Retro Game Review: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

By: Julian Cannon


After the success of the original Metal Gear, a sequel was released in 1990 for the NES console. This sequel was called Snake’s Revenge and was released exclusively in the North American and PAL regions. Hideo Kojima, the creator of the original Metal Gear for the MSX2 console, was not aware of Snake’s Revenge being created until he was informed during a conversation with a member of the game’s development team on a train ride in Tokyo. Kojima was told that the sequel was not an authentic Metal Gear game, as it was more action based rather than using stealth like the original game. He was asked to develop a true sequel to the original Metal Gear and so Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was born. It was released exclusively in Japan on July 19th 1990 for the MSX2 console. A mobile phone version was later released on October 1st 2004, also exclusive to Japan. The game was never officially released outside of Japan until it was included as a component of the Playstation 2 game Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, which was released on December 22nd 2005 in Japan, March 14th 2006 in North America, October 6th 2006 in Europe and October 13th 2006 in Australia. This version is similar to the original although there are a few alterations that were made. The original version of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released for the Wii’s Virtual Console on March 30th 2010 in Japan. I am going to review a fan translated version of the original Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX2 (fan translated version meaning it is the original version that was released in Japan but it has been translated to English).

The game is set in 1999. The Cold War has ended but now the world faces a new crisis. Oil reserves are at a critical low, causing oil prices to increase dramatically. A new source of energy is needed. A Czech scientist named Dr. Kio Marv has developed a new energy source with the ability to produce petroleum-grade hydrocarbons with little expense and effort. It is called OILIX and was produced by bio-engineering a new species of algae. Dr. Kio Marv presented OILIX to the World Energy Conference in Prague, and was on his way to the United States to demonstrate it there when he was kidnapped by soldiers from Zanzibarland (which is a made up country and is in no way connected to the real Zanzibar). The leaders of Zanzibarland plan to hold the world hostage by controlling its oil supply, using a stockpile of nukes raided from nearby missile sites to threaten the world with nuclear war. FOXHOUND’s new commander, Roy Campbell, calls Solid Snake (the hero from the original Metal Gear) out of retirement and sends him to infiltrate Zanzibarland and rescue Dr. Kio Marv.

You start the game on a cliff edge of Zanzibarland, having just climbed up the cliff in order to reach the island. You have to penetrate Zanzibarland’s external defence (preferably undetected) and make your way inside the main building. Once inside you must find Dr. Kio Marv.

I won’t go through the whole story beyond this point as it would take too long and this is just a review, not a walkthrough. The gameplay in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake is more difficult and complex than the original Metal Gear, although it is still quite simple as it is an old 8-bit game. It essentially works the same as the original game, only this time enemies have 45 degree vision making it more difficult to sneak passed them unnoticed. Also you could not simply run to the next screen when spotted in order to escape as you could in the first game, the enemies would follow you in this game and the only way to escape them was by either killing them all, moving to a different area completely or hiding while out of the enemies field of vision (normally under a table). Some other features added in this game include being able to crouch to move under low objects, being able to knock on walls to distract the enemy and the addition of a 3×3 radar in the top right of the screen which would show the location of enemies on your screen and the screens around you so that you could avoid walking directly into an enemy on the next screen.

The graphics had improved greatly since the original Metal Gear, although obviously it doesn’t look as good now as it did when it was first released. At the time though they were good graphics. Solid Snake’s tranceiver showed the faces of the people using it (a trend which continued into the Metal Gear Solid series) and calls on this tranceiver were used to help develop the story, along with sequences during gameplay which were as close to movie clips as you would get back in those days. The story was very deep for an 8-bit game (in fact, it is still quite a deep storyline by today’s standards) and this was the first Metal Gear game when Hideo Kojima really started to involve philosophy, ethics, warfare, etc…

Once you get used to the controls Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake actually becomes really fun to play. Although it is very simple and the graphics are poor compared to modern games, my love of the Metal Gear storyline means I would rather play this than some of the games being developed today with little creativity in the storylines and the main focus being on graphics. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had good graphics for its time but it was made when graphics were not important and more effort was put into the gameplay itself. The tension that you feel from thinking that you could be caught any moment was just as strong then as it is in more modern Metal Gear games. The tranceiver conversations make it easier to understand where you’re supposed to go in this game, although it is still possible to lose track of where you need to go. As with modern day Metal Gear games though, this can normally be fixed by calling the right person and if that fails you can always go back to the original Metal Gear method of just walking around aimlessly until you stumble upon where you need to go.

Overall, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake is a game that was brilliant for its time. Even now it can still be enjoyed, especially by retro gamers and huge fans of the Metal Gear series. It introduced many of the aspects that can be found in the Metal Gear Solid series which made it very advanced for its time. The original Metal Gear was a good game but had many flaws, whereas this game was a vast improvement and showed the best that the MSX2 had to offer. It is a must play for any true Metal Gear fan. As with the original Metal Gear, although it was good when it was released time hasn’t treated it well and it would be unfair to compare it to modern gameplay. So, as with my review of the original Metal Gear, I will rate Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake on how good of an MSX2 game I think it is

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