in Metal Gear) should have negated that issue. Without patience, there's too much of the game you're missing out on that you'd really appreciate.

    This game had been considered for the longest time to be the best in the series, despite the release of the MGS titles. For good reason, too. Not laden with cut-scenes and dialog, yet enough to provide a good story. Gameplay is top-notch and the music by and large among the best in the series. The game attributed to have really kicked off the stealth genre of gaming, Metal Gear Solid, is almost entirely a 3D remake of this. All of its gameplay, story, and other features are either taken from or are derivatives of features of this game.

    By the way, collectible items do reappear, but between sections rather than screens (the loading screen transitions). And as far as losing guards go, the brief moment before guards appear on the next screen (after an alert) should have been the hint: don't keep running away; instead, find the nearest obstacle and hide behind/under it.

  5. Japanese Solid Snake kinda looks like a "Lethal Weapon" era Mel Gibson with a bandana...

    1. Yeah, it wouldn't surprise me. Kojima didn't exactly hide his influences back in the day.


Semi-Random Game Box