The Themes & “WTF?” of Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2

Quadruple Guess (The Themes)

Deception will become the most common theme throughout the series. Big Boss’ goal was to feed the US government bad information. Gray Fox becomes an enemy to Snake in MG2, hinting that he might have known Big Boss’s true intentions in the first game. So was he really kidnapped in the first game? Or was that all a part of Big Boss’s plan? So, if Big Boss’s plan was to confuse and deceive, then what if everything went according to plan? AHHHHHHHHHHH! From the very beginning, Metal Gear makes you second, triple, and quadruple guess everything you thought you know.

These games also introduce the idea of Science Fiction as an explanation for the unexplainable. In MG2, OILIX isn’t a magic alternative to oil: it’s algae! While “sci-fi explanations” are relatively realistic in this game, they will get crazier as the series continues.

Another recurring element introduced in these games is the constant creation of expendable characters. Aside from the handful of folks I’ve mentioned, MG and MG2 have 25 named characters! Sure, some have great codenames, such as Dirty Duck and Night Fright, but most of them don’t play into the overall story of the series. In fact, a lot of them are completely disposable within the game itself, especially the women. This will become a frustrating, yet prevalent, trope throughout the series.

Smoke Breaks & Lost Warlds (WTF?)

In the first example of fourth-wall-breaking in MG, Big Boss tells Snake to abort the mission by turning off the MSX console. While a relatively small moment in a larger piece, it was completely unheard of at the time. Breaking the fourth wall will become one of the most memorable qualities of the series, especially in Metal Gear Solid. Still, it’s important to note that Kojima included it in the very first game.

Also, the first MG has a critical time limit near the end. After defeating the Metal Gear, Snake must escape and then go up a long elevator ride. One of the game’s more notable secrets is that, if Snake equips his pack of cigarettes, then he will get more time to escape. These sorts of gameplay Easter eggs will become one of the franchise’s hallmark qualities.

Concerning the development of the games, Metal Gear was the first game that Hideo Kojima directed. He had pitched a game called Lost Warld (yes, that’s an “A”), but his higher-ups at Konami turned it down. Metal Gear was actually someone else’s project that Kojima took over. Because the MSX home computer wasn’t designed for combat, Kojima changed the focus from action to stealth. The series has become his legacy, and later games reference things that happen in the first game. But players should not assume that things that happen later were “planned” to happen. It was not “planned” that Metal Gear Solid, released 10 years after the first game, would contain references to the original, or that plot devices created in earlier games would influence the others. And Kojima has never stated otherwise. So, when things start to fit into place later, this isn’t because it was all planned out from the outset: it’s because the creator has found creative (and often absurd) ways to retroactively include them.

Next Week

We’re going to alternate issues of The Backlog Presents Spoiler Alert, so The Backlog Issue 08 will take a look at Metal Gear Solid, a game that promotes genetics, mind control, and bondage gear.

But issue 07 of The Backlog is going to take a look at one of my favorite games. Don’t Look Back is a free browser game created by Terry Cavanagh, and it is easily one of the best examples of how to tell a story through gameplay.

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