Metal Gear is a series not exactly known for being on Nintendo platforms. While it’s true that there were two games on the NES and a port of the first Metal Gear Solid title to the Gamecube back in 2003, Metal Gear is generally known as a PlayStation franchise. Once again Nintendo gets a Metal Gear Solid game, and while it may be a port it is arguably the best version of the game to date.
For those of you not in the know, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a prequel to the first two MGS games, set in the USSR during the Cold War. Players take on the role of Naked Snake as he goes about his mission and tries his best to survive in the harsh jungle environment. Snake Eater was originally released during the twilight of the PS2 and is often considered the best game in the series. Luckily, Konami has gone all out and produced a faithful port that in some ways outdoes even the HD version, with one major caveat.
We’ll get that out of the way first. MGS3D is actually a port of the improved version of MGS3, Subsistence, and as such practically requires the Circle Pad Pro. The game was originally designed with a second analog stick in mind for camera control. Under normal circumstances, camera control is mapped to the 3DS’ four face buttons while all actions are relegated to the D-pad. This makes controlling a game known for it’s difficult and convoluted controls become even more difficult to control. If you can get past this hurdle (or already own a CPP) then you’re in for one hell of a game.
Gameplay is all about stealth. You stalk through the jungle, evading (or killing) patrolling guards and fighting wonderfully inventive bosses. Being set in the jungle gives you a lot more options for stealth than you’d find indoors, allowing Snake to hide up trees and in the underbrush while taking multiple paths. In fact, you’re encouraged to hide in the underbrush so much the game even has a camoflauge system just to take advantage of it. As you go through the game you will acquire different types of camo (or even use the system’s camera to create your own) that will give you a bonus when you’re hiding, with higher bonuses allowing guards to practically stand on you without noticing. In this version of the game all of your camo options are unlocked from the start which may make the game a little easy compared to the original, since hiding is now much easier.
The boss battles are probably the best, most exciting parts of the game. If you’ve ever played a MGS game before you’ll remember how outlandish and interetsing the boss encounters were, and Snake Eater is no different. Of particular note is the battle with The End. A slow paced, methodical jungle sniper duel where you have to pay close attention for the glint of his scope in the sunlight. Metal Gear Solid fills a very unique niche and plays nothing like other stealth or action games. It’s gameplay is more than a little confusing at times and may not be for everyone, but once it clicks you become hooked.
It may be hard to tell from the stills, but Snake Eater 3D looks quite a bit better than the original PS2 version. All the models have higher poly counts and bump mapping has been applied all over the place. There are a few places where the textures seem to have become incredibly blurry in the transition, but this is a strange outlier and for the most part all textures are actually a higher resolution than their PS2 counterparts. There’s a even a few places where the 3DS version outshines the recently released HD version of MGS3, namely in that most of the foliage in the HD version contains a graphical glitch where the plant texture doens’t blend well with the background creating very visible, very distracting outlines of colour around most of the plants. The 3DS version does not suffer from this problem. Then there’s the obvious matter of 3D. There are a few cases where crawling through the tall grass strains your eyes, but for the most part the 3D just provides a nice sense of depth and is great for gauging just how far away enemies are.
MGS3 has an intriguing, if very weird, narrative backing up the action. It’s not quite as straightforward as the story for the first MGS, yet not nearly as strange and the story for the second. Instead, what you get is a very interesting war story that’s well written, well acted, and very, very Metal Gear. Speaking of the voice acting, every single piece of dialogue from the original is retained and fully voice acted which is pretty impressive considering it transitioned from a DVD to a cartridge. That’s also where the downsides begin to show. The Nintendo 3DS is a portable system, but MGS3 is definitely not a portable game. With the game playing on your TV a 15 minutes conversation between characters is no problem to sit through, but on a portable console where you might have to get up and go at any time it can be rather troublesome. It’s not the end of the world, but getting the most out of Snake’s adventure requires sitting at home; The same place you can play it on your PS2.
If you’re a Metal Gear fan then you owe it to yourself to check out Snake Eater 3D. If you can get a handle on the controls you’ll be treated not only to the best mainline Metal Gear Solid game, but you’ll have it in portable format to take around with you. If you’ve never played a Metal Gear game before, or are itching for story heavy action game for on the go, then consider giving it a go.