The Accidental Origin of Metal Gear How old Metal Gear has aged in 35 Years Is the True Legacy of Metal Gear and Kojima
July 13, 2022 marks the 35th anniversary of Metal Gear, the codifier of how stealth video games will be defined over the next few decades. In 1987, home consoles surpassed arcade games in popularity, and when Metal Gear was released for the MSX2 home computer system, it became a niche source of entertainment.
While classic games such as Manbiki Shounen and Castle Wolfenstein pioneered the genre of stealth games, Metal Gear (and subsequent series) became the progenitors of all modern stealth and stealth action games. However, it’s worth looking back at the original title and seeing how a small stealth game has attracted enough attention to spawn an entire series.
The Accidental Origin of Metal Gear
The creation of Metal Gear is attributed to Hideo Kojima, but the development process was not smooth. With the growing popularity of classic Konami games such as Contra and other action shooters, Kojima got a major role in the new project. However, the MSX2’s hardware limitations meant that having a large number of enemies and bullets on the screen would be a programming nightmare.
Kojima was able to solve this problem by changing the concept; instead of facing enemies face-to-face, players would instead need to avoid detection and hide from enemies to stay alive. When this idea was presented to Konami management, the infamous response followed: “Hiding from enemies? This is not a game!” This is due to the fact that most of the games released at that time were still arcade-oriented, for example, the popular space shooters and side-scrollers Gradius and Lunar Jetman.
Games with a rich plot have not yet become so popular as to require knowledge and explanation for players, but in the case of Metal Gear, Kojima insisted on going beyond the confining design. For the plot and setting, inspiration was taken from Western films such as The Great Escape to create ideas for a prisoner escaping from a heavily guarded camp. The game was developed under the working title “Intruder” to fit the hidden setting, but other film influences, such as the James Bond franchise, turned the concept into a master spy infiltrating a military base to detect and destroy a nuclear-armed walking battle tank. . The code name of the nuclear mechanism “Metal Gear” eventually became the cult name of the series with a double meaning, hinting at its use in the “War Machine” of the global economy.
How much has Metal Gear aged in 35 years
Despite Metal Gear’s impressive legacy and popular status, it can be hard to understand what exactly made it such a trailblazer when we played it 35 years later. The limited memory and processing power of the MSX2 means that the maximum number of enemies that can be on the screen is three, and the enemy’s sight is a rectilinear vision, rather than a more realistic and familiar cone shape, as in future releases.
There are other basic elements of Metal Gear, such as infrequent boss battles, but in a weaker standard. Even non-fans of the series know about difficult battles with memorable villains, such as Psycho-Mantis, who reads input from your controller and memory card. In the original MSX2 game, the “Shooter” and the “Machine Gun Kid” are powerful enemies (no prizes for guessing the type of weapon), and both can be defeated in less than 5 seconds.
However, Metal Gear makes up for the action-oriented shortcomings by creating a unique and slightly quirky style with many memorable moments that helped it stand out among competing games after release. Artifacts such as exclamation marks appearing over the heads of guards upon detection could be considered as an unofficial Metal Gear logo, but for the 1987 game this was done out of necessity.
The characters’ sprites were so tiny that it would be impossible to interpret facial expressions or gestures if they were alert, so a useful indicator was provided for the player. Even when Metal Gear’s visual technologies were capable of photorealism, overhead! the symbol was still so iconic that it inevitably appeared in every future game. The Wreck-it-Ralph video game movie also included him as a brief Easter egg, signifying his recognizable status for the franchise.
Some shortcomings can be ignored due to the inevitable limitations of early home consoles, but Metal Gear’s use of “alternative history” concepts and subversive actions is what makes it unforgettable for many. Moments like Big Boss telling Snake to turn off the game console were refreshingly meta for their time and no less impressive on the first playthrough.