Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Metal Gear Solid (GBC)

Metal Gear Solid Ghost Babel Game Boy Color title screen
I really hate it when developers reuse game titles. Konami were doing great when they gave their PlayStation game the name Metal Gear Solid, as no one else on Earth would have ever dreamed of putting those three words together in quite that way. It was unique, but then they had to go and ruin it by sticking the same name on something else. They could have at least given this a subtitle, maybe something clever using the initials GBC.

Fortunately the Japanese version was given the name Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, so I'm just going to call it that instead from now on.

Ghost Babel starts with cyborg alcoholic Colonel Campbell bursting into his old buddy Snake's house to raid his drinks cabinet, only to find that the former FOXHOUND agent huddled up in a blanket crawling with red ants.

Actually Campbell's there to bore Snake with the news of the latest nuclear disaster about to threaten mankind and the laser sights are there to encourage the poor guy to sit and listen attentively. Snake's really not interested in being part of another sneaking mission, especially when it'll inevitably involve another bloody Metal Gear, but the Colonel manages to change his mind by pointing out this particular terrorist army is chilling out in the complex formally known as OUTER HEAVEN (the place you visit in Metal Gear 1).

It seems that this game is actually a direct (non-canon) sequel to Metal Gear 1, taking place in a world where MG2 and MGS didn't happen. Which makes this the third Metal Gear 2 in the series so far, after Snake's Revenge and MG2: Solid Snake.

Snake has orders to use stealth to slip by enemies and avoid getting into combat if possible. So I ran up and punched out the first guy I saw for the hell of it. Sadly the guy just picked himself up a few seconds later, so it's very temporary way of taking out enemies.

Holy shit, look how tiny he is! He's like half the height he was in the original MSX game. I honestly didn't realise while I was playing it.

I gotta mention that they've done an awesome job on Snake's control and animations. It doesn't come across that well in a still screenshot, but in motion he looks like he's straight out of the PlayStation game. The guy's just so... fluid. He's even got proper diagonal movement for once, which makes a lot of difference to the feel of the game compared to the other 2D Metal Gears.

Metal Gear forest maze
ALERT? Oh right, apparently the enemies can see me through those leaves covering the path. Well now I know that. Fortunately it was pretty easy to just run away from them and hide out in the hedge maze until the alarm timer ran out and they resumed their patrols.

Unlike the other 2D Metal Gears, which had a fixed camera flick-screen style, this time the screen scrolls around to follow Snake as he walks, which means the game avoids a lot of the problems Metal Gear 2 has with enemies spawning out of nowhere in alert mode. Plus it makes it way easier to see what they're up to and more importantly, what direction they're facing.

Wow, I can just crawl right past these suckers without them even noticing me in this mud. What a pair of suckers. Oh hang on, just noticed I have an oxygen bar and I should probably come up for air at some point. Soon.

Damn, turns out that popping up for air in their line of sight wasn't actually a smart plan. He just knocked me right back in the mud.

Okay, plan B then: I'm just going to run for it.

Rank: Poor? I don't know where the game gets the nerve to say that, considering that a Delta Force team was sent in before me and were slaughtered. I think the fact I'm still breathing should at least earn me an 'okay' rating.

Wait, Stage 01 Cleared? In the good old days they'd let me wander all over the enemy complex as one big interconnected map, but this seems to have separate sneaking levels instead. It might actually be an improvement though, as the other games liked to use the freedom as an excuse to give me a new key, then send me off backtracking through all the places I'd already been to find the (unmarked) door it unlocks.

Hey, it's the classic 'Hero stares at Dracula's Castle' shot from half the Castlevania games, only this time Konami forgot to put in the castle. Unless that vague blue column is supposed to be it.

I'll try radioing my support team and see how they think I should proceed.

Metal Gear Solid Ghost Babel codec McBride
Thanks McBride you've been... a big help. I'll be sure call you up next time I need someone to recite wikipedia pages to me eight words at a time.

The codec contacts like to talk just as much as anyone from Metal Gear Solid, (holy fuck do they like to talk...) but without any voices the conversations just aren't as interesting, to me anyway.

Well I found the front door, but I think they're on to me. It's my own damn fault for crouching next to an enemy and hoping he wouldn't turn right. Still, at least now I don't have to bother sneaking past all the surveillance cameras.

I've finally made it back inside the fortress formerly known as Outer Heaven. Well, I'm in the outer yard anyway. I'm past the big gate is what I'm saying.

The radar screen seems a bit smaller in this than the one in Metal Gear 2, but it's fine. I'm actually doing better at keeping track of the enemies, because I can drag the screen over by leaning against a wall. I just wish the 'lean camera' button wasn't the same as the 'shoot weapon' button, I keep firing off a shot by accident whenever try to spy on someone. I'm lucky I grabbed that silencer really.

Oh hang on, I'm getting another call.

Metal Gear Solid Ghost Babel Chris Jenner Delta Force codec call
It seems that a single survivor from the Delta Force team sent in before me is hiding in the base somewhere and can provide me with intel. Which is handy, because I'm lost again; these stages really aren't small.

Awesome, thank you Chris! Wait, how the fuck does he know where a card key is? UNLESS HE SECRETLY PUT IT THERE. You're not Liquid Snake in disguise again are you Chris?

There's the card, exactly where Chris said it'd be. Unfortunately Snake's too fat to fit through the gap! He's been suffering from this problem even since Metal Gear on the NES, when he couldn't sneak around behind a jeep to knock out the very first guard, but this time it could end the game right here.

I tried pushing the boxes, punching the boxes, shooting the boxes, punching the boxes again... I just couldn't get through to get card 1. It took me forever to remember that Snake can move while leaning against walls.

Alright, Chris said that there's a way to get into the building via the drainage system, so I'm looking for a hidden door in a recessed east wall. The trouble is there's a lot of buildings with east walls around, and sneaking starts to get tedious when I'm already getting bored looking for something. So I kinda slipped up and let myself get seen and now half the base is chasing me.

Oh, what's the matter you guys, too fat to fit through the gap? You can push or shoot the boxes all you want, you'll never catch me.

The soon get bored and decide to pretend they couldn't find me, then eventually wander off back to continue their patrols. I'm surprised that worked honestly.


Yes, I've finally found the bloody drainage tunnel! Okay, now what?

Fuck. Wrong tunnel.


It took seven more minutes to eventually find the correct drainage passage, and apparently they frown on that kind of thing at FOXHOUND, because this time my rank's even worse. Or maybe they're just whining about me getting seen again. C'mon though, 007 times? That's a perfect number of times for a spy to get discovered.

Speaking of James Bond, can you imagine what his end of mission reports would be like?





I think I did quite well by comparison.

Right, I've got to meet up with Chris, who is wandering around the base disguised as a enemy soldier. Kind of makes me wonder why I can't just wear a disguise myself and avoid having to sneak everywhere.

Wait, that gives me an idea...

That's right, don't pay any attention to the mysterious yellow box. Continue your lack of suspicion. It's not a perfect disguise as I have to remain absolutely still when an enemy's facing me, but it's better than nothing.

Damn, it is really not a good idea to be seen in this game when you've got nowhere to run. When there's three guards after you punching them is basically useless, as by the time you've knocked out the third one, the first one will be waking up. I gave up my non-lethal ways and tried shooting at them in the end, but it didn't save me from my first GAME OVER.

Fortunately the game just put me right back here when I continued. I was honestly worried for a second that it'd throw me back to the very start of the stage.

Laser trip alarms, I hate these things. For the first time in his career, Snake hasn't found a way to smuggle his smokes onto the mission to reveal the hidden lasers. Fortunately he's brought a little smoke stick called a fogger which does the same thing and has the benefit of not making Nintendo freak out. Also it doesn't slowly kill him, which is always a plus.

This bit wouldn't be so much of a pain in the ass if I didn't have to walk up to each set of lasers in turn and wait to see if they flicker off or not. Once I find the flickering lasers I wait for them to go off, slip through, then do the same thing at the next junction. Over and over again.


Metal Gear Solid Ghost Babel elevator animation
I may not have gotten any better at sneaking after playing Metal Gear, Snakes Revenge, and Metal Gear 2, but at least I've learned that you need to punch the elevator buttons to make them go.

Who the hell even designs a building like this, it makes no sense! It really is just a maze for the sake of having a maze. Still, at least I'm past the lasers now and once I get through here I never have to do it again. Just got to wait here patiently in my hole for the enemies to walk past.


OH! Chris is a woman! Well that explains Snake hitting on her over the codec at least.

Well, now we've finally met up I can head back out the way I came and... oh no.

Weirdly these laser mazes aren't any more interesting the second time around. You'd think she'd have given me a level 3 card that would let me skip all this, but nope.

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention something. The cards stack in this! My level 2 card opens level 1 doors, so there's finally no more need to switch through them all at every locked door! I'll award Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel +50,000 points and a brand new car for that innovative new feature.


Usually I'm not a fan of switch puzzles, but honestly this is a relief after all those lasers.

Also I gotta admit, this is actually a clever security system. You've seen how easy it is for a trained infiltrator like me to get hold of card keys, but the only thing that'll get this gate open is my mind. So yeah, I'm going to be stuck here for a while.


Oh SHIT... dogs! Not even going try sneaking, I'm just making a run for it. It doesn't help that some lunatic keeps throwing a boomerang at me from off screen.

Hey, it's Vulcan Raven from Metal Gear Solid!

Actually no I think this guy's called Slasher Hawk and despite being a spiritual half-naked lunatic with an affinity for birds, the two are actually pretty different. For one thing, Raven carries a M61 Vulcan six-barrelled, Gatling-style rotary cannon ripped from a jet fighter, which fires 20mm armour piercing high-explosive ammo at a rate exceeding 6000 rounds per minute, and Hawk carries a boomerang.

Yes. You see Snake, Hawk's from Australia and... oh c'mon just go with it, if this was MGS you'd be fighting a telekinetic psychic in a gas-mask right around now.

The trick to fighting Hawk seems to be to lob grenades in the direction he's running towards, while dodging his boomerangs and later his bird too. Though I totally failed at the dodging part and instead focused on trying to to get accurate shots to kill the guy before my grenade ammo ran out.

Oh come on, now you're ripping off Vulcan Raven's lines as well. Well I've been playing for about an hour, I've reached stage 05, killed the first boss, and got myself a box, so I think I've seen enough of Ghost Babel for now.

Mei Ling!

Metal Gear Solid Ghost Babel Mei Ling codec
Hi, I would like to save my game please. Uh, I mean 'record my mission data', or whatever it is we're pretending you do.

Oh right, there's the VR Training mode too. I should probably have a look at that as well before I turn the game off.

VR Training is shockingly a lot like the VR in Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2. Short stages designed to test your skill with each of the techniques in the game. It's Metal Gear stripped to its most basic form and it's probably just as entertaining as the story mode.

Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel is like the missing link between Metal Gear 2 and Metal Gear Solid, or maybe an alternate universe MGS from a world where the 16 bit consoles ruled for another five years. Sure it feels like imitation Kojima weirdness rather than the genuine article and it isn't actually technically part of the canon storyline, but I reckon it's close enough to be worthy of the name Metal Gear. Plus it fixes a lot of the gameplay frustrations of the earlier 2D games and I enjoyed playing it. In fact I plan to play it more, so it gets a shiny star.

If you want to tell me how wrong I am, reminisce about the game, or just want to say 'thanks, I was looking for that screenshot', feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Haha, good call about Bond's mission reports.

    I forgot that this game existed. Never played it, and I'm not really a fan of the pre 32-bit MG games. If this is another Metal Gear 2, then that brings the grand total of MG1 sequels operating concurrently in separate universes to... three. Wow.

  2. First Metal Gear game I ever plyed (not counting some clueless wandering around in the Snake's Revenge).

    Somehow I was complitely disillusioned about the series being serious stealth games so the first grenade spamming dodge the bumerangs boss fight came complitely out of the blue.

    Also in that side close up it looks like Snake is wearing Samus's power suit form metroid without the shoulder balls and painted purple.


Semi-Random Game Box