The ultimate weapon, Metal Gear, has been developed in Outer Heaven and it's up to Solid Snake to stop it.
The original Metal Gear…it’s great to finally play it. As a big fan of the games following this (Metal Gear Solid 1-3, and Peace Walker), it was nice to go back and see the first game ever created. Chronologically it’s not the first game in the series when it comes to the story, but it’s the first game made.
The MSX version is considered the definitive version as it was the first one to be released and had direct input from the developer of the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima. Whereas the NES version (and Commodore 64 and MS-DOS versions which was based off the NES port) did not have input from Kojima, and thus has changes.
The MSX version was played using the MSX emulator, blueMSX in RetroArch. I am using a translation patch to restore dialogue and fix some text. The NES version was played using the NES emulator, Mesen in RetroArch. I am using a patch to make the NES version more like the MSX version with some text changes.
A terrorist by the name of Vermon CaTaffy has taken control of Outer Heaven, a small nation on the outskirts of South Africa. He developed the ultimate weapon, Metal Gear, and is planning on unleashing it upon the world. (This is the primary story in the NES version, only in the manual. The MSX version makes no mention of Vermon CaTaffy, in the game or the manual.)
A special operations unit called Fox Hound was created to stop it, with Gray Fox being dispatched. However, upon contact with Metal Gear, Gray Fox disappeared. This is where Solid Snake comes in. Snake is sent on a mission to find Gray Fox and put an end to Metal Gear.
Snake is helped by Big Boss, commander in chief of Fox Hound, and boss of Outer Heaven. However as time goes on he realizes that Big Boss is giving him bad orders. It’s reveled that Big Boss is the mastermind behind Metal Gear. When he destroys Metal Gear, the Outer Heaven destruction switch is activated, so he has to evacuate promptly. He meets Big Boss which admits Snake has gone too far. Snake defeats him and manages to escape before the place blows up.
You play as Solid Snake and have to venture into Outer Heaven, trying your best not to get caught by enemy soldiers. The enemies are quite dumb and you could be right next to them without them even noticing. As you progress, you get keycards to advance through doors and different floors. There are also weapon pickups, such as a handgun, machine gun, grenade and rocket launcher, and mines and other explosives.
If you get spotted and attacked by the enemy, your health will drain. Use a ration to replenish it. Enemies will respawn after you leave the screen and come back. But, so does other valuable pickups like rations and ammo. Leave the room and come back and you can get it again. Picking up ammo will increase the ammo for all your weapons.
During your exploration, you’ll find prisoners. If you rescue enough, you’ll be promoted, which increases the max health and ammo you can carry. However, killing them will result in a demotion.
There is tons of backtracking which is a downside of the game, especially since there is no map, making it easy to get lost and forget which doors you haven’t opened yet. You can only open doors you have the keycard for, and there is no way of knowing the card the door requires, making it even more tedious. There is also an elevator in the game that can only go up, not down, making backtracking even worse!
The NES version fixes some of the backtracking, making it less, moves some items around, lowers some door’s keycard requirement, and condenses some of the areas, making some of the game more enjoyable with less backtracking. You can still leave the room (or use the transceiver) to make items in a room respawn to replenish ammo and rations. Also opening the transceiver stops pits from forming which is an instant death if you fall in it.
Here are some changes in the NES version:
- Hide under cameras to avoid detection
- Inventory is sorted
- Alerted enemies do not follow screen to screen
- Alerted enemies shoot less
- Your bullets go across the entire screen
- The flying enemies cannot fly and are not super enraged
- Hind D boss replaced by Twin Shot, taken out the same way
- No parachute
- New item, the Iron Glove, which allows snake to punch holes into certain walls instead of using an explosive
The worst thing about the NES version is that you don’t even fight Metal Gear…you fight a computer that controls Metal Gear. The MSX fight had lasers behind Metal Gear, and you had to hit the legs of Metal Gear in a specific pattern to defeat it. The NES version removes the lasers and there is no longer a pattern.
Both games are fairly plain, with a metallic look and dark colors, like dark greens and yellows/reds. The MSX version is even darker than the NES version. However, the NES version doesn’t really have much of an extended color pallet, it’s just less dark. The MSX version runs at 30fps, while the NES version runs at 60fps.
Sound / Music
The music in both systems is 8-bit chiptune. However, they are quite memorable and catchy. The MSX version has better music.