One of my favorite PS1 games of all time is Metal Gear Solid. It was so ambitious for the time. The voice acting, the story, the gameplay, the boss fights! I mean, who doesn’t remember Psycho Mantis reading your memory card? That’s as iconic to gaming as the Super Mushroom.
In 2004 fans were treated to a remake on the Nintendo GameCube, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. How’d a PlayStation game end up on the GameCube? Well, from what I understand, one day Kojima and Miyamoto were having lunch. Miyamoto asked Kojima for a Metal Gear game of the purple lunchbox, then Kojima decided to remake Metal Gear Solid. However, ever since this game launched there have been split decisions on whether the remake is better, or worse than the original. Which one would I recommend? Well, let’s find out.
Graphically, I don’t think anyone would argue that the remake is much better than the original game. Given the improved hardware, the textures are better, environments pop more with better effects e.g. snow during the Vulcan Raven fight and heat in the lava room after the Sniper Wolf fight. The characters have actual faces and lip syncing, which is great for a game as story driven as this, and other effects such as explosions, etc. I’ve seen people say they prefer the “darker” look of the original that the PS1 hardware gives, but I honestly don’t think it’s as important of a point as they make it out to be.
One of the most infamous points of the remake are the cutscenes. They are so over the top to the point of being ludicrous. Whoever directed the scenes must’ve loved The Matrix because there is so much bullet time, it’s out of control. Besides the bullet time, there’s a scene that involves Snake springboarding off a missile that would have exploded the second his foot touched it, hovering long enough to aim, lock on and fire his stinger launcher, then drop back down as soon as gravity remembers what it’s supposed to be doing. I know Snake is a legend, but come on now. There was nothing wrong with the more grounded direction the original had. I can see this as a valid criticism vs the “darker” graphics. Codec scenes wise, there’s a new feature that has the player speed through the conversation with the push of a button. That’s a greatly appreciated feature for players like me who’ve played the original hundreds of times. That’s a change I welcome.
Speaking of the scenes, we should get into the voice acting since it is different. Instead of just adding the original voice acting, the entire game was rerecorded. David Hayter elected to take a pay cut to bring the original voice actors back, way to go David. For the most part, some characters sound pretty much the same such as Snake and Otacon. However, some characters are vastly different. Naomi and Mei Ling no longer have British and Chinese accents. Personally, I prefer this since they grew up in America. Particularly in Naomi’s case, her voice sounds more bitter and devoid of emotion at times which fits her character seeking revenge on Solid Snake. Another change is the voice of Grey Fox. In the original, Donald Anderson and Grey Fox shared the same voice actor. While it worked out fine, the new voice actor feels more like Grey Fox to me. He really sounds like someone who has been through hell, as he should. All the new voices were reused in MGS4, which I was glad about since it’s what I personally prefer. I know people who hate the new direction of the voices, but as someone who grew up with the original, I can say the new direction does do it justice.
Besides the new voice acting, the script had some revisions as well that’s apparently more accurate to the Japanese script. Mainly minor stuff but some differences worth nothing. For instance, after Vulcan Raven dies, the original game has the dialogue: “The path you walk on has no end. Each step you take is paved with the corpses of your enemies. Their souls will haunt you forever. You shall have no peace”. Compared to Twin Snakes: “The path you walk on has no end. No matter how far you go, or how many corpses you crawl over, the killing will never end. It’s a future without hope”. Also a scene with Grey Fox talking about Naomi was slightly changed. In the original: “Every time I looked at her, I saw her parents eyes staring back at me” vs Twin Snakes: “Every time I looked at her, I trembled with fear”. In both of these cases I prefer the original PS1 script. Raven’s speech sounds more directed at Snake’s future, and the Grey Fox dialogue fits better given the context of his past. Most obvious change is in the Psycho Mantis fight. In the original, he’ll read your memory card and remark on other Konami titles, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The Twin Snakes remake, however, references Nintendo games on GameCube such as: Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Mario Sunshine, Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker, and a few more. These changes aren’t that huge and I can take both versions at the end of the day.
Now most important part of the game: the gameplay. MGS2 was the newest Metal Gear game at the time so they decided to add all the new mechanics such as: first person aiming, hanging on rails, tranquilizer guns, hiding/hiding bodies in lockers, etc. This all sounds great on paper, but you have to realize the original game was built around the already established gameplay mechanics. Adding all these additions without altering the level design to accommodate it can be a problem at times. For instance, in the original fight against Ocelot you chase him around the area trying to shoot him while avoiding the C4 that will kill President Baker. In the remake though, you can just stay in one spot and first person aim at him. So exciting! And tranquilizer rounds can make the game so easy, it’s a snooze fest. You could not use the new gameplay features if you wish, but they’re there, so I’m using it. Besides the added mechanics, it more or less, plays the same. One more thing worth noting is the controls are slightly different. The original is clearly designed around the PlayStation controller. So translating to the GameCube controller can have a few differences. For instance, the codec now is activated by holding Start and pushing “A” rather than simply hitting Select. Not a big deal, but it feels a little less intuitive. Also this is one of the few games that takes advantage of the analog L and R buttons on the GameCube. In the PS1, L1 and R1 are the weapon and item quick time buttons and the L2 and R2, when held, show the weapon and item selection. GameCube only has one L and R button. But they act as two buttons depending on how they’re pressed. Barely tapping the buttons serves as the quick change, and holding the buttons act as the item select.
So which would I recommend? Honestly, both. Replaying both recently really gave me a sense that the remake should be seen as more of a retelling and re-imagining than a replacement that most people who hate the game seem to view it as. I suppose that’s what all remakes are, but this one in particular has people who wish it was never made. That’s a shame because aside from gameplay, voice acting and graphical differences, it’s an extremely faithful remake. However, it is not easy to come by and is seen as more of a collectors piece. If you have never played Metal Gear Solid there is still fun to be had with the original PS1 game. The gameplay still holds up, as well as the voice acting and storytelling. You immediately forget that you are playing a fairly old game. It goes to show how well designed this game is and how ahead of its time it was. Personally I replay the original more than the remake, but if you can find the remake for less than $30, I say go for it. You won’t regret it.