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volume 1, issue 19

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

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From the Mouth of Madness: Jason "loonyboi" Bergman compares Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, and Xenogears.

Konami: The developers of Metal Gear Solid.

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Pad Happy:
Solid Gameplay:

(or, how I loved to stop worrying and love the interactive movie)

By Nick Ferguson

The cut-scenes in Metal Gear Solid are well-scripted and contain a lot of essential information. I actually bought the Japanese version of the game when it first came out, and played through the first half until I realized that I was spoiling things for myself by going through the motions of playing without understanding the complexities of the story. I also found that it was often impossible to do certain sections without referring to a FAQ (and I’m used to muddling through Japanese text), so that should indicate the importance of the cut-scenes. As well as the cinematic sequences (of which there are plenty), Metal Gear Solid also makes use of a radio that relays important messages from base. You are also able to make use of the radio yourself and contact various characters if the need arises. The entertaining banter that emerges through continued radio chatter helps keep the relationships between the characters in focus, too.

Konami have blended linearity and interactivity and crafted one of the sharpest games of the year. Every character has a distinct role and personality, every item (including the infamous cardboard box) has a use, every location serves a purpose. Metal Gear Solid comes packed with surprises – the plot twists like the best political conspiracy thrillers, and the game is littered with little touches, the kind that make you glad you play video games. The brilliance of the design is made all the more noticeable by its economy – alas, this same economy means that although Metal Gear Solid is one of the more intense games you’ll play this year, it’s also one of the shortest. Fortunately, the designers have provided plenty of ‘moments’ destined to enter gaming folklore; memories of playing will stay with you long after you complete the game. Special mention must go to the Metal Gear Solid project director Hideo Kojima – it is relatively rare for Japanese designers to become famous in the West (Shigeru Miyamoto, Kenji Eno and Yu Suzuki aside) but Mr. Kojima certainly deserves recognition for combining the many elements of this game so successfully.

The brevity of Metal Gear Solid is perhaps its major weakness. When you consider that once you know what to do the game can be beaten in about six hours (of which a third is dedicated to cut-scenes and radio messages) without rushing through, it almost seems absurd that PlayStation owners have been waiting over two years for its release. There is some incentive to play the game more than two or three times in the form of alternate endings and assorted hidden extras, but there’s no doubt that once Metal Gear Solid has been completed, it’s never quite the same. Whether you buy the game for full price or just rent it over a weekend is up to you, but take the importance of replay value out of the equation and there can be no doubt that Metal Gear Solid is one of the most compelling games of the decade (and, yes, I did buy a copy with my own money)! The question of whether a ‘great’ game should be capable of entertaining for hours on end is one I don’t want to get into here, other than to say that although the Resident Evil games rank among my favorites, I wouldn’t want to play through them again in a hurry. Perhaps I’m not so bothered if a game is short, so long as it’s fun, original, and intense while it lasts.

Amid all the hype, many have forgotten that Metal Gear Solid is actually the third game in a series. Although in many ways it is a fairly logical 3D update of the decade-old original NES and MSX titles (to which the game pays respectful homage), influences can be seen from Capcom’s Resident Evil (the in-game cut-scenes). The real inspiration behind the game, however, is a cross between James Cameron’s hi-tech, hi-powered action movies, and Japanese anime – all the graphics have an authentic anime feel to them and, thematically, the story is typical of the genre. Ultimately, this is the closest any game has come to creating the feeling of taking part in a real action movie. It is a highly cinematic, highly intelligent piece of work and deserves respect as one of the most well structured console games ever. I’ll say once again that, for me, this game has redefined the concept of what an ‘interactive movie’ should be – yes, players are still functioning within some fairly limited plot restrictions, but because the plot is so closely tied to your actions in the game you don’t necessarily feel that you’re following a set path.

Considering a new PlayStation costs little more than a force-feedback joystick, you could do a lot worse than pick one up with a copy of Metal Gear Solid. Alternately, rumor has it that enhanced versions for both Dreamcast and the PC are in the works. Then again, rumor once had it that Virtua Fighter 3 was headed for Saturn - so take your pick…

- Nick Ferguson is a soon-to-be regular contributor to loonygames.

 

Credits: Pad Happy logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Pad Happy is © 1998 Nick Ferguson. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it, or you'll get some real force feedback.