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mgsIMG600lgWith the impending release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes on March 18 (NA) – 20 (EU), it might be interesting to look at some of the highlights of the first game in the Solid series.

For some of us, our first exposure to the series came in the form of a t.v. commercial that aired in the Fall of 1998. We’d heard talk of an exciting new game with intriguing gameplay mechanics, but it was the cinematic quality of Metal Gear Solid that grasped our attention.

With previews scattered throughout various gaming mags, seeing the awesome graphics engine in action really drove it home. This was a serious leap from the 16-bit era, and we were amazed.

I was hopeful that what we’d seen was actual gameplay footage, and that the character models would be the same in-game and remain consistent throughout. If true it would be an exciting new experience for console gamer’s.

In late November of 1998 while away from home, I would head out in search of the big game. I didn’t know what to expect, but was lucky enough to snag a copy of MGS and another game I was pretty excited about, Nightmare Creatures.

I headed back to my hotel room and read the contents of the MGS game case over many times. Never guessing the clever use of the info on the back of the case and how it would be integrated into the gameplay: 140.15 – Hello Meryl!

I didn’t have my Playstation with me, so I tucked the game away and did my best to contain my excitement until I got home. I would have to wait two weeks before I could fire the game up.

I was not disappointed. This fresh new game would be everything it was cracked up to be, and more.

The opening sequence was a marvel, a feast for the eyes and senses. It really did make you feel like a bad-ass agent/operator whom would survive by outwitting and outsmarting his protagonists. Tactical Espionage Action indeed!

I can’t say exactly how long I played the opening level, but there was definitely a learning curve. One does not simply walk into Shadow Moses. You SNEAK.

The game made it abundantly clear that a ‘dash and crash’ strategy was not going to get you anywhere. But that was alright, because the gameplay was so amazingly fun you didn’t care how long it took. It was a joy to simply try different approaches to get past the guards and their patrol patterns. Thank goodness for those patterns.

Something that really stands out about this series besides the narrative, is the use of technology and scientific + military advancements, either based on actual or ‘in development’ gear and tech. The use of nano-tech and stealth sneaking-suit technology didn’t just add to the gameplay, it was inherently intriguing.

At the time, I didn’t know who the developers were or anything about Mr. Hideo Kojima. So it was equally confusing and funny for me to admit that I had no end of trouble dealing with the Psycho Mantis boss fight.

I tried, but couldn’t seem to beat that stupid jerk. I couldn’t hit or target him no matter how hard I tried. It was especially confusing when the screen would go blank and the word “HIDEO” would appear in big blocky letters. What the heck!?

I should probably mention something about Mantis’ mind reading trick, but am a little embarrassed to say I didn’t have any other Konami games at the time. So this cool aspect was unfortunately lost on me and I would only read about it later on.  Please quit laughing and pointing now.

Anyway, it would take a tip from one of the gaming mags about controller port switching to clue me in to the secret to defeating Mantis. Once I got a handle on the situation, it became an even more joyous experience.

If I had to point to one sequence or boss battle that stood out for me the most in the game, it would be the second and final battle with Sniper Wolf. Even after the credits would roll, it was always that encounter that would be my personal highlight and would linger in my thoughts. The entire battle, from beginning to end, would simply just click with me.

The drifting snow blanketing the ground, while crawling for cover seeking to remain out of her sights and find a good vantage point, there was nothing else quite like it. Peering through your scope, watching for her telltale exhalations and waiting for her to pop out from behind those tree’s, it was a glorious exchange. Just don’t run out of pentazemin!

As an aside, I really like how they tied the return to ‘Shadow Moses’ levels in MGS4 so strongly to the first game. This was a great payoff, and a nostalgic treat for anyone who loves the series. – If by any chance you’re a MGS fan and haven’t played the fourth game, do yourself a favour. Go get 4, you won’t regret it, the Shadow Moses sequence is worth it’s weight in gold.

Many, if not all of the encounters in MGS are memorable. Your first introduction to Revolver Ocelot comes to mind, and is only a hint of the type of experience we could expect.

The daunting tank battle against Vulcan Raven: “Snakes don’t belong in Alaska, this is Ravens territory”, and feeling overwhelmed while wondering how in the heck one was supposed to take on a tank with a few hand grenades and pistol!

But what we were coming to realize was that our gruff old soldier Snake was something of a super-hero. A very human hero. And that the game was only trying to prepare you for the much more daunting encounters and battles to come: i.e. Hind D and Metal Gear Rex!

There’s also the bloody and terrifying introduction to the Cyborg-Ninja Gray Fox. Whom seems to be one step ahead of you while hounding your every move. After his dramatic entrance in you’re confrontation with Ocelot, you’re then forced to follow his gruesome path of destruction to your destination later in the game.

And at the end of that path, Dr. Hal Emmerich, or ‘Otacon’, who appears to be a temporary character but would in actuality become your steadfast friend and guide.

The showdown with Liquid Snake: “BROTHER”!!

After the introduction and exchange with Liquid, usually over the Codec, the final showdown with him would prove to be daunting.

But by this time, we knew Snake was a bad-ass, and that if we focused there was no way we would be bested by that smug shirtless hippie. We had amassed an arsenal of epic proportions and were by this time very skilled in the use of it. Bring it on Liquid!

Every battle would test and teach you a new way to play and think. Losing only taught you to change your tactics and try something different. It made you think carefully about how you should approach every situation. And for me, it was the introduction to this type of thoughtful gameplay that made it such a memorable and cherished experience.

We’ve only touched on a fraction of the great experiences and may have left out some of your own personal favourites. There’s just so much to choose from!

What are some of your memorable encounters? Which part of the story means the most to you? It’s almost impossible to pick just one!

We were also introduced to a lot of unfamiliar terms in the narrative of the first title that would go on to become staples of each consecutive game.Those terms would continue to expand, along with the stealth gameplay and mind-bending story in the following titles.

In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of  The Patriots, the refined control, greater scope, and surprising character development with a twist would be met with an uproar from the fans for one specific reason.

That reason? …Raiden.

The eagerly anticipated sequel to one of the best games of any generation would certainly divide the community. But the hype leading up to the initial release of MGS2 would create a fervor, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the release of the Playstation 2 console the previous year.

The New Breed:

MGS V: Ground Zeroes looks set to make perhaps as large an advancement in gameplay as the first title in the Solid series. From Mr. Kojima’s official twitter we’ve been privileged to a behind the scenes ongoing commentary, complete with pictures and in-game images during the development of the game.

An open world type setting, with many and varied reactions and consequences to your decisions, it looks as if we will be treated to a very unique and exciting new style of Metal Gear. One that should push the boundaries of the venerable stealth series like never before.

Hey Snake, save that ketchup for some fries dude!  ( ! )