April 3rd, 2008
With the pending release of Metal Gear Solid 4 for the Playstation 3 and the recent release of the 20th Anniversary pack discussion has reignited about which version of Metal Gear Solid should players new to the series pick up. On one hand there is the original PSone classic and on the other hand there is the Gamecube remake; MGS: The Twin Snakes.
It’s a fair question and one that has been met with some confusion. So as a fan of this franchise I wanted to share my thoughts in the hope to level out any confusion. Personally I dislike the Gamecube remake; The Twin Snakes. I feel as though between the conversion from PSone to Gamecube many of the original game’s strongest assets were simply lost in translation. Which is why new players ought to experience the original game in all its low resolution glory. Thats not to say that TTS is a bad game by any means because it’s not, I just feel as though it does not provide the full, 10/10 Metal Gear experience. So to further back this up I want to elaborate on what I feel is wrong with The Twin Snakes.
Lacking the Polish
When developing the original Metal Gear Solid game for the PSone, Kojima and team wanted to make their game the best game on the console. Which is a tough call considering the number of AAA titles on the PSone. This drive ensured that Metal Gear Solid was arguably the most polished game on the system. The story telling, mood setting, stealth action gameplay were all so finely tuned that the original stands as a testament to the team’s effort and a testament to what the PSone is capable of in the right hands.
So when Silicon Knights stepped in to transfer this legendary title onto the Gamecube they had a difficult task ahead of them. Having any developer, let alone a recognized developer like Silicon Knights attempt to remake such a classic would undoubtedly lead in some disappointment. Although, realistically The Twin Snakes really is a faithful port of the original game one thing remains vividly clear as you make your way though the story. The polish and sheer perfection of delivering such a story is just severely lacking. The impact is weakened, effectively losing the game’s strongest assets in translation.
It isn’t just an issue with the polish either, in some areas MGS The Twin Snakes feels unfinished, incomplete, cut and paste. Some hideously low textures, poor character modeling and unrefined gameplay throughout are highly questionable. Examples of some of the corners cut include the Game Over screen and codec face plates which are ripped straight from the PSone version.
To me this reeks of a rushed job and from what was happening internally within Nintendo at the time I feel as though this is the primary cause.
You see, back when Twin Snakes was first announced Nintendo were doing whatever possible to obtain third party exclusives to support for ailing Gamecube. They needed key software titles to fill in key release dates on their release schedule. As a result Sega handled F-Zero GX, Namco developed Star Fox Assault and Konami teamed with Silicon Knights were put to work on The Twin Snakes (these are just the main examples BTW). This was Nintendo’s way of lightening the heavy load of missing third party support. Although the relationship between the two companies was positive (Silicon Knights and Konami) , there is no doubt that this game was a priority game for the Gamecube. This led to amounting pressure and a quick development cycle which is something that both Silicon Knights and the Metal Gear development team (not sure if this was Kojima Productions at the time) were not use to.
Over the Top Cut Scenes
The Metal Gear series is known for it’s brilliant narrative told though the game’s many cut scenes. When full motion video was all the rage on the PSone, Konami disregarded it completely, instead pioneering the use of in-game cut scenes to tell its brilliant narrative. It was a bold move, for sure.
When developing the Gamecube iteration Konami hired Japanese film director Ryuhei Kitamura to help improve the cut scenes. Unfortunately he did more harm than good, taking the already great cut scenes and adding unnecessary, unrealistic, Matrix-inspired action elements. This is not necessarily his fault as that is what he is known for but this does not suit the Metal Gear Universe. The reworked cutscenes are simply over the top and make Solid Snake appear almost super natural. This conflicts with the character development aspects of the story where Snake is made to look realistic and flawed rather than being your typical Rambo.
The Gamecube Pad
Metal Gear Solid and it’s subsequent sequels remind me of something that I briefly talked about in this article (see Mach Rider). Each game in the series uses the Playstation controller to it’s fullest, each button has it’s place and feels significant. This became more apparent with Metal Gear Solid 3’s CQC system and will probably be even more apparent with Metal Gear Solid 4.
Unfortunately this control scheme, much like other elements of the game just don’t translate well onto the Gamecube, the source here is the different game pad. The lack of four trigger buttons and four evenly spaced face buttons forces you to press down at differentiating degrees of strength for your desired action. This can become exceedingly frustrating when trying to master the game’s more complex actions. The springy shoulder triggers also did not aid this situation at all.
Too Much to Learn When You’re Green
With each installment in the Metal Gear franchise a new layer of gameplay features are added. This is a perhaps an ill fated trend within sequelized game design. When more and more depth is added to a control scheme it only becomes harder for new players to jump in and learn the ropes. Learning everything that The Twin Snakes has to offer takes a significant amount of time. Anyone new to the series needs to essentially learn the gameplay mechanics of two games (MGS1 + 2) at once. To make things worse there are no tutorials to help you along either. Which will results in a significant amount of trial and error in the beginning stages, in fact trial and error is a requirement to make significant process in this game.
Slim on Additional Content
Despite being a mainly single player affair the Metal Gear games have always offered more than just a straight forward single player mode. Most notably Metal Gear Solid 3 came with an additional 2 discs worth of bonus material extending the length of the entire package considerably. This is unfortunately where The Twin Snakes falls short again. The wealth of extended options are limited to a Dog Tag viewer, Demo Theater, Photo Album and Boss Survival. The sample of VR missions from the original game are removed as well. So it is a little disappointing.
Even though the original game had few extras accompanying the main game it still would have been nice to see MGS:TTS keep up with MGS2 and 3 in terms of bonus material.
The Face Models
Probably the most unattractive feature of The Twin Snakes is the God awful modeling of the character faces. Take a look at the following examples compared to their Metal Gear Solid 2 counterparts:
This example represents exactly how I feel about the game; embarrassed. Its frustrating because even though the Twin Snakes is running on a more powerful console and was released some time after Metal Gear Solid 2, there is still a significant gap between this and Metal Gear Solid 2.
The Advantages of The Twin Snakes
Although I have completely focused on everything flawed or simply done better in the original game there are a few significant advantages that the remake has over the original. Obviously there is the inclusion of the Metal Gear Solid 2 gameplay elements which is great but the most substantial upgrade is the redone voices. All of the voices in The Twin Snakes were re-recorded and it sounds excellent compared to the highly compressed PSone voice tracks.
You might be inclined to point out that when comparing the two games on the same plane that The Twin Snakes obviously is superior in its presentation. Which is true but only as a result of superior hardware. When deciding which game is essential playing I must recommend the original for not only the reasons already mentioned but more importantly because it was a testament to the PSone. It represents what made the PSone such a revolution; risks and rewards. The PSone Metal Gear Solid for it’s contents and for when it was made simply is essential playing, it is a fine piece of craftsmanship that must be played in it’s original form to truly appreciate what this franchise is all about.