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Metal Gear Solid

Welcome back, Snake. Konami produces an absolutely stunning and must-have Game Boy Color title.
by Craig Harris

May 5, 2000 - A little warning before I go head first into this review ? although I proclaim myself as a total old-school gamer, I have to admit that I was introduced to the Metal Gear series not by the NES or Japanese MSX versions of the game. The first time I ever wrapped my hands around the controller connected to a Metal Gear game was on Snake's first 3D adventure on the PlayStation. And man, how I loved that game. The action, the suspense, the challenge, the storyline ? this was a game done right, and still holds up today as one of the system's finest games available.

The reason I mention this? Simple: Metal Gear Solid for the Game Boy Color retains so much of the PlayStation look and feel, it's amazing. Many people, much like myself, have never sat down with the classic versions of the series, so the comparisons are going to be made between this and the known PSX game. Metal Gear Solid does the perfect job of showing what's capable on the Game Boy Color if enough resources are poured into the project ? it's an action game that will hopefully set the standard of what's expected from a portable action-packed adventure.


* 13 levels
* More than 150 VR Missions
* Link cable support for two players
* Battery back-up
* Only for Game Boy Color

It's obvious that Konami didn't follow the unfortunate and typical "get rich quick" strategy of so many Game Boy Color developers ? a lot of time and dedication was spent making Metal Gear Solid one of, if not the finest action games on the portable. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

Fantastic stand-alone adventure. Don't think for a second that with the Metal Gear Solid name this is the same story and adventure that's on the PlayStation. From start to finish, the game is its own deal ? but you'll definitely feel right at home if you've familiarized yourself with the past titles. The plot seems to be a sequel in the sense that he retains the headband from the PlayStation MGS ? but this is contradicted by the fact that he doesn't seem to recognize Mei Ling over his two-way radio. Odd...maybe it's a parallel universe Metal Gear...

Snake is a retired commando brought back into the line of fire when a group of Metal Gears, superior weapons of destruction, are discovered in the jungle where the first Metal Gear took place. It's up to you, as snake, to infiltrate the enemy base and...well, figure out what to do. The object of the game, though, is stealth. The enemy fortress is heavily fortified with guards who aren't aware of your whereabouts ? they're not the sharpest tools in the shed, so you can easily sneak by them when they're not looking. Snake has the ability to press up against walls, creep through the mud, crawl under shrubbery...even hide under cardboard boxes ? all to remain undetected by these guards. Oh, sure, you can go through the game with guns blazing, but that's a strategy that's not exactly recommended ? especially if you're looking for the best score. The real challenge is to play it as stealthy as possible...but that takes a certain patience only seasoned gamers have.

Weaponry does enter play, though ? you'll have plenty of opportunity to use your silencer pistol, C4 detonation devices, and remote control Nikita missles in this adventure. It's all about learning the nuances of each of the weapons in the game to sneak through the game completely undetected. Other objects come into play, too ? like discovering how to use your "fogger" device (the replacement for the more politically incorrect cigarettes) to detect the laser tripwires, as well as finding the mine detectors to locate the hidden explosives strewn all over some points in the levels.

The adventure spans 13 levels that will last you a good few gaming sessions. When you get through each level, your progress is saved to cartridge ? you can also go back to any completed mission in a special Time Trial mode to challenge the layout to a speed contest.

VR Missions. One of the features that gave Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation a kick in the variety department was its inclusion of the well-designed VR Missions. These levels not only trained you in the art of stealth and weaponry, they were challenges in their own right ? these became games within games as you tried to complete each mission in the shortest time possible. These VR Missions have been converted perfectly to the Game Boy Color's 2D graphic engine ? many of these missions are from the PlayStation game, but a bunch have been designed specifically for the portable version of Metal Gear Solid.

Each weapon has its own series of VR Missions ? it's up to you to figure out the best possible way to complete the task of destroying all the targets in each mission. It's not just a challenge to complete these tasks, it's also a challenge to figure out how to shave time off the clock. These VR Missions are definitely not gimmicks ? personally, I've spent more time in these challenges than in the overall adventure.

Outstanding Link-cable mode. You know this was considered an A-title at Konami when a major focus was two player support. We've always been vocal about companies learning the multiplayer aspect of the Game Boy Color ? we know it's not the easiest option to support, and we're always happy when we see it being exploited. In Metal Gear Solid's case, the developers have added a well-designed two-player feature that obviously wasn't thrown together at the last minute. If you've got a buddy with a Game Boy Color, I highly recommend grabbing a link-cable and another copy of the game.

In this mode, each player plays as Snake ? red Snake and blue Snake. After choosing your weapons of choice, you both are thrown into a random VR room at different positions. Your task is to locate three disks hidden in target gems (which must be shattered to uncover the goodies inside) ? sometimes the gems unleash a disk, other times ammunition. Since each of you are working in the same room, you'll always encounter the other Snake. If you kill the other person (or he falls down a trapdoor, the disks he might have already snagged get thrown back into the room. Each player has three lives ? the person wins if he snags all three disks and finds the exit, or survives longer than the opposing Snake.

All three of features make for a must-have Game Boy Color cartridge. The entire game is quality all the way through, from the outstanding graphics and detailed animation, to the well-produced sounds and music that'll ring familiar to folks already learned in the art of Metal Gear. There are a few quirks in the design, though. In some points, you can completely evade guards simply by going into a room not already in the system memory ? the system will "forget" that it was pursuing you when you leave some rooms, which makes it a little easy to "cheat" the guards hot on your trail. But these problems are few and far between, and barely even make a blemish in this fine Game Boy Color title.

Closing Comments
This, folks, is a Game Boy Color game done right. It's clear that the right team was put to the task of bringing the classic Metal Gear to the Nintendo handheld. I want every official Game Boy Color publisher and developer to look at what Konami has done on the system ? and then look at the sales figures. I guarantee you this will be one of the top selling games for the Game Boy Color ? and this will prove once and for all that, yes, you can spend quality time and resources on a Game Boy Color title and still make it pay off in the end. Absolutely brilliant.

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