Metal Gear Solid


   When a developer decides to capitalize on the success of a game by porting it to every viable system on Earth, the results can be ugly: Mortal Kombat on Game Boy had all of the "gameplay" and none of the rendered graphics, the portable Perfect Dark turns the innovative FPS into a standard overhead shooter, and Resident Evil for Game Boy Color turned out so poorly that the project was eventually scrapped. Based on this sort of track record, combined with the fact that the PlayStation's Metal Gear Solid had not only incredible graphics but deep gameplay, one might expect the Game Boy Color version to suffer the same igominous fate.

 Snake regresses to his childhood
Red light, green light

   And in some senses, they'd be right. While the graphics are about the best possible on the GBC, and the character animation is surprisingly fluid, there's no denying that they're a step down from the PSX version. This can be especially irritating in some instances: both games have a puzzle in which you must discern your disguised ally from the similar-looking enemy soldiers, but it's far easier to tell what you're looking for when you don't have to squint through the glare on a small screen to discern differences in hair length. The small screen also gives you a much more limited field of vision--though you can look forward while hiding behind walls, there are times when an enemy is almost on top of you before you see him.

   Mostly, though, the game transcends the limitations of the hardware. The small cartridge size hasn't reduced Kojima's wordiness one bit--and without voices, it's possible to control the speed of both codec and cutscene conversations. All of the weapons and items from the PlayStation predecessor return here, and all handle quite well. Even the complicated inventory translates well; paging through items with the select button and the directional pad will quickly become second nature. Not that all of the gameplay survives intact--as anyone who's accidentally dropped a grenade on themselves while trying to scout the area ahead will tell you, the Game Boy Color's button layout can only do so much.

Huh?  Just a box.
Conjunction junction, what's your function?

   What matters most is that the core gameplay conceit of the series is intact. Emphasis is still on sneaking rather than shooting, and in rooms as small as these, you will be overpowered before you can escape. Snake still has his radar to detect enemy location, though the soldiers' field of vision has changed from a moderately wide cone to direct line-of-sight in order to simplify things. Kojima also earns high marks for introducing new types of puzzles; at one point Snake must avoid birds who will make noise and alert the guards, the cardboard boxes have returned but are used in new and interesting ways, and Snake can make use of grass fields or shallow water throughout the game to hide from soldiers.

   The story is also fairly involved, though Metal Gear regulars will spot familiar faces right off--the inventor who needs to be rescued, the advance agent/love interest, the mysterious crew of seemingly-superhuman baddies. The codec conversations are also now much more entertaining and interesting. In the PSX version, it was rarely worth it to contact your outside allies for the solutions to obstacles, let alone for fun, but here you'll find yourself talking to them just to hear what they have to say. Weasel, the weapons expert, is a hard-bitten mercenary who enjoys what he does--a far cry from Natasha, who always made a point to say something negative about whatever Snake had equipped. Brian is a CIA agent who'll talk to Snake about the history, geography, and other features of the fictional country of Gindra. Campbell is the old Campbell--just the facts, from him--and Mei Ling is a cute young MIT student. (Whom Snake meets for the first time here. There are, you could say, a few continuity oddments in Metal Gear Solid: GBC.)

 Target practice
Break stuff

   For those interested, there are also 180 VR Missions in this Metal Gear Solid. Many of them are lifted straight from the standalone PSX game Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, but there are some new designs. In addition to the main game and the VR Missions, there's a head-to-head Vs. mode using the Link Cable. I was sadly unable to test this mode due to the negligence of certain other GIA editors, but it's structured as a Spy-vs-Spy type battle to find three keycards and make for the exit.

   Though it's hard to recommend the Game Boy version over its PlayStation ancestor, it's a must-own for any fan of the series and almost worth buying a Game Boy Color for. Snake sneaks through darkened corridors, villains deliver overwrought death speeches, and the whole shebang is portable--how could you go wrong?

Review by Nich Maragos, GIA.
Metal Gear Solid
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge (16 MB)
Platform Game Boy Color
Release Date  04.19.00
Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, Samba de Amigo, and Sorcerian Famitsu scores
5 gameplay movies
4 character portraits / Villain collage
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