Today (September 3rd) marks fifteen years since the original Japanese release of Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece, still never bettered in the series, was one of Konami’s biggest titles ever. Originally planned for release on the 3DO Active Multiplayer in 1994 as a straight sequel to Metal Gear: Solid Snake for the NES, that console’s lack of traction gave Kojima the impetus to reboot the series as their stated intention to create “the best game ever.”
Released in Japan in 1998 to worldwide acclaim, I didn’t get hold of the game till its EU release in February 1999. Prior to that release some 12 million demos were put out, and I still remember my excitement at finally getting my grubby eleven-year-old hands on one, attached to the cover of Official UK Playstation Magazine. To me it was, and still is, the first game of that eponymous series – my personal first point of contact with Metal Gear, and having now played those earlier games, I’d say they can be easily disregarded. They’re fun, sure, but they’re nothing life-changing. Nothing unforgettable.
While in other spheres of life it’d be bizarre for me, as a happening man-about-town in my mid-to-late twenties, to still be living the life I had as an eleven year old, it’s possible in the world of video games. I still love this game as much now as I ever did then. That demo disc, stuck to the cover of an expensive magazine, was like nothing I’d ever played before. I was still pretty new to the PlayStation, my only gaming experiences being Crash Bandicoot and Alien Trilogy, and while I enjoyed them, I could tell I wanted something more from my games. I was yet to get hold of Final Fantasy VII, which would go on to vie with Metal Gear Solid as the defining game of my adolescence, but seeing this mysterious, rubber-suited man sneak and hide from guards blew my mind. That demo was a simple run through the game’s first few areas – the harbour, the helipad, through to first entering the lift, where the game would end. When my mum bought me the actual game on its release date, that joy was personified in seeing Solid Snake emerge from that lift again. I still feel that excitement now.
That said, playing the game today is unquestionably different – while my love of the game remains, I doubt that if I played it brand new today, without the weight of nostalgia casting its healing light on the experience, I’d love it quite so much. When I play Super Mario Bros., or Chrono Trigger, I don’t really get anything from them. The all-important nostalgia just isn’t there. I know that many a thirty year old just spat out their cereal in disgust, and I’m sorry (I’m not sorry). I’m just not old enough to have appreciated them fully in my youth – if presented with Super Mario Bros. on the NES or Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation, which would you have chosen?