Title  : Metal Gear Solid
Platforms  : Game Boy Color only
Publisher  : Konami
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 7.8
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The Metal Gear is a standing tank, capable of delivering a nuclear strike at any point on Earth. Seven years after its initial destruction in the jungle of Outer Heaven, Solid Snake is recalled to action when the weapon reappears in the same jungle, in the hands of a new terrorist group. Is there a connection between this new threat and Snake's past? Is Snake even on the right side of this battle? Find out in Metal Gear Solid, a Game Boy Color action-adventure game from Konami. 

Metal Gear, formerly a popular but long-forgotten Nintendo series, rocketed to stardom as one of the best video games ever with its release on the Sony PlayStation a few years ago. The new Game Boy adaption is advertised as "Nintendo gameplay with PlayStation enhancements." In this case, the classic Nintendo gameplay wins out — for better or worse. 

The PlayStation MGS featured a compelling storyline, brought to life with hours of digitized speech and realistic graphics. The Game Boy MGS has a more slowly-moving storyline that comes across in page after page of text. 

MGS's gameplay focuses not on firepower, but stealth. The longer Snake can go undetected, the more progress he'll make. You'll find yourself holstering those new-found weapons more often than not, just to avoid the temptation to use them. Crawling into a hole or making a noise to draw guards away from their posts are more effective methods. 

And yes, you can escape those pesky wall cameras by disguising yourself as a cardboard box. 

Evading the guards gets a bit boring after awhile. Most players will be itching to see some action after a stage or two — yet that's exactly to be on one's toes. If a guard is alerted, you have ten seconds in which to avoid a swarming screen of enemies, and ten more when they are on alert before returning to their stations. 

Being stealthy isn't the only challenge players will encounter. Traps and pitfalls litter the jungle, requiring items and dexterity to circumvent. Bosses, with names like Marionette Owl and Pyro Bison, are rare encounters, often requiring careful observation and the proper equipment to defeat. 

MGS has three unique modes. The story mode has Snake moving from stage to stage, acquiring items and information as the plot is slowly unveiled. Progress can be saved at any point, and cleared stages can be re-tackled to improve one's score. 

VR Training, made popular in MGS for PlayStation, reappears in the Game Boy version. These small stages test Snake's ability to apply various weapons and techniques, as quickly as possible, without being detected. 

Finally, a never-before-seen Versus mode pits two Snakes, one on each Game Boy, in a trial to see who can find three computer disks first. Cool. 

In any mode, the presentation, as with most Game Boy games, is a throwback to the days of the 8-bit Nintendo. 

The top-down graphics are nondescript, painted in earthy tones. The sprites are even smaller, though remarkably well-animated, displaying Snake's ability to run, swim, crawl, and hide. Sometimes the screen's range is too small, but since what you can't see often can't hurt you, that's okay. 

The sound effects and music are unimpressive. The tunes are too simplistic to be grating. Sound effects accompany most actions, and seem more meant to alert you to something happening than to impress. 

With nearly 150 VR training missions, and 13 story stages, there is plenty to see and do in this game, especially if you're intent on shaving precious seconds off your best times in each level. If the gameplay grabs you, then the replay value is high. 

Metal Gear Solid is an example of classic gameplay with a slight facelift for a new generation of gamers. If you remember the original NES Metal Gears fondly, this game will be a delight; but if you've grown accustomed to the visual and audio pizzazz and knack for storytelling found on the PlayStation, this Game Boy game may seem to be missing the most essential gears from its gameplay clockwork.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 19-Jun-00