"Kept you waiting, huh?"
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is about to establish another historic moment in video game lore. It's been fifteen years since we've seen a Metal Gear release on a Nintendo platform (save for the handheld editions). Suffice it to say, that's a long time and, frankly, we couldn't be happier that in just a few months GameCube owners will finally be graced with what may be one of the most exciting installments in the Metal Gear saga.
When you stop to reflect for a moment - it only seems fair. After all, Hideo Kojima's original blockbuster release, Metal Gear first appeared on consoles on the 8-bit NES. But since that time, both installments in the Metal Gear Solid series were passed over the Nintendo consoles. (Remember, PlayStation at the time was the only platform even capable of handling the original MGS, not to mention Sony had its "enforced" exclusivity agreements.) Kojima notes that "Nintendo approached us and said, 'How about MGS for GameCube?'" - and, of course, we know that he "accepted the offer."
"You have two mission objectives . . ."
However, there was one significant obstacle that came before Mr. Kojima and his development team. None of them had previously worked on the GameCube hardware, inexperience that would make the coding process a wholly difficult task. Enter Shigeru Miyamoto, the sole architect behind such memorable characters as Mario and Link, who recently discussed a potential joint project with Kojima-san in the immediate future. The two had known each other for some time and longed to create a project together. That moment occurred last year.
". . . Mr. Kojima told me passionately about Metal Gear Solid, exclusive for GameCube, Since his proposal was exactly what I had been meaning to bring up, we agreed and the project was started quickly."
Now the only thing that remained was a development team. Kojima-san wanted a group that shared his vision. Miyamoto referred him to Silicon Knights, the masterful designers who created Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Legacy of Kain. The combined success of these titles has garnered a solid reputation for Silicon Knights, which is one of the few developers in the industry that has substantial experience with the GameCube's capabilities. As a result, fans and newcomers alike can be assured that MGS: The Twin Snakes won't get the same treatment evidenced in the Xbox release of Metal Gear Solid: Substance - this title is being developed for the hardware from the ground up. In other words, this game is getting all the TLC it rightfully deserves. With the forthcoming release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Boktai, Kojima-san has his own hands full and thus supervises the forthcoming GameCube project from afar.
We had an opportunity to glimpse MGS: The Twin Snakes at this year's E3 and found it very promising. The most obvious and most significant distinction between the upcoming GameCube release and the PlayStation classic lies in the graphical enhancements. (But don't take our word for it, see for yourself below.) Gone are the grainy effects, replaced by solid, rich textures that can be likened to the PC/Bleem versions released in 1998. The end result is simply slick and a refreshing experience for the veterans.
The aspect which truly sweetens this updated installment, though, lies in the number of moves lifted from MGS2: Sons of Liberty. In effect, The Twin Snakes' gameplay engine will feature "new" moves which were never possible in the original Metal Gear Solid. Players will be able to use the M9 tranquilizer gun, hang over ledges, open lockers to hide (or conceal soliders you've dispatched), and execute the first-person shooter mode on the fly. Clearly the GameCube has opened up a new avenue of possibilities that were never attainable with the PlayStation hardware. The Twin Snakes exists as a theoretical "what if" product brought to life. In essence, a hybrid Metal Gear Solid design containing significant gameplay elements from both installments.
We only had a brief opportunity to experience the updated installment for ourselves, so it's uncertain if any exclusive features will be thrown in for good measure. And most importantly, we don't know how many refinements will be made to the original storyline. Kojima states, "There will be no drastic changes, but we are changing some things that were not well received back in 1998." No specifics were issued on exactly what those elements may be, though we do know this installment will include all-new cinematic sequences led by Japanese film director and writer Ryuhei Kitamura. These sequences expand upon the original storyboards to create a dynamic showcase for newcomers and a renewed experience for veterans. We picked up on the first example of this shortly after the player emerges from the underground section of Shadow Moses Island. In the original, Snake drops his underwater gear in the elevator while making his ascent to the surface. The new sequence now includes a brief scene showing Liquid Snake apparently sensing his arrival (reminds me of the telekinetic connection shared between Luke and Darth Vader). In addition, we were shown a teaser clip of an entirely different sequence during the period in which Snake first encounters the Ninja, and - well, we'll leave it at that as we don't want to spoil it for the interested players. It's minor elements like this which actually make playing through The Twin Snakes as worthwhile as playing the game for the very first time.
"The frequency is . . ."
Based on what's been unveiled so far, our interest in this game remains locked and loaded. If you've missed out on the original release, Snake's coming back for an encore. And this time, you don't want to miss his arrival at the sneak point.