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Metal Gear’s Solid Snake is getting old, and we all know it.
Not every game character has superhuman powers, infinite continues, or the ability to remain the same forever. Some age. Some have feelings. Some deal with conflict. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima made Solid Snake gray for a reason. Not only is the stealth-game franchise a cinematic one, it also adapts to real-life situations we can relate to. Snake is vulnerable, much like us. We are born, and we all eventually die.
Snake’s mortality came into focus before his appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I wasn’t the only one upset when Raiden stole the spotlight and took over the protagonist role in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. A new, blond-haired, girl lookalike is replacing Solid Snake? Screw you.
It saddens me that Kojima received so much hate mail for his decision, and many fans felt the urge to riot over the new hero. The more I played MGS 2, however, the more I began to like Raiden. He was a rookie. He was young. He was a pretty boy. He wasn’t perfect. He was like me (even though I’m not a pretty boy).
I followed the steps of the legendary Solid Snake while becoming a new hero in the tactical-espionage environment. Taking Snake off the shelf actually helped him. He was a legend, and he motivated me to do better by coaching me from the shadows.
You can see what war did to the poor fellow and his effectiveness.
Solid Snake needs to move on and live his life peacefully. He deserves the praise and fan base, but he also deserves a well-earned break.
That brings me to other game characters. Nintendo’s Mario is the inspirational heroic archetype for game characters. The plumber has done so much for the industry, so it’s hard to talk smack about him. Has he changed? Has he aged? Not really, unless you count his graphical facelifts. Mario lives in an infinite world, always saving the princess, kicking Bowser’s ass, and fixing toilets here and there. Oh, and collecting coins. He’s stuck in a never-ending dimension, and he refuses to face his inevitable death. But that’s Nintendo’s fantasyland, and I don’t have a problem with it.
The Legend of Zelda’s Link has a similar take. Every few years, a new Link emerges. It’s hard to feel like we are actually playing as different Links throughout the series. The hero spruces up the classic green tunic and hat, equips the Master Sword, and battles for peace in Hyrule. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time allowed link to travel through time and gave us the privilege of playing as a child and adult. Link grew and matured. It made sense. In the end, however, he was the same Link to me.
The Metal Gear series contradicts this loop and adapts to vulnerability. Snake isn’t the only guy I’ve seen show his age. Rockstar Games’ recent Max Payne 3 shows how the title’s namesake cop became corrupted by the loss of his family. He’s far from perfect. He looks different. He’s covered with wrinkles on his face. He’s a painkiller fiend and a heavy drinker. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him. Payne knows his end is nigh, but he still feels the urge to fight one more battle.
I tend to excessively root for heroes (or heroines) when the odds seem impossible to overcome. I want them to win. They have more reasoning behind their purposes when they’re the underdogs, and their victories are more emotional.
Solid Snake is by far my favorite video game character, but I have to accept that he won’t be around forever. He’s accomplished many great things and has the scars to prove it, and I won’t forget what he’s done. More important, he left his legacy for up-and-coming stars to continue.
If you have respect for him, let him be.