Metal Gear Solid is one of the most renowned names in video games, and Konami knows it. Years after its reportedly acrimonious split from series creator Hideo Kojima, the publisher is paying homage to the series along two separate paths. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, one of the most revered games in the series, is getting a remake subtitled Delta. But more presently, Konami is putting out the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1, a compilation of the classic MSX/NES games along with the first three games in the Metal Gear Solid series.
While Konami is no stranger to compilations–having recently released Castlevania and Contra collections–it does certainly feel like the publisher knows it has something precious on its hands with Metal Gear Solid. As a result, this one is particularly reverent, packing in loads of historical artifacts while letting the games speak for themselves.
To start, it’s worth pausing to note just how many Metal Gear games this includes. The 8-bit Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, along with the off-brand Snake’s Revenge, together serve as a virtual museum of the series’ deepest roots. The three MGS games are nicely preserved and given a clean and sleek UI menu to navigate the games and their various extras. The games themselves are essentially untouched, with a presentation similar to the PS3’s HD Editions. There is a brief content warning at the start of every game, noting that some elements may be insensitive by today’s standards, but other than that they appear to be direct transfers of the original content. Naturally, the UI has been touched up as well to correspond with the modern controllers. I played the compilation on Nintendo Switch.
That cuts both ways. Those looking for a more full-fledged facelift will have to wait for Delta to present serious revisions to MGS3. And these being re-releases without significant visual upgrades, the graphics do show their age. Snake’s character model looks virtually faceless in Metal Gear Solid, and it stands out more than ever with a sharp output on modern screens.
But game preservation has rightly become a concern in recent years, and collections like Atari 50 or TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection from Digital Eclipse (and in the latter case, Konami) have become the way we expect games to survive into the future. Some of these Metal Gear games are increasingly hard to play legally, particularly in the case of MGS3, so there is value in having an accessible, simple solution.
The act of playing the classic MGS games in modern day, though, can be difficult. At least, they were for me. The first two Metal Gear Solid games in particular were sharply focused on a cinematic presentation with very rigidly guided camera angles, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to step out in front of a sightline when I didn’t mean to, or to otherwise fumble with the controls. MGS2 increased the complexity with direct aiming that defaults to firing when you release a face-button instead of a trigger. I know with time I would relearn the ropes and find my way, but in my brief time with a hands-on, I was comically poor at these trailblazers of stealth action.
Fortunately, there’s plenty to see outside of the games themselves. These collections are an absolute treasure trove of bonus features and content that help make it feel like a nicely preserved exhibition. Each game contains both a digital “Screenplay Book” with the entire in-game script, along with a “Master Book” walking you through the story and characters in order. For a series as dense as Metal Gear, they’re both helpful resources, and they’re presented nicely in this package with a crisp, easy-to-read interface. Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 are also supplemented by a digital graphic novel, bringing back a motion comic originally released on the PSP and on DVD. Like some of the other games and curios, these can be difficult to find legally, so their inclusion here really feels like an effort to be as comprehensive as possible.
That comprehensive approach is heartening. Not only is it great to have all of these pieces of Metal Gear history preserved in one place, but the “Vol. 1” designation implies that Konami knows it has more that it can do with the series. Given that games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Acid are notoriously difficult to find, we can hope that the publisher shows them the same degree of love and reverence that it is showing here.
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