Metal Gear Solid: Reality to Fantasy

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid, especially for those that had never heard of the original Metal Gear games, begins in what looks and feels like the world the player lives in. Taking place in what was then the near future, the small amounts of sci-fi elements seemed reasonable. This was the story of a legendary soldier infiltrating a facility taken over by terrorists. The colorful codenames and the giant robot gave MGS a unique feeling. Solid Snake and FOXHOUND are exaggerations of soldiers. Sniper Wolf can stay still for a week. Liquid can fall off of REX and survive. The tank can blast Snake and not seriously injure him. These are exaggerations of human abilities. Even the melodrama that unfolds around the mission is an exaggeration of life. And what’s a movie or a game without a little exaggeration for dramatic purposes?

This, however, does not explain Psycho Mantis or Vulcan Raven. Decoy Octopus’ ability to copy DNA in order to impersonate a person could also be included, but that could be explained away as science, not supernatural. If people in this world can create nanomachines and giant robots, could they not also find a way to engineer a person that can change his form? The point is that the original Metal Gear Solid takes place in the future, so anything in possible.

Psycho Mantis has psychic abilities. But while the existence of such abilities may be hard to believe, they have yet to be completely discredited. Psychic abilities may very well exist in some form. And then its just a matter of exaggeration once more.

Vulcan Raven brings mysticism to MGS. He talks to ravens, but that could just be in his head. His strength and tolerance to the cold is, say it with me, an exaggeration. Anything else that happens with him, in regards to the battle in the freezer, is fair game the moment the raven scratches Snake’s face. Followed by Snake wondering if he’s hallucinating, it is much easier to believe that Raven could have laced the crow’s talons with some kind of hallucinogen than that the crows devoured him bones and all.

All said, there is nothing overtly supernatural about any of the characters in the original Metal Gear Solid. Nonetheless, the game leaves you with a world where the supernatural could very well exist, as with our own world.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

In the first game, the player is presented with psychic abilities. Now, with SOL, the game goes one step further by introducing spiritual possession through the arm of Liquid Snake. Admittedly, SOL is a game intended to challenge the player’s sense of reality. So its logical once Raiden takes center stage that things begin to get strange. However, before we even know who Raiden is, we are offered the future Liquid Ocelot. And the world of Metal Gear Solid begins its departure from the realism of the previous installment.

But the loss of reality lies not just in the supernatural aspects of Sons of Liberty, but also in the characters themselves, most importantly Dead Cell. The FOXHOUND of the original Metal Gear Solid, while a bit eccentric, were all believable in their existence as military operatives. By comparison, Dead Cell seems much more at home as the foils for Batman or Superman instead of Solid Snake and Raiden.

To top off the surrealism of the Big Shell, Vamp comes on to the scene. Had he been anything but a vampire, Vamp could possibly fall under the same classification of believability as Decoy Octopus. But Vamp is not just a potentially genetically modified soldier, he is a creature who defies anything possible through technology or science. Any possible realism to Vamp is discarded the moment he begins running on water and up the walls of the Big Shell. Love it or hate it, at that moment Metal Gear Solid transformed forever from what it was into what it has become now.

The plot of SOL itself is a little crazier than the original, which in itself does not change the fundamental feeling of the game. But when the plot is just as wild as the characters within it, its easy to lose sight of the original intention of what the Metal Gear world is supposed to be.

Sons of Liberty leaves you with a world where the supernatural clearly exists.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

The result of Sons of Liberty is that when the first Metal Gear Solid is remade, a lot of people fail to realize how much of the original realism has been traded to give it the feeling of what MGS has now become.

Twin Snakes, compared to the other MGS games, fits much better into the world than the original Metal Gear Solid. The point being, that anyone who has neglected the original for TTS may have forgotten just how truly striking the difference is between them.

Interesting to note, the same individuals who take issue with how over-the-top Twin Snakes is compared to the original are the same people who are quick to defend the identical attributes in Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater.

While TTS does not add anything in the way of overtly supernatural to the original game, it takes that subtle exaggeration from the original and overplays it, ending with what many consider a Matrix-version of Metal Gear Solid.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Snake Eater can be summed up in three words: Drowning in symbolism. In fact, Snake Eater’s supernatural aspects owe more to symbolism than simple fantasy. While it can be argued that the game could be perceived as fairytale version of actual events, nevertheless it is what it is: a game very out of touch with reality.

The next step up (or down, depending on your point of view) from Dead Cell are the Cobras and Colonel Volgin. Every member of the Cobras is the intellectual offspring of Vamp. The series began with one slightly unbelievable character in Psycho Mantis, continued with a completely unbelievable character in Vamp, and comes to rest with an entire team of far-fetched characters.

These characters move beyond the realm of simple exaggeration. Colonel Volgin has ten million volts of electricity coursing through his body, which he seems to control at will. Not only that, but by simply grasping the wires of the Shagohod gains mental control over the vehicle.

The Pain’s control over hornets could fall under the same reasoning as Mantis’ psychic abilities, with the hundreds of stings all over his body along with keeping the Queen in his pack facilitating his mental control. However the Pain’s ability to grow and raise hornets inside his body lacks in plausibility.

The Fear’s abilities mostly coincide at least with the concept of exaggerating real abilities, his experimental stealth camouflage going along with this. But then The Fear takes a page from Vamp’s book (or perhaps it is the other way around) and demonstrates an ability to walk on water.

The End exhibit’s the photosynthetic ability to take in energy from the sun. A magical ability most likely tied to his close relationship with the Spirits of Forest. Though it is possible that this ability is the product of genetic experimentation. After all, part of the Philosopher’s Legacy was originally spent on creating the Cobra Unit.

After defeating The Fury, Snake Eater’s symbolism comes into play. The power of The Fury’s anger manifests itself in a flaming head that makes a last ditch attempt at killing Naked Snake. Prior to this, The Fury exhibits no supernatural abilities. Nothing that connects him to the ability to explode into a flaming ball of, well, fury. The player is left wondering how these things are possible, but strangely Big Boss is not.

The Sorrow on his own would fall within the surreal world established in the original Metal Gear Solid. But as an addition to the fantastical world of Snake Eater, a spirit medium returning from the dead furthers the distance from a possible real world set up in the original game.

The Cobras themselves lack personality, it is widely believed, because they are all symbols for Naked Snake’s emotions as he proceeds through the operation. In that sense, their very existence furthers the fantasy of Snake Eater. Even The Boss, as she turns flower petals crimson with her fallen body, serves as symbolism for Snake’s trial. Snake Eater could easily be considered a dream world of the actual occurrences of Big Boss’ mission. However, as these trends seem posed to be continued in Portable Ops, this can not be the case.

In a sort of balance, the plot of Snake Eater was taken back to something, while much more straight-forward, returned to the true feeling of the original Metal Gear Solid.

The question appears to be: What is Metal Gear Solid? Is it the exaggerated realism of the original game or is it the over-the-top fantasy of Snake Eater? While there might not be an answer to those questions, the Metal Gear Solid franchise delivers a remarkable entertainment experience to either side. Fantasy or reality, Hideo Kojima has crafted a world with a depth not usually seen outside of role playing games. This genre defying aspect makes Metal Gear Solid not just entertainment; it makes it art.

-- Article by Christopher Willings

Christopher Willings is a freelance writer. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of MGS: The Unofficial Site.

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