by Marcus Brown
War is a terrible machine, and Hideo Kojima wants you to know it. His sequel to the breakthough hit Metal Gear gives players a view of the damaging consequences of battle and what it takes to keep going on in the face of adversity. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake once again takes players on a mission of espionage that they won’t forget.
Three years after the revolutionary title Metal Gear, fans and co-workers of Hideo Kojima were clamoring for a sequel. Players could not get enough of the espionage action that came with the story of Solid Snake. Many wondered what Kojima’s next Metal Gear project would be.
Surprisingly, Kojima never intended to make another game. However, Konami decided the world was ready for the sequel and had one created for release on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the West. This title, Snake’s Revenge, was not well received by fans of the series, citing that it strayed too far from the original character and that it didn’t feel like a Metal Gear game.
In fact, one of the members of the Snake’s Revenge team ran into Kojima on a train in Tokyo and practically begged him to make a true sequel. Thus, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was created. This game would not see Western consoles until 16 years after its creation, being released with its prequel on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
Metal Gear 2 was released in 1990 on the MSX2. The player once again took control of Solid Snake, working for the special unit FOXHOUND. This time, Snake is to infiltrate Zanzibar Land, an independent military nation bordering China, Russia and India, in order to rescue a Czech scientist that holds the key to the world’s oil futures. Snake once again encounters Metal Gear and other familiar characters. This was the true sequel fans were waiting for. Read up on the full story here.
Additions to the gameplay were created to give the players more freedom. Snake could now crawl under tanks and tables to hide from the enemy, who would now continue to search for Snake across multiple screens. Here was the implementation of two other elements: the 9-grid screen radar that allowed the players to see what the enemy was doing across multiple areas, and the alert system that forced players to hide when caught, rather than fight until the alarm silenced. Enemies also had better lines of sight and could spot Snake more easily. Again, Kojima created an environment of the sneaking mission.
With better visuals and gameplay also came a more serious tone to the characters. Here, Kojima uses the nation of mercenaries to tell a darker story of war and its consequences. One of the main motivations of the enemy that is discovered is the cycle of war and its participants. The player sees how war displaces people and ruins their home. These orphans and citizens are then forced to survive by the only way they know how: participating in the next war. Finally, they create more war orphans to fuel the armies around the world.
The cycle is not so far-fetched. According to Orphan Hope International, a site dedicated to the aid of war orphans around the world, every day gives birth to almost 6000 new orphans. The site also details that in Colombia alone, the site of a 40-year civil war, there exists an estimated 577,000 orphans. Many of these orphans end up trafficked for other uses. So, a player can understand how the war cycle is perpetuated here in this fictitious place.
A couple of other themes come together in this game, namely the idea of finding purpose and the betrayal that sometimes comes from this. Snake finds two characters in this game that existed as allies in the previous game but are now his foes. Both give reasons for this switch of sides, citing that they experienced their own betrayals at the hands of NATO and other military organizations. Therefore, their need for revenge and to set things right puts them on the opposite side of the fence, so to speak.
One more interesting thing to note here is the subject of this game’s title: Solid Snake. Here, the player gets a more in-depth look at Snake, who speaks a lot more and often holds conversations containing his thoughts and outlook on life. It’s almost as if this game is as much about Snake as it is about the mission. The player begins to learn what really makes him tick.
All of these elements come together to give a very cinematic feel to an already amazing franchise. With this game, Hideo Kojima cements his name in video game history. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake sets the bar for other game franchises as well as its own name, taking players into a world of intrigue, emotion and action that would carry them 25 years later.